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Perspective: Andrew Clubb on the Paris Peace Conference

Excerpt from Andrew Clubb’s “T.E. Lawrence and the Arab Cause at the Paris Peace Conference,” 2005.

“The odds had been stacked against Feisal from the start. The French obduracy, the different factions within the British camp regarding the French and the Syrian question, the reluctance of the United States to take on any responsibility for a mandate in the Middle East; all of these factors had combined to make Herculean the task of securing an independent Arab State. Nevertheless, the popularity of Feisal, especially amongst the Americans and his allies that were encamped in the British delegation, may have given Feisal and Lawrence an initial edge. Lawrence though, early on had isolated himself and his friend. His uncompromising stance left enemies, and increasingly, friends alike, exasperated; at the end of the day, Lawrence showed that he was no diplomat.

Lawrence’s friendship with Feisal, coupled with his sense of guilt at making promises on behalf of Britain that he had no authority to make, blinded him to the weakness of the case that he was trying to make. His own government was at best apathetic to Feisal’s claims, the French antagonistic towards them and the Americans found themselves uninterested in taking on any responsibility towards Feisal. Unable to convince heads of state and alienating others at the conference, Lawrence could only watch as the dream of a truly independent Arab state was sacrificed on the altar of self-aggrandizement that was being constructed by the imperialists of Britain and France. He left Paris a disappointed and disillusioned man.”

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