"As with many of Lawrence’s other predictions, his warning about ibn-Saud and the Wahhabists was ultimately to prove true. In 1923, ibn- Saud would conquer much of the Arabian Peninsula and, to honor his clan, give it the name Saudi Arabia. For the next ninety years, the vast and profligate Saudi royal family would survive by essentially buying off the doctrinaire Wahhabists who had brought them to power, financially subsidizing their activities so long as their disciples directed their jihadist efforts abroad. The most famous product of this arrangement was to be a man named Osama bin Laden."
Lawrence in Arabia is much less a biography of one man, than a broad-reaching historical exploration of WWI in the Middle East and how that has impacted the Middle East today, told through the lens of four figures: T.E. Lawrence for the British, William Yale for the Americans, Aaron Aaronsohn for the Jews in the Middle East, and Curt Prüfer for the Germans. Anderson is absolutely scathing about the British, in particular, leadership in WWI. For the many failures in the Middle East, Anderson sums it up in his preamble to the Battle of Gallipoli: "Throughout history, there have been occasions when a vastly superior military force has managed, against all odds, to snatch defeat from all but certain victory." But he doesn't save it all for the British, snarking, "in looking at the conduct of the war and the almost preternatural idiocy displayed by all the competing powers, perhaps its most remarkable feature is that anyone finally won at all." And the details he gives definitely bears out the author's disdain.
On the other hand, Anderson does dig in to Lawrence, his childhood, what likely happened to Lawrence both physically and emotionally, and poses that Lawrence was a pro at creating his own story, writing his own history, claiming that "earlier than most, Lawrence seemed to embrace the modern concept that history was malleable, that truth was what people were willing to believe." If you are interested in knowing more about Lawrence of Arabia, this is a great place to start.
Perhaps the most interesting aspects of the work though, is how Anderson shows Lawrence and various others can see what the future will hold, yet they were repeatedly ignored leading us to the morass that is the Middle East today. From the creation of a Zionist state, to the forming of the Arab identity, Lawrence in Arabia is a must read if you want to understand the region and how it became what it is.
About the text itself: I highly recommend the ebook, if like me, you like to be able to click on a place name and pull up the map of that area. I found it invaluable. What I didn't like about the format, however, was that the endnotes had not been linked into the body of the text and all the images are at the very end of the endnotes and are also not linked to the text in any way. It was still the best way for me to see the battles and travels and I'd still recommend it.