Summary of The Age of Jihad

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Irish journalist Patrick Cockburn reveals the intractability of the Middle East conflict, from Syria to Nigeria, from Tunisia to Afghanistan. He fills in his dispatches, written between 2001 and 2016, with anecdotes from eight Middle East wars. He explains how sectarianism weights any peace process and one country’s circumstances “cross-infect” neighboring countries. He asks if these conflicts could be stopped, if the lust for revenge could be staunched and if the wounds of history could be lanced. Most probably not, he concludes, because, “the demons in this age of chaos and war have become an unstoppable force.” While always politically neutral, getAbstract recommends this informed, sweeping overview.

In this summary, you will learn

  • How the Arab spring turned to winter;
  • How Iraq’s Sunni uprising birthed ISIS;
  • Why US regional policy failed;
  • How the nature of Arab alliances between tribes, religious groups or nations dooms peace initiatives; and
  • How events in one nation “cross-infect” events in neighboring countries.

About the Author

Patrick Cockburn is foreign correspondent for the British online newspaper The Independent and has written three books about Iraq.



Afghanistan (2001)

After the attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, the US had a narrow focus: to strike back at its Arab enemies in Northeast Afghanistan – a country that already had been at war for a generation. In the four-year civil war leading up to Taliban rule in 1996, 100,000 people died in Kabul alone. In the fall of 2001, US air power enabled the Northern Alliance, a collection of anti-Taliban warlords, to unseat the weak Taliban government. The Alliance was militarily weak but politically skillful. Afghanistan finally appeared to offer its people what they most wanted: security.

Iraq (1990-2003)

The American decision to invade Iraq in 2003 was a foolish choice. It stemmed partly from a misreading of Baathists, who were not diehard Saddam Hussein loyalists, as US policy makers assumed. Many Baathists were trained bureaucrats who needed jobs, and who filled necessary functions. Baath party members held more religious affinities than political ones. Even after Saddam, the Iraqi people saw Baghdad’s Shia government as allied with the US, and lacking legitimacy. The people of the Levant remembered Britain’s colonial history...

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