They called it the Sublime Porte. It was the seat of an empire that stretched from Algiers to Baghdad and Aden to Budapest. The name suggests something dreamlike and luxurious. In reality, the Ottoman state was an extraordinary and ruthless machine. Its administrators, plucked from their families as children so they would be loyal only to the sultan, fought wars, collected taxes and founded cities with an efficiency unmatched at the time.
But the most intractable problems of the modern Middle East are found where that empire once had its core: Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine. This is no coincidence. The civil war in Syria, in particular, has cast people’s minds back to the collapse of Ottoman power, and the arbitrary carve-up that created states which now, nearly 100 years later, seem on the brink of failure.… Seguir leyendo »