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

3.95  ·  Rating Details ·  1,369 Ratings  ·  222 Reviews
This best-selling history is the first fully comprehensive history of America’s involvement in the Middle East from George Washington to George W. Bush. As Niall Ferguson writes, “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 ...more
Hardcover, 832 pages
Published January 16th 2007 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published 2007)
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Community Reviews

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Apr 25, 2011 K rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Barack Obama
Once again I find myself giving Michael Oren five stars and warning people away from his book. Five stars for a thoroughly researched and highly informative read, to be sure. But expect a pretty long slog.

This ambitious tome describes the interactions between the United States and the Middle East from the point of the United States' inception, starting with the Barbary Wars. Oren uses the themes of power (the U.S. wanted control, initially in terms of wanting to pass through the region safe from
Mar 16, 2008 Khader rated it did not like it
A very superficial, one-sided and biased "analysis" of the United States involvement in the middle-east. The motivation of the middle-eastern people's resistance to the U.S.'s attempts to exploit the region are never explored. Instead, the native people of the middle east are presented as savages that are intent on conflicting with the United-States for no particular reason, with the United-States motives being portrayed as an altruistic superpower intent on enlightening the world, which is extr ...more
Saadiq Wolford
Michael Oren must be a horrible lay. I say this because only a horrible lay could take a subject as rife with passion and controversy as America's involvement in the Middle East and make it a mind-numbingly dull read.

Furthermore, while the book's subtitle is "America in the Middle East from 1776 to the Present", Oren only spends the last 20% of the book discussing the last 70 years of history (the period in which I was most interested), stating outright that he did so because there are many othe
Jul 30, 2008 jordan rated it it was amazing
Few fields have been as well plowed as that of Middle East studies. Indeed, the ever expanding shelf in the bookstore on the topic groans under the weight of a torrent of new works, many which might be charitably described as derivative of already existing work. What a thrill then when a new book appears covering otherwise undisturbed ground!

Michael Oren's excellent "Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East: 1776 to the Present" is such a book. Instead of covering familiar subjects
Feb 24, 2013 Rahadyan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Since my conversion to Islam more than a decade ago, I am wont to approach any book of this subject matter and scope with skepticism. While the author Michael B. Oren certainly has the credentials for this, he is also Israel's current ambassador to the United States.

The section of the book that deals with the nascent United States of the 18th century up to the influences of the then-major world powers in the first half of the 20th century seem unassailably objective. I honestly expected Mr. Oren
Mar 31, 2011 Michael rated it liked it
I am giving this 3 stars solely based on the amount of information included. Here is why it doesn't get a better rating.

The book starts with the very interesting Barbary Wars when the United States was brand new. It discusses the impacts that the pirates from Northern Africa had on the formation of our Navy and foreign policy.

After that there is 200 pages of discussion on missionaries and the schools and hospitals they built. This is also somewhat interesting, but I don't think so many of the di
Oct 22, 2007 Charissa rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, politics, war
Everything we all need to know about our relationship with the Middle East (if you happen to be American). Crucial reading in these times.
Sep 27, 2012 Jerome rated it really liked it
Well-written and well-researched.

However, the book's main weakness is that it doesn't cover the era of the 20th century to today very well. Oren excuses himself by saying that plenty of works already exist on the subject, and only writes as much as is needed. Arguably, this is the section most readers will be interested in the most, and it, while decent, fails to deliver. And besides, the stories of American romantics and adventurers got repetitive and boring after a while, and you start to ask
I have had this book on my to-read list for a long, long, long time (almost 7 years). But due to the length of the book and the density of the subject matter (not to mention my aversion to history books that have bored me to tears in the past), I just never seemed to want to read it. I even checked out the book once or twice, but ended up returning it before I got around to it.

But I've really taken to listening to audiobooks in the car during my daily commute. Some drives are longer than others
This is an immensely fascinating study of U.S.-Middle Eastern relations starting in 1776 and roughly ending in 2006-2007. Oren not only writes passionately and convincingly about U.S. military and diplomatic interactions with the region, but also about the humanitarian and missionary work that private citizens did in the region, which had a far greater impact upon U.S. relations in the Middle East pre-1914 than one might think. I especially find it ironic that the Zionist movement and Arabian Na ...more
Paula  Obermeier McCarty
This was a fascinating book! Here are just a few thoughts I had about this incredible book:

1. I was appalled by the Armenian massacres. It was disturbing that the Turks were focused on genocide and their killing methods seemed to be a chilling precursor to the Jewish Holocaust. (such as Armenians packed into railroad boxcars and deported to execution sites). As an ally of Turkey during the First World War, Germany would have known of these things. They also would have witnessed the rest of the w
May 15, 2012 Jackie rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Overall, this is a book worth reading. A bit of a slog at times, finishing it became a matter of perseverance rather than interest. Given the overwhelming amount of detail, as well as a contrived personality sketch of seemingly every possible character that has been involved in U.S.-Middle East relations, I doubt how much information I’ll actually retain. However, I did leave the book with a much broader perspective of the historical connections between the regions, and there are definitely some ...more
Aug 13, 2016 Nathalie rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2016
This book could have included more analysis.
Oct 20, 2016 Margaret rated it it was ok
Do we really need a book that lists every missionary who traveled to the Middle East between 1776 and 2009? I guess so. The author also has never met a fact about any of the individuals that he writes about that he hasn't loved. It's not enough to mention one of the countless missionaries who died, failed, got sick, lost everything without also mentioning what position they played on their high school baseball team and what their favorite color was. However, the one thing I can't get over is the ...more
Elliott Bignell
Apr 12, 2015 Elliott Bignell rated it really liked it
I am scandalised to find myself compelled to report that this book actually made me feel more kindly disposed to the USA. Very balanced, except in the closing section covering post-1948 events, it does not varnish US involvement in the Middle East but it makes very clear that its motives and those of its citizens prior to the fall of the European empires were not uniformly reprehensible, and were sometimes honourable. Certainly more so than the European empires, and often more so than those of M ...more
Juergen John Roscher
Dec 15, 2011 Juergen John Roscher rated it really liked it
Shelves: read_2011
Listened to this book on CD

When I saw the title of this book “Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East 1776 to the Present” by Michael Oren, I felt this book would help me understand the current issues in the Middle East and the United States role. Even with all of the news and problems with Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, and the conflict between Israel and Palestinian people, I felt that I knew very little about the region, their culture, and their beliefs. Therefore, I thought this book
This book attempts to discuss the American government's involvement in the Middle East since 1776. With such a broad subject, of course it's going to be a bit shallow. While I commend the author on his effort, I found it to be disorganized at times, a bit overly simplistic at others, and downright confusing at still other times.

Oren jumps around in the timeline, introducing historical figures decades before he plans to discuss them, often hinting at decades to come before returning to the curre
Oct 07, 2007 John rated it it was amazing
Michael B. Oren’s Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East: 1776 to the Present documents the involvement of the U.S.A. in the Middle East from the first battles with Barbary pirates through our current war in Iraq. As Oren examines each period (demarcated by our wars), he describes the inter-connected roles of military and economic power, religious faith, and America’s fantasies of the Middle East. As a neophyte history reader, I am amazed by this story and this history. Oren’s wri ...more
Aug 02, 2011 Michael rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
The author, Michael Oren, is currently the Israeli Ambassador to the United States. Oren is also a historian, specialising in the history of the Middle East, especially Israel. Quite knowledgeable on the subject, this is not his first effort into Middle East history. His book, The Six Days War, is a seminal work on the conflict.

Oren takes us on a journey of the history of the relationship between the United States and the Middle East, beginning within a few years of the birth of the United State
Zohar -
May 03, 2016 Zohar - rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015
Power, Faith and Fantasy: America in the Middle East, 1776 to the Present by Michael B. Oren is a study of the relationship the United States had towards the Middle East since its inception. Mr. Oren is an Israeli born author and historian who severed as an amabassodor to the United States from 2009 to 2013.

Power, Faith and Fantasy: America in the Middle East, 1776 to the Present by Michael B. Oren is a very long book in which the authors makes his case about the important role the US played, an
Dorian Santiago
Aug 26, 2015 Dorian Santiago rated it it was amazing
Michael Oren created an encyclopedic, all-encompassing, pioneering masterpiece with this work. His detailed accounts of the United States' interaction with the Middle East and all of the domestic and international consequences--often concomitant and intertwined--during the Barbary Wars, Antebellum Era, Civil War and Reconstruction, both World Wars, Containment Era, and the early 21st century were highly informative and invigorating. While a great deal of scholarly, editorial, and literary archiv ...more
Jul 02, 2009 Christopher rated it liked it
Shelves: history
It took me a while to both get through this book and to get around to writing a review (as David's comments below attest).

