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86 EPILOGUE In our wildest aberrations we dream of an equilibrium we have left behind and which we naively expect to find at the end of our errors. —Albert Camus History is used to turmoil, occasionally interrupted by a dawn of hope.When World War I ended with the deaths of many millions and the defeat of the German,Austro-Hungarian, and Ottoman Empires, few would have foreseen a second war in which some sixty million would perish and the horror of the atomic bomb would be visited on humankind.We must ask whether a war of even greater ferocity a little more than twenty years after World War I meant that matters were not settled in 1918. Under the Treaty of Versailles of June 1919, Germany had to admit war guilt, pay reparations, return overseas colonies, and disarm. The victors wanted to make sure that Germany could never again threaten the peace in Europe.1 Imperial Germany’s defeat in November 1918 seemed comprehensive.The German Revolution (1918–19) swept away Emperor Wilhelm II and forced all ruling princes to abdicate.TheWeimar Republic was created, but that experiment in parliamentary democracy was short-lived.The republic collapsed with theWall Street crash of October 1929, at a time when the humiliation of imperial Germany was still alive in the German people’s minds. Germany was in crisis again, with crippling war costs, hyperinflation, and the rise of extremists—paramilitaries on the left and the right.All this prompted the rise of the Nazi Party and Adolf Hitler.The Weimar era was over by 1933;the Nazi era had begun,and Germany was a threat to peace once more. WorldWar II,which ended in the defeat of Germany and Japan,also did not settle matters.The victors, the United States and the Soviet Union, were soon nuclear adversaries, determined to build their own empires in their very different visions. The Cold War was in fact a series of conflicts between the two superpowers fought in regions of the world, includingVietnam, Korea, the South Asian subcontinent and Imperial Designs_13448.indd 86 3/12/13 2:44 PM EPILOGUE   87 Afghanistan, the Middle East, and Central and South America, that had emerged from World Wars I and II with numerous territorial, ethnic, and religious disputes.2 After an enormously expensive decade of war in Afghanistan, the Soviet Union was defeated and became extinct as a superpower,but matters were far from settled.New challenges in the form of extreme nationalism, ethnic conflict, and religious fundamentalism came to the fore in many parts of the world,including theWest.3 The outcome of the Soviet Union’s dissolution for West Asia was different from that in Europe. Soviet satellite states in Eastern Europe emerged from the iron curtain and walked toward the West.The transformation was by and large peaceful , but there were a few exceptions.The end of Nicolae Ceauşescu’s Communist regime in Romania was particularly chaotic and violent.Yugoslavia, which was also Communist but not a Soviet satellite, endured a violent ethnic conflict between Serbs, Muslims, and Croats that ultimately broke up the federation. InWest Asia, the focus of this book, the turmoil that began with the Ottoman Empire’s collapse at the end of World War I determined the history of the next century.The imperial powers’ arbitrary partition of Arabia into smaller, vulnerable entities left a legacy of unresolvable disputes.The Palestinians’ loss of land and livelihood and the colonization of their territory by settlers from continents far away triggered a crisis unimaginable in its early years.The discovery of oil, in Iran in 1908 and subsequently in the Arab world, gave the Western powers a longterm motive to anchor themselves in the region. Domination of the Middle East was essential for industrialization, access to transit routes, and overseas markets. A long chapter of imperial competition—first between Britain and Russia and then between the United States and the Soviet Union—seemed to end with the Cold War. In reality, the Cold War battles in West Asia had their origins in the early twentieth century, when the Ottoman Empire was defeated and oil was discovered in the region.The defeat of Soviet Communism was greeted with hubristic euphoria in the West. Neoconservative thinker Francis Fukuyama celebrated the triumph of “liberal capitalism”in his 1989 essay and subsequent book The End of History and the Last Man, in which he asserted,“What we may be witnessing is not just the...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781612346250
Related ISBN
9781612346243
MARC Record
OCLC
967540720
Pages
208
Launched on MUSE
2017-01-05
Language
English
Open Access
No
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