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Power, Faith and Fantasy: 1776 to the Present: America in the Middle East [Hardcover]

Michael B Oren
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
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Book Description

30 Jan 2007
From the first cannonballs fired by American warships at North African pirates to the conquest of Falluja by the Marines - from the early American explorers who probed the sources of the Nile to the diplomats who strove for Arab-Israeli peace - the United States has been involved in the Middle East. For well over two centuries, American statesmen, merchants and missionaries, both men and women, have had a profound impact on the shaping of this crucial region. Yet their story has not been told until now. Drawing on thousands of government documents and personal letters, featuring original maps and photographs, this book reconstructs the diverse and remarkable ways in which Americans have interacted with this alluring yet often hostile land. "Power, Faith, and Fantasy" is an indispensable work of history for anyone interested in understanding the roots of America's Middle East involvement today.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 832 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1st Edition edition (30 Jan 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393058263
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393058260
  • Product Dimensions: 24.5 x 16.3 x 4.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,122,243 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"...[A] brilliant, sweeping account of America's... complex entanglement in the region..." Gerald Baker, The Times "Elegant and engaging..." Foreign Affairs" "...a majestically told story, its grand themes brought to life by a succession of riveting characters..." Gerald Baker, The Times "Oren's book implicitly if not explicitly identifies a key reason for America's difficulties: its enduring cultural contempt for Israel." Max Hastings, The Sunday Times "If you think America's entanglement in the Middle East began with Roosevelt and Truman, Michael Oren's deeply researched and brilliantly written history will be a revelation to you, as it was to me. With its cast of fascinating characters-earnest missionaries, maverick converts, wide-eyed tourists and even a nineteenth-century George Bush-Power, Faith, and Fantasy is not only a terrific read, it is also proof that you don't really understand an issue until you know its history." Niall Ferguson "American involvement in the Middle East is widely assumed to have started in 1945 whereas, as Oren shows, this process began much earlier and has been more mult-faceted and varied than commonly believed. This comprehensive, detailed book provides a clear-eyed account of the historical roots of this involvement." The Tribune "Elegant and engaging..." Foreign Affairs "[Oren] focuses on the characters that influenced US actions, showing himself to be a supreme storyteller as well as an excellent analyst." The Good Book Guide --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

MICHAEL B. OREN is a Senior Fellow at the Shalem Center. A visiting professor at Harvard and Yale Universities, Oren is the author of the best-selling Six Days of War. He lives in Jerusalem.

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It Didn't Begin with Gaddafi 16 Jan 2011
By James Gallen TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Audio CD
Most Americans probably think that the American involvement in the Middle East began in the last forty years or so. A few might remember that it goes back to the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. In fact, as detailed on the pages of "Power, Faith, Fantasy", The Middle East has been an important theatre of American foreign policy since the foundation of the Republic. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson had to deal with Barbary Pirates who molested the shipping of Christian countries in the 18th and 19th centuries. Whereas Adams followed the pattern of European countries in trying to buy protection by paying tribute, Jefferson chose a military response to free American hostages and put an end to the Mediterranean piracy. It was Jefferson's policy that compelled the re-establishment of the U.S. Navy.

Author Michael Oren does an excellent job of illustrating the various motivations that have driven American policy in the Middle East over the centuries. After the defeat of the Barbary States American interest in the Middle East was defined by Faith-based initiatives intending to restore the Jews to the Holy Land. Others established education institutions that transformed Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries. By the administration of Theodore Roosevelt, kidnapping was again the cause of contention as Roosevelt demanded that "This government wants Perdicaris alive or Raisuli dead." As Roosevelt's projection of American power gave way to Wilsonian idealism, this minister's son was again driven by ideals of Faith and an unwillingness to jeopardize American citizens working in the schools previously established. This unwillingness prevented a U.S. declaration of war against the Ottoman Empire during World War I. The lack of involvement kept the U.S.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a rising momentum of events 5 Mar 2012
The book starts out slow and gradually gains velocity. Its heavy focus on the first century and a half of US history allows for story telling about many individual soldiers, missionaries, or adventurers who went to the Middle East. Then the entanglements grow more complicated, and the momentum of events builds. By the 1980s, the writing is a fairly breathless rush of momentous events. It's good to have it all flash before your eyes like this, but it's little more than a stream of headlines. Through the whole big story, Oren highlights what has been noble in America's efforts, while always including critical views. He does an excellent job of capturing America's part in the rise of Israel, and the difficult choices Americans made in response to a rising tragedy, as Jewish refugees fled from the bonfire of anti-Semitic Europe into the frying pan of an anti-colonial Middle East. As for recent conflicts, Oren seems cautious in judging his contemporaries. He seems to feel that presenting the big picture of the past will provide balance, and the present will be judged by future works of history. I would have liked to see more on America's relations with Saudi Arabia, and a greater discussion of the issues in political or military control of religious movements.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Michael Oren's POWER, FAITH and FANTASY is an immensely researched (80 pages of notes and a 50 page bibliography) and cohesively written accound of American impact in the middle east from the beginnings of America until the present. The background research and anecdotes provide a firm footing for any interested party who wants to know how the United States and the Middle East arrived to the situations they are in today.

Most notably, Oren describes the personalities of the people involved, and reminds us through evidence and quotes, that the policies of countries (whether democracy, autocracy or other) are shaped by the sentiments, education and background of their leaders. Mr. Oren runs through not only the leaders of the Middle Eastern countries in each phase, but goes in depth on the up-bringing and cultural leanings of each U.S. President (i.e., most of them) who had influence to bear on the events in the Middle East.

The book is crafted into seven sections, roughly paralleling developments in US History: independence, before the Civil War, during the Civil War, as America becomes a power, WWI, oil and WWII, and a brief skim over the years since WWII. In each section are weaved the three themes of Faith (religeous influences, including Zionist, pro-Arab, anti-Semite, etc.), Power (US ideas of democracy vs. European Imperialism, Soviet Communism, Arab self-rule) and Fantasy (films, impressions).

I enjoyed this book because Mr. Oren presented facts, not judgements, difficult to do in history as you can make the facts say what you want. But he convincingly presents as many perspecitves to each issue as he can.
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