When Charles de Gaulle learned that France's former colonies in Africa had chosen independence, the great general shrugged dismissively, "They are the dust of empire." But as Americans have learned, particles of dust from remote and seemingly medieval countries can, at great human and material cost, jam the gears of a superpower.
In The Dust of Empire, Karl E. Meyer examines the present and past of the Asian heartland in a book that blends scholarship with reportage, providing fascinating detail about regions and peoples now of urgent concern to America: the five Central Asian republics, the Caspian and the Caucasus, Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan and long-dominant Russia. He provides the context for America's war on terrorism, for Washington's search for friends and allies in an Islamic world rife with extremism, and for the new politics of pipelines and human rights in an area richer in the former than the latter. He offers a rich and complicated tapestry of a region where empires have so often come to griefa cautionary tale.read more
Meyer, editor of World Policy Journal and a longtime member of the New York Times editorial board, draws on his extensive knowledge to trace the histories of several south, central and west Asian countries that are now of critical importance to the U.S. At a time when powerless nations can have profound impact on international affairs, his work serves as a powerful introduction to this poorly understood region-valued for its oil and location yet feared for its extremism-and simultaneously offers instructive lessons to American policy makers as the U.S. forges relationships with these states. Meyer combines scholarly expertise with journalistic detail in a rich account relaying formative events through extensive research and poignant personal anecdotes. Skillfully weaving in his perceptive reflections on American imperialism, Meyer strongly argues, "Washington is the seat of an empire, if of a special kind," which must cultivate substantive relationships rather than shortsighted alliances if it hopes to win the war on terror. But Meyer's treatment of the countries under discussion is inconsistent. In some cases, he offers a succinct summary of relevant political events, whereas other histories are more arbitrary and less structured. A work of such scope also has little room for nuances. Together, these characteristics may leave readers with superficial understanding. However, Meyer intends to "sharpen" the reader's appetite, and interested readers will take the book for what it is-a compelling yet cursory introduction to a fascinating region-and continue to build a deeper understanding of the region. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved