Shadow Wars: An Explosive New History Documents the Rise of ISIS

Christopher Davidson’s new book Shadow Wars: The Secret Struggle for the Middle East (Oneworld Publications) is an absolute must read. It’s a mammoth of a tome at 528 pages with 119 pages of endnotes, but an addicting read as it thoroughly obliterates the standard narrative on Libya, Syria, Yemen, and other post ‘Arab Spring’ conflicts.

To use the language of the BBC’s Adam Curtis, it goes far deeper than the Hollywoodesque ‘goodies’ and ‘badies’ paradigm of foreign relations the American public is fed a steady diet of through cable news and pseudo-patriotic movies like Zero Dark Thirty.

Rather than upholding the usual assumption that the US and UK are mere benevolent and reluctant humanitarian-minded actors on the sidelines in places like Syria or Yemen, Shadow Wars rightly puts the reckless covert action of the West and its regional allies center stage.

More importantly, it is the first exhaustive work of history by a notable academic which accurately charts the rise of ISIS within the geopolitical chess board that is the Syrian proxy war, as well as assesses the longer history of the US/UK-Saudi alliance going back to the Afghan-Soviet conflict and beyond. Davidson is bold in his assertions, describing ISIS as a “strategic asset” initially utilized by the West as a tool of regime change in Syria.

For those who have followed my own reporting on the 2012 Defense Intelligence Agency ‘salafist principality’ memo, this language might sound familiar. Davidson analyzes this and other recently declassified and leaked documents to unlock a dark history few other academics or media pundits dare to touch, preferring to play it safe within their establishment careers.

But this is what is perhaps most significant about Shadow Wars. Professor Davidson demolishes the mainstream narrative on ISIS, al-Qaeda, and contemporary Middle East conflict while speaking from within the establishment. Listed on Davidson’s bio are names like Cambridge, University of St. Andrews, Oxford, Royal United Services Institute, Bloomberg NewsNew York Times, Foreign Affairs, Durham University, and others.

Despite such insider credentials and as contributor to premier mainstream publications Davidson doesn’t hold anything back for fear of upsetting the status quo. His book has provocative chapter titles and headings like The Road to al Qaeda – The CIA’s Baby, Allied to Jihad – Useful Idiots, Follow the money – the Islamic State’s funders, and The business of evil – the arms industry bonanza.

Such a hard hitting and well-documented presentation chronicling the facts of the US/UK fueling jihad in Syria and elsewhere, written from within the heart of academia, should be on everyone’s bookshelf.

Read an excerpt from Shadow Wars below:


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