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GLUBB PASHA—A SECOND LAWRENCE OF ARABIA

SIR JOHN BAGOT GLUBB was a British soldier who trained and led Transjordan’s Arab Legion between 1939 and 1956. Controversially, the Legion had several victories against Israel in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, the conflict out of which evolved the nation of Israel. More than a soldier, Glubb was a scholar of the Middle East and an author of 21 books on the topic. 

Here are several tidbits on Glubb Pasha, as he was known. Indeed, his The Fate of Empires and Search for Survival, written in 1978, can be read as a parable of our own times.

Sir John Bagot Glubb, KCB, CMG, DSO, OBE, MC, KStJ, KPM, 1897–1986, British soldier, scholar, and author. Image of Glubb Pasha in 1953 by Willem van de Poll, National Archive.

Glubb the Soldier. As noted in a Los Angeles Times obituary, March 18, 1986, Glubb “developed Jordan’s Arab Legion into one of the strongest armies in the Middle East and became renowned as a latter-day Lawrence of Arabia….”

The Arab Legion’s, the Los Angeles Times said, “were the same troops who conquered the West Bank of the Jordan River and East Jerusalem in the fighting against Israel that followed the end of the British mandate over Palestine in 1948….”

Glubb Pasha in Amman in 1940. Image from the Matson (G. Eric and Edith) Photograph Collection, U.S. Library of Congress.

“Often seen in a red Bedouin headdress,” the Los Angeles Times article continued, “the 5-foot 6-inch Glubb would ride on camel or horseback with his troops. He identified with the Arab way of life, endearing himself to his men while helping to maintain a British presence in the Middle East.”

In 1956, King Hussein dismissed Glubb and other senior British officers from the Legion. However, according to Wikipedia, “Glubb remained a close friend of the king. He spent the remainder of his life writing books and articles, mostly on the Middle East and on his experiences with the Arabs.”

Glubb the Scholar. In the early 1960s, Glubb shared his deep knowledge of the Middle East through presentations at U.S. institutions of higher learning. Indeed, I was a Worcester Poly undergraduate when I had the honor of meeting Glubb Pasha when he spoke there. I recall his being articulate and crisp, with a genuine affection for people of the Middle East. 

Years later (quite recently, in fact), when I sought to learn more about Islam, I turned to two books, one of them Great Religions of Modern Man, by Richard A. Gard et al, 1961.

 And the other was The Life and Times of Muhammad, 1970, by Sir John Bagot Glubb, 1970.

Of The Life and Times of Muhammad, Amazon says “Glubb offers insight into the atmosphere, suffused with Jewish, Christian, and polytheist thought, in which the Prophet perceived his religious mission; his attitudes towards women and his relationships with his wives; and the battles he lead to insure the survival of his followers, confronting enemies at Bedr and Uhud and eventually capturing the key city of Mecca.”

Glubb and Empires. In “The Average Age of an Empire? A Mere 250 Years,” Times-Standard, June 28, 2017, Georgie Anne Geyer wrote, “We fret over problems here at home. We shake our heads over warring political parties, our vulgarized public culture and a billionaire class that thinks it should inherit the country all by its rich little 1 percent self.”

More than four years ago, but still timely, eh?

After a thoughtful analysis of U.S. actions around the world, Geyer concluded, “Americans may not think of themselves as an ‘empire,’ but much of the world does. The average age of empires, according to a specialist on the subject, the late Sir John Bagot Glubb, is 250 years. After that, empires always die, often slowly but overwhelmingly from overreaching in the search for power. The America of 1776 will reach its 250th year in 2026. Happy Fourth!”

To learn more on this matter, I recommend reading The Fate of Empires and Search for Survival, 1978, by Sir John Bagot Glubb, aka Glubb Pasha. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2021 

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