cover image Syria: A History of the Last Hundred Years

Syria: A History of the Last Hundred Years

John McHugo. New Press (Perseus, dist.), $26.95 (304p) ISBN 978-1-62097-045-4

Syria, lacking natural defenses and located at the crossroads of three continents, has always been susceptible to foreign interference. McHugo (A Concise History of the Arabs), an international lawyer and Arabist, untangles the fraying threads of Syria’s fragile polity and tracks the global fault lines that make the current civil war arguably “the last proxy conflict of the Cold War.” Proceeding briskly from the fall of the Ottoman Empire to the present-day chaos, he sketches how Syria’s first, hopeful experiments with democracy inexorably gave way to military dominance and autocracy: “The ideologically based parties took part in democratic politics, but they also recruited army officers who... ultimately came out on top.” McHugo capitalizes on recent interest in the region, warning that “if the Syrian civil war cannot be ended, it seems only a matter of time before it engulfs the rest of greater Syria,” but his attempts to draw connections between ISIS, French colonial efforts to foment sectarian tension, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are rudimentary and insufficient. Useful as a concise overview of independent Syria’s most important movements and personalities, McHugo’s book gives readers the basic background necessary to understand the country, but it will leave those who seek greater comprehension of the current conflict wanting more. Illus. [em](Mar.) [/em]