To Begin the World Over Again: Lawrence of Arabia from Damascus to Baghdad
(Palgrave Macmillan, 2009)
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As the United States stumbles through ambitious nation‐building missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is obvious that many in Washington have ignored the lessons that past statesmen had suffered greatly to learn. Chief among these would‐be nation builders was the almost mythical figure of Thomas Edward (T.E.) Lawrence. In John C. Hulsman’s new book To Begin the World Over Again: Lawrence of Arabia from Damascus to Baghdad, we are reminded not only of the heroic character of Lawrence, but also of the profound obstacles to nation‐building. Despite Lawrence’s best efforts to fashion a stable political order in the Middle East out of the wreckage of the Ottoman Empire, he was overwhelmed by events, frustrated by petty personalities, and thwarted by cynical politics. What lessons, if any, can policymakers learn from Lawrence’s nation‐building efforts in the early 20th century? Join us as we discuss this exceptional new book and debate the implications for the future of U.S. foreign policy.