There is a terrific bookstore a few blocks from our house. It carries most new books, many used books (from college students), and piles of remaindered books (usually hardcover with prices slashed to the irresistible). A week ago I saw on the remaindered pile Notes on a Century by Bernard Lewis. I am not a fan of Professor Lewis, neo-con and big supporter of Bush II's war in Iraq. The sub-title Reflections of a Middle East Historian, and the index suggested a collection of autobiographical essays. I hesitated. Fortunately my recent promise "Know thy Enemies," prompted a look at the price, "$5.98." Hard to resist.
Notes on a Century went from the pile at the bookstore to the pile on my desk. On July 4, I started in. Lewis, like Tony Judt and Oliver Sachs, comes from an English Jewish family settled there early in the 20th century. Judt and Sachs, (both now deceased) were distinguished writers and thinkers. Lewis is not as punchy or as analytic as they, but he is a story teller fluent in Middle Eastern history and languages, to wit:
In 1952, Turkey joined NATO to the delight and pride of the Turkish people. Invited to a dinner party, Lewis reports that a Turkish general asked about Turkey joining NATO replied, "The real problem with having the Americans as your allies is you never know when they will turn around and stab themselves in the back."
Still true! And Turkey, having learned from the U.S., is doing a solid job of stabbing its own self in the back.