Commentary Magazine


Article Preview

The Great War for Civilisation by Robert Fisk

- Abstract

No foreign journalist is more closely identified with the Middle East than the British writer Robert Fisk. Through 30 years of reporting from his base in Beirut, first for the London Times and now for the London Independent, Fisk has built a reputation not only as an intrepid war correspondent but as a foremost commentator on the volatile region. His eye for sensational detail and his readiness to cover the hottest flashpoints have won him worldwide publicity and numerous professional awards.

None of this has made Fisk notably modest, as the thousand-page heft of his latest book suggests. The ostensible subject of The Great War for Civilisation is the turbulent period during which Fisk has been stationed in the Middle East, from the Iranian revolution and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the late 1970’s to the two U.S.-led wars in Iraq and, above all, the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict. But the grand unifying theme is Fisk himself. As he writes in his preface, reminiscing about his initial posting with the Times in 1976: “I was twenty-nine, and I was being offered the Middle East. I wondered how King Faisal felt when he was ‘offered’ Iraq or how his brother Abdullah reacted to Winston Churchill’s ‘offer’ of Transjordan.”



About the Author

Efraim Karsh is head of Mediterranean Studies at King’s College, University of London, and the author most recently of Islamic Imperialism: A History (Yale). Mr. Karsh gratefully acknowledges the generosity of Roger and Susan Hertog in supporting the research on which the present article is based.