I'm only about a quarter of the way through it, but I can't wait until I finish to sing the praises of this truly excellent modern history. I adored Fisk's first book, Pity the Nation - the best history we have of the civil war in Lebanon, by a reporter who speaks fluent Arabic and has lived in Beirut for the past thirty years or so. It helped me understand the political situation in the Near East - which is quite an accomplishment, given how complicated the situation is.
The Great War for Civilization is a much more ambitious project. It attempts to cover all the important things that have happened in the Middle East over the past thirty years or so - it's less heartfelt, since Fisk is no longer writing about his backyard, but more enlightening. Ever wondered what happened in that way-back war in Afghanistan when Bin Laden and the US were over there fighting the Russians? Or what the Iranian revolution was all about, and what part the US played in it? Or why Iran and Iraq were at war, and why the US was best buds with Saddam Hussein one minute and out for blood the next? Well, all these questions and more are answered. And, I repeat: I'm only one quarter of the way through it!
Amazingly enough, not only is this book enlightening, it's hard to put down. It's compelling, it's fun to read, it pulls you in. And I recommend it wholeheartedly to anyone who has even the faintest interest in what's going on in the Middle East.