From the immediate aftermath of World War II through the British retreat from Aden in 1967...Mr. Barr draws on a rich and varied trove of sources to knit a sequence of dramatic episodes into an elegant whole ... Already, by 1946, the question of Palestine and the Jews was intensely vexing. The Jewish vote had become important in key American cities, Mr. Barr explains, providing a foundation for the book's fairly familiar narrative of a pro-Zionist U.S. clashing with more pro-Arab elements in Whitehall. It’s no criticism of Mr. Barr to say that his storytelling bogs down amid this diplomatic history. What is greatly to his credit here, as elsewhere in the book, is the total absence of moral posturing and ideological partisanship. When Mr. Barr comes to describe the 1953 coup against Mosaddegh, his book reads like a page-turning spy thriller ... Appearing amid the big set-pieces are numerous episodes that even dedicated Middle East watchers may have forgotten.
...[a] revelatory history ... Barr...has a gift for sketching characters ... Barr offers a fascinating account of the British involvement in Oman, where MI6 operatives and soldiers helped beat back a rebellion against Sultan Said bin Taimur in the late 1950s.
James Barr’s beautifully written and deeply researched book ... takes place largely in corridors of power. There is barely a subaltern in sight. But it goes far beyond classic diplomatic history, the genre of 'what one clerk said to another,' superbly illustrating the constraints of Britain’s decline and America’s inexorable rise, the two united only by hostility to the Soviet Union and concern for their respective national interests. Barr also deftly integrates the role of secret intelligence in foreign policy, drawing on the diary of a little-known journalist-cum-MI6 agent to add indiscreet and illuminating detail. If most of the events covered are broadly familiar, they are seen from an unusual angle ... The lesson...is that as war rages, strategies for defeating enemies are closely linked to securing the spoils of peace to gain advantage over allies.
Barr describes this transfer of power [from Britain to the United States] in a brilliant, detached and eye-opening narrative ... It is a gripping tale of diplomatic legerdemain, political hypocrisy and, once the intelligence boys got going, derring-do. There are even comic moments when the world of Carry on Spying intruded into high politics.
[Barr] has mined memoirs and archives to add fresh detail to his remarkable and dispiriting story ... Mr Barr’s canvas is large, and he daubs it with colour and human interest. Like many journalists who take to writing history, he sometimes gets carried away by a juicy story... More analysis and less reportage might have helped the reader make sense of it all ... an admirably researched book...
Barr's fine work nicely complements another recent history ... The common belief that Britain and America got along during those tempestuous postwar years deserves a reexamination, and Barr...provide[s] it ... A fine history by a master historian that provides a needed reassessment of Anglo-American relations after World War II. Recommended for all collections.
If you’re wondering why things are so intractably turbulent in places like Syria and Iraq, some suggestive answers emerge from Barr’s...book ... A book of considerable interest to students of geopolitics, one that explains much about America’s relations with the Arab world—and with Britain.