Sykes-Picot Revisited

Hopefully this is nothing more than coincidental, but history seems to be repeating itself, with France taking Syria more seriously than the Brits again. Old imperialists never die it seems.

Probably really just a reflection how weak and unprincipled current UK government and parliament has become – damaged goods thanks to the Thatcher/Reagan & Blair/Bush years. It’s no good to say “we can’t trust our leaders any more”. Where are the strong, and who are the trusted; what’s so funny ’bout …. again. We need leaders we can trust, and we do need to trust them. There is no substitute for trust, no better form of governance than the worst form being better than all the others, where trust can be dispensed with. Cameron and Milliband could redeem their trust by showing us their strength and principles in resigning, set an example to the others who voted “tactically” as if parliamentary motions were an in-house game. Though, until there is new blood (with balls) to fill the leadership slots, we’ll need the likes of Ming Campbell or Paddy Ashdown to step up to the plate.

If I hear anyone cite problems with proof and responsibility holding them back from making principled agreements I shall scream. Assad’s regime IS responsible for chemical weapons discharged in their country – whatever individuals and motives were involved – stand up and address it. There is NO proof in actions and intent – it’s about how you handle benefit of the doubt and who you can most trust. In practice I hope Willy Hague is spending time with the Syrian Ambassador right now. But I digress.

Sykes-Picot was a dead letter already half-way through WW1, only to be resurrected afterwards for the Paris peace conference. Trust was built on shared confidences, but is ultimately worthless unless shared right through the ranks to the top.

Having read Scott Anderson’s Lawrence In Arabia, I’m re-reading John Mack’s A Prince Of Our Disorder – the life of T.E.Lawrence. Anderson’s massively researched work nevertheless acknowledges contributions from previous Lawrence biographers, particularly John Mack and Jeremy Wilson. Mack’s is a deliberately “psychological” analysis, but he is nevertheless drawn to TEL as the hero, the influential but introspective leader of  men and minds, with candid views on his own responsibilities and failings. Anderson cites his “tremendous debt of gratitude to … Wilson’s exhaustive research … his work remains the starting point for all serious Lawrence scholarship.” Yet despite further acknowledging Wilson’s “trailblazing achievements” and again being “indebted to [his] astounding scholarly research” he “respectfully disagree’s” with Wilson on “several aspects of Lawrence’s actions in Arabia”. I don’t see it myself, having read all three and TEL’s own Seven Pillars many times, I see the same complex character and motivations, including judicious conflation, diminution, exaggeration and rearrangement of actions in both memory and reports. The reality was true – truth is reality – and the truth is words are always arranged for rhetorical purposes, particularly if you have a purpose, a cause, as Lawrence did and didn’t hide.

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