In This Review

Storm From the East: The Struggle Between the Arab World and the Christian West
Storm From the East: The Struggle Between the Arab World and the Christian West
By Milton Viorst
Modern Library, 2006, 224 pp.

Viorst's pocket-sized book takes on a big subject. Viorst covers 14-plus centuries of the Arab world and the West by briskly taking the reader from the seventh century to 1900 in an introductory chapter that hits the highlights of both Arab history and Arab memory and thereafter restricting his coverage to the Arab East (the mashriq). The ensuing narrative moves smoothly from country to country and crisis to crisis, balancing well the unity of uruba (Arabness) and the diversity of many different Arab polities interacting with the intrusive outsider. Balance is also to be found in Viorst's correction of exaggerated historical interpretations. He rightly notes, for example, that most Arabs were until the end loyal to the Ottoman Empire. He relates the story of the celebrated Arab revolt led by Husayn ibn Ali during World War I without making it the linchpin of later developments. The same balance holds for his treatment of Gamal Abdel Nasser and Nasserism and Arab relations with Zionism and Israel. An epilogue referring to the U.S. occupation of Iraq challenges the Bush administration to learn the lesson of a mashriq historically conditioned to expect, but also suspect, the ever-present outsider.