Whenever I see 101 in the title of a book or college course, I assume that the content to be covered is basic in nature. It would be a mistake to do so in the case of Middle East 101 – A Beginner’s Guide for Deployers, Travelers and Concerned Citizens by Yousef Aboul Enein and Joseph Stanik. The 101 in this title refers to the 101 critical questions about the Middle East that the authors hope to answer. Both authors have a lifetime of service in the US Navy (one current and one retired) and know the Middle East well.
The 101 questions are discussed in 20 chapters that start with understanding the Physical and Human Geography of the region, then progresses to covering the history of the region and Islam’s impacts. The latter half of the book covers the region from World War II to today, including the Israeli- Palestinian conflict, the peace process and the rise of Islamic extremism.
This is not a book you will sit down and finish in one sitting. Though the answers to the questions are well written and concise, it is not a light read. With all that is happening in the region today however, you will find yourself coming back to it repeatedly, in order to gain a better understanding of why and how things are the way they are today. If you expect to live, work or even fight in the Middle East, there is much in this book that will serve you well. This includes the nuances that have developed the splits in religious sects and the fact that the region is both the crossroads of, and spans, parts of three continents.
In his forward, General Stanley McChrystal cites his goal that our service men and women will receive their instruction on the human terrain in their operating areas not when they deploy, but months or years in advance of that deployment. This book hopes to serve as a foundation for that instruction and understanding of the Middle East.
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