Michael's Reviews > Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East 1776 to the Present

Power, Faith, and Fantasy by Michael B. Oren
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's review
Aug 02, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: 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 States. The Barbary Pirates, ruling the Mediterranean Sea, helped give birth to the United States Navy, for example. Some people in our newly formed government grew tired of providing ransom and being exhorted by the pirates in order for our ships to have safe passage. Thus, our Navy was created to help bring an end to piracy and ransoms.

Missionaries, and a few entrepid explorers, scoured the Middle East, attempting to restore Christianity to the region, or looking for adventure. Tales of wonder, excitement, and mystery lined U.S newspapers, books, and later movies. The influence of these stories, from the likes of Mark Twain or T.H. Lawrence, would create a fantastical realm that would influence real politics, impressions, and create stereotypes from which world leaders would make decisions.

Oren spends much of the book discussing pre-Israel history; the rational being that the realm changed drastically in the years leading up to Israel Independence, and in the decades thereafter. He gives some treatment to those post-Independence days. Do not buy this book if you are stricly looking at a history or commentary on Israeli policy, or for anything other than a cursory survey of events since Independence.

The book does as described though, and provides insight into U.S. and Middle East relations up to about 1947. That the book does well, and is worth the price.

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