*Concise History of the Arabs*

by on August 31, 2013 at 4:08 pm in Books, History | Permalink

That is the new and excellent book by John McHugo, and it is perhaps the best short one-volume introduction to its topic (with Hourani being the best single longer book).  Here is one short bit, concerning 1925 in Syria:

Some local Muslim and Christian villages joined the Druze, and nationalists stirred up activity elsewhere.  The conservative Sunni city of Hama exploded into sudden revolt, and had to be crushed by punitive bombing by the French air force, but the insurgents only fled to the countryside and continued fighting.  The revolt also gripped the Ghutah, the cultivated area around Damascus.  The city itself rose.  Realising that the capital had come under effective rebel control, the French army responded in the same way as in Hama and bombarded it indiscriminately, killing 1,500 people and causing an international outcry.  Once again, this forced the rebels out into the countryside where they disrupted supply routes.

Most of the book is actually more conceptual and more “macro” than that passage.

1 dearieme August 31, 2013 at 5:16 pm

“and had to be crushed by punitive bombing”: “had to be”? And why was the bombing “punitive”?

2 david August 31, 2013 at 8:05 pm

Presumably because it was part of a wider war that the French were waging, to stabilize the newly-created French Mandate, and so they did not have the troops to take the city by land.

3 Marian Kechlibar August 31, 2013 at 6:32 pm

Well, I guess that these days the French observe the mess there and say:

“Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.”

4 shrikanthk August 31, 2013 at 10:53 pm

How about Bernard Lewis’ books on the subject?

5 Therapsid September 1, 2013 at 1:31 am

I’d prefer if Cowen would be more “micro” and actually take a stance on the proposed war against Syria.

To be sure, he’s shown a willingness to morally condemn other nation’s governments. Recently he did an about face and condemned the Justice and Development Party government in Turkey for example.

Why is he so wishy washy on American military interventions?

6 prior_approval September 1, 2013 at 1:35 am

He is not wishy-washy, he is conflicted.

7 Therapsid September 1, 2013 at 2:27 am

Fine, be conflicted. At least have the courage to announce that fact.

We have a cognitive elite in the U.S. and Europe. Yet they seem to yield to their merely above average intelligence elite brethren when it comes to foreign policy.

Speak up. Lord knows that many millions of people with articulate positions on these matters are disenfranchised.

8 Tyler Cowen September 1, 2013 at 2:27 am

Check out Twitter, I don’t think it is a good idea.

9 Ray Lopez September 1, 2013 at 1:37 am

You guys do realize there’s no such thing as “race”?
The old classification of black, yellow, white races was later expanded to a couple of dozen categories, then, with DNA profiling, a couple of 100, then, it was determined that really there’s no such thing as race. The most dramatic example of this that I saw was in Arizona, where two criminals had 9 markers used in DNA profiling by the FBI that were identical. The odds of this happening was astronomical (one in several hundred million). One was ‘black’, the other ‘white’. After this was exposed, the FBI switched to a more elaborate 12 or 14 marker system, where the odds of such a thing happening is even more astronomically smaller. But it underscores that there’s no such thing as race, only culture, only people in a geographic region (or nowadays state of mind) that share or practice certain cultural traits. So we, reading this blog, are of the ‘race’ of Marginal Revolution netizens.

10 Ray Lopez September 1, 2013 at 1:44 am

Ah, it was a Freakonomics article, for those interested in more info.


State crime lab analyst Kathryn Troyer was running tests on Arizona’s
DNA database when she stumbled across two felons with remarkably similar
genetic profiles.

The men matched at 9 of the 13 locations on chromosomes, or loci,
commonly used to distinguish people.

The [Federal Bureau of Investigation] estimated the odds of unrelated
people sharing those genetic markers to be as remote as 1 in 113 billion.
But the mug shots of the two felons suggested that they were not related:
One was black, the other white.

11 Alexei Sadeski September 1, 2013 at 2:14 pm

Is 1:113B “good enough” for DNA profiling used 100,000 times per year in a population of 150MM?

12 P September 1, 2013 at 4:53 pm

Using only 12 or 14 markers sounds awfully few. Their estimate of the odds of people sharing those alleles was obviously badly off. For example, a few dozen well-chosen ancestrally informative markers or 100 randomly chosen markers are generally needed to identify racial clusters, and more than 1000 markers are needed to make different races statistically completely distinct. In biomedical research, hundreds of thousands of markers are commonly used, and there are perhaps 20 million SNPs, plus lots of other types of markers.

13 Steve Sailer September 1, 2013 at 5:22 pm

The L.A. Times had a good article a half decade ago about how scandalous it was that crime labs were still using just 13 DNA markers, a number that hadn’t changed in about a couple of decades despite rapid technological progress.

14 Marian Kechlibar September 1, 2013 at 10:02 am

So, in a room full of Icelanders, Nigerians and Japanese, you wouldn’t be able to tell them apart?

15 Da September 7, 2013 at 3:04 pm

There is an intersting book about a very different topic: The City and the City.

People there “unsee” things all the time. It’s a concept similar to double-think.

16 The Anti-Gnostic September 1, 2013 at 1:53 pm

To your credit, you apparently recognize that “Arabic” is actually a linguistic designation, as unwieldly and inapt as “Hispanic” in the Western Hemisphere, or that hilariously stupid British habit of referring to everyone from Beirut to Okinawa as “Asian.”

Syrians have a longstanding history as an ethnically distinct people, one of many to have their culture homogenized by Arab Muslim conquest.

17 FC September 1, 2013 at 10:36 pm

So I guess it’s not that longstanding after all.

18 Adrian Ratnapala September 2, 2013 at 5:00 am

Why is it stupid use the term “Asian” to describe people from Asia? Granted the Middle-East is often not included in as Asia; but in Britain I rarely hear of Arabs, or even Iranians being called “Asian”.

In fact I am mildly insulted by American & Australian habit of positively denying that I am Asian.

19 Careless September 2, 2013 at 12:02 pm

subcontinental is an insult!

20 Carl September 2, 2013 at 6:35 am

“perhaps the best short one-volume introduction to its topic (with Hourani being the best single longer book).”

How do you know this? Are you an expert in this field? Have you read every single available one-volume introduction?

21 BFS September 2, 2013 at 10:28 am

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