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Empire’s Aftermath


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Empire’s Aftermath Small Wars, Far Away Places: Global Insurrection and the Making of the Modern World: 1945–65, Michael Burleigh, Viking, 608 pages

By William Anthony HaySeptember 18, 2013



USS Pennsylvania moves into the Lingayen Gulf, Philippines, in January 1955. Wikimedia Commons

Although the Cold War dominated the half-century after World War II, many of the regional struggles it overshadowed had effects that only later came into focus. The end of empires—formal and otherwise—that had brought order to much of the world since the late 19thcentury sparked vicious conflicts. Indigenous movements with their own local dynamics shaped events beyond the control of statesmen in distant capitals, who grappled with their own more immediate problems. Decolonization established a host of new independent states, many of which lacked the capacity to control their territories or sustain public order. Older countries recreated themselves with varying degrees of success through internal upheavals that reverberated across frontiers. Events that seemed peripheral to the developed world set the context for vexing challenges that dominate today’s headlines.


With Small Wars, Far Away Places, Michael Burleigh offers a penetrating and often sardonic narrative of the struggles that formed the world as we know it. Blending engaging character sketches and telling vignettes with geopolitical analysis, he presents the two decades after 1945 from a vantage point that provides illuminating perspective. Actions in those years set the path for later policies and established perceptions that are still hard to escape. The United States took on a new global role amidst the wreckage of World War II, but Americans failed at first to appreciate how fully total war had disordered the world Scissors-32x32.pnghttp://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/empires-aftermath/

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Why would anyone want to read about that? I mean it happened "A Long time Ago", and "What does It Matter!"

/world class sarcasm



Small Wars, Faraway Places

British historian Michael Burleigh explores the context behind long-simmering regional conflicts.

James Norton

September 18, 2013


It is easy to be baffled by the regional conflicts that burn their way across the modern globe, from the seething civil war of Syria to the seemingly endless feuding of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Each zone of conflict is painted with question marks: What's the origin of Iran's vitriolic distrust of the West? Why does China still stand behind its erratic and murderous North Korean allies? What created the massive fault lines that gave rise to this year's jarring upheaval and violence in Egypt?


Most contemporary news accounts of these simmering (or raging) trouble spots lack context. In many ways, the new book Small Wars, Faraway Places is the vault of knowledge that followers of current events have been seeking. Written by British historian Michael Burleigh, "Small Wars" is less a clean, continuous narrative than a massive moving mountain of names, dates, places, and facts. In a tome that spans 608 pages, the author documents an assortment of post-World War II insurgencies and anti-colonial revolutions so profound and potent that any one of them could spawn (and certainly has spawned) a generous handful of popular and scholarly texts.


From the Mau-Mau Emergency in Kenya to the Korean War (pardon me, "police action") to the French misadventure in Indochina and the clash between Arab nationalism and Zionism in the British Mandate in Palestine, Burleigh traces 18 distinct story lines of terrorism, counter-terrorism, intrigue, nationalism, and Cold War rivalry.



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