As a history book, the first 2/3 are good, if a bit dry and slow in places. The real highlight is the wealth of colorful American characters that our country has inflicted on the Middle East - crazy missionaries, Civil War veterans determined to find the headwaters of the Nile, headstrong and star-crossed naval commanders.

By the time we get to WWI, I start knowing the materia
David Fox
Jun 05, 2011 David Fox rated it liked it
Shelves: reviewed, owned-books
Mis-Adventures in the Mid East

I was really looking forward to reading this book & gaining a better understanding of the history of our relationship with those countries that now constitute the Middle East. For the most part Mr. Oren (Israel's current Ambassador to the US), does a splendid job tracing our involvement & the evolving interdependency of our country and the nation states of the Middle East. He eloquently & with a dry wit fashions a wry narrative that stitches together the
Jun 21, 2014 Patrick rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
This was a very good telling of the attitudes that the United States has had towards the Middle East. It is told on several fronts. My favorite was the political front which gave great detail to the Barbary war and later policies involving the mingling of American missionaries in a pretty hostile environment. The book does go through the Iranian crisis and gives some service to 9-11, but most of the book is grounded in building the reader's background into the complexities of the region and the ...more
Josh Muhlenkamp
This was a very interesting look into the history of the relationship between the United States and the Middle East. Having been born in 1988, and only being alive to experience a very small portion of that relationship, this book really taught me a lot about where that relationship had been, and how it got to the point it's at now.

Obviously, there's the rocky start in the Barbary Wars. But after that, the relationship between Americans and Arabs was friendly, in complete contrast to the stereot
Bob Pearson
Mar 09, 2011 Bob Pearson rated it really liked it
This is a great read of the history of the U.S. in the Middle East. Much of the material is not well-known to Americans. I was fascinated by the stories of American efforts in the late 1700's and early 1800's to deal with pirates in the Mediterranean. Equally interesting were the accounts of American missionaries and their struggles mainly to survive and also to convert local Muslims to Christianity. The great legacy of these efforts were the wonderful American secondary schools and universities ...more
Nov 25, 2015 blereader rated it it was amazing
Growing up, I never knew much about the Middle East. I've started to try to learn, because these days no one has the luxury of being ignorant or indifferent to what's going on. This book was a useful overview and introduction. It brought together the topics of my other independent studies: church history, literary and political figures, and American slavery. Everything is brought together in a narrative that focuses on how the US has perceived the Middle East.

I don't know how much I'll retain,
Oct 18, 2015 Dave rated it it was amazing
Nothing every changes. As radical settlers burn out a Palestinian family and Palestinian lone wolves stab Israelis on the street and an Israeli shoots another Israeli thinking he is a Palestinian, it's pretty much what has been going on there forever. And the US response never really changes all that much. The US is never quite sure which side to back, whether through diplomacy or arms a side should be backed. The only certainty is uncertainty about what to do about and for the Middle East. This ...more
Josh Liller
A mammoth tome (over 600 pages, plus endnotes and index) that at times bogs down.

This book really focuses on America's involvement in the Middle East (including North Africa), skipping over other events as much as possible and condensing the last 50 years into less than 100 pages (which is acknowledged by the author). The extreme focus of the narrative is a both a weakness and a strength: some of the events referenced briefly left me a bit confused due to lack of familiarity with them. Yet the s
Jul 21, 2008 Jon rated it liked it
Not as good as Oren's other book I just read (Six Days of War), but very interesting nonetheless. Conceptually dividing the history of America's relationship with the greater Middle East into categories of power, faith, and fantasy, Oren tells how these three interrelated factors shaped America's presence in--and attitude(s) toward--the region. Although Oren covers much of this multifaceted history, including the relatively unknown aspects of American interests in the Middle East before WWI, he ...more
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History of the relationship between the USA and the Middle East 1 26 Jan 04, 2009 08:55AM  
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Michael B. Oren (Hebrew: מיכאל אורן; born Michael Scott Bornstein on May 20, 1955) is an American-born Israeli historian, author, politician, former ambassador to the United States (2009–2013), and current member of the Knesset for the Kulanu party and the Deputy Minister for Diplomacy in the Prime Minister's Office.

Oren has written books, articles, and essays on Middle Eastern history, and is the
More about Michael B. Oren...

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