Robert Fisk: Across the Arab world, freedom now a prospect
In the dying days of the Ottoman empire, American diplomats -- US consuls in Beirut, Jerusalem, Cairo and other cities -- NGOs across the region and thousands of American missionaries, pleaded with the state department and with President Wilson to create one modern Arab state stretching from the shores of Morocco to the borders of Mesopotamia and Persia.
This, they believed, would bring a large part of the Muslim world into the democratic orbit of Europe and the West.
Of course, the Sykes-Picot agreement, which had already secretly carved up the Middle East, a dying Woodrow Wilson and America's lurch into isolationism put paid to any such fanciful ideas. Besides, who knows if some Arabs might have preferred the "civilisation" of Rome and, just over a decade later, of Madrid and Berlin, to the supposedly decadent democracies elsewhere in Europe?