HISTORY

How the West Stole Democracy from the Arabs: The Syrian Arab Congress of 1920 and the Destruction of Its Liberal-Islamic Alliance

Atlantic Monthly. Apr. 2020. 496p. ISBN 9780802148209. $30. HIST
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After World War I, Syrian nationalists, who previously fought to preserve their lands from Ottoman control, declared the country’s independence in 1920, and proclaimed Faisal Hussein as king of Syria. In response, French and British forces imposed imperial control throughout the region. Thompson (American Univ. Sch. of International Service) brings together British, French, Syrian, and American archives to lay out Arab actions to establish an independent constitutional monarchy. After detailing French undertakings to maintain control of Syria by military force and diplomatic duplicity, Thompson analyzes the extensive negotiations involved in Syria finally being recognized as a sovereign state in 1946, creating vivid portraits of leading diplomatic and military figures of the time. She contends that the European extinction of Syrian liberal, secular representative government is responsible for the authoritarian, sectarian rule in parts of the Arab world today. This clearly written, detailed study of post–World War I diplomacy sheds insight into the Syrian struggle for self-rule, and shows how the legacy of imperialism and colonialism continues to endure throughout the years.
VERDICT Highly recommended for history buffs and readers concerned about the failure of democracy in the Middle East.

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