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Power Faith And Fantasy [Paperback]

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

April 12 2011
This best-selling history is the first fully comprehensive account 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 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."

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From Publishers Weekly

In this engaging if unbalanced survey, the author of the acclaimed Six Days of War finds continuity in U.S. relations with the Middle East from the early 19th-century war against the Barbary pirates to today's Iraq war. As America's power grew, he contends, strategic considerations became complicatedby the region's religious significance, especially to the Protestant missionaries whose interests drove U.S. policyin the 19th century and who championed a Jewish state in Palestine long before the Zionist movement took up that cause. Meanwhile, Oren notes, Americans' romantic fantasies about the Muslim world (as expressed in Mideast-themed movies) have repeatedly run aground on stubborn, squalid realities, most recently in the Iraq fiasco. Oren dwells on the pre-WWII era, when U.S.-Mideast relations were of little significance. The postwar period, when these relations were central to world affairs, gets shoehorned into 127 hasty pages, and the emphasis on continuity gives short shrift to the new and crucial role of oil in U.S. policy making. Oren's treatment views this history almost entirely through American eyes; the U.S. comes off as usually well intentioned and idealistic, if often confused and confounded by regional complexities. Oren's is a fluent, comprehensive narrative of two centuries of entanglement, but it's analytically disappointing. Photos. (Jan. 15)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

This engrossing, informative, and frequently surprising survey of U.S. involvement in the Middle East over the past 230 years is particularly timely. Oren, a frequent contributor to the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and New Republic, illustrates that American interests have frequently combined elements of romanticism, religious fervency, and hardheaded power politics. In the early nineteenth century, President Jefferson, perhaps acting against his own instincts to remain aloof from the affairs of the Old World, sent the infant American navy to confront the Barbary pirates off the coast of North Africa. Like many of our future endeavors in the region, the results were a mixture of success, failure, and farce. Other episodes covered here that are particularly interesting include previously obscure American efforts to locate the source of the Nile and the efforts by American missionaries to convert vast numbers of Ottoman subjects. But Oren is at his best when describing American involvement in the twentieth century as the U.S. replaced Britain as the dominant "imperial" power in the area. Appealing to both scholars and general readers. Jay Freeman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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IN 1776, SUDDENLY, AMERICANS WERE ON THEIR OWN. Read the first page
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5.0 out of 5 stars Narrative History Lesson May 31 2007
Format:Hardcover
It took me some time to decide on this book. It was heavy, and was filled with text book style references and cross references. Yet, I decided to give it a try just for one single reason: I immensely enjoyed Oren's previous work: "Six Days of War" and I was sure he wouldn't disappoint his loyal readers. I was right to a large extent.

"Power, Faith and Fantasy" is definitely a unique book. Oren's facts are precise and well researched. The biggest plus of this book is the narration. It keeps you engaged and you would never realize that you are reading a non-fiction historical account.

On the downside, Oren's revelation that the U.S. is solely to blame both for past and present conditions is not totally acceptable to an average person like me who would want to see a real balance.

Nevertheless, "Power, Faith and Fantasy" gets 4.5/5 for the humongous effort of bringing the priceless facts that were scattered across continents in this beautifully narrated masterpiece!

N.Sivakumar

Author of "America Misunderstood: What a Second Bush Victory Meant to the Rest of the World".
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It Didn't Begin with Gaddafi Jan. 15 2011
By James Gallen TOP 100 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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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
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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Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Michael Oren does a phenomenal job of researching and describing in vivid detail the historical events during the Ottoman Empire, in showing the roots of Muslim intolerance toward the West, and the early roots of terrorism, and the East's rejection of the West. In line with other great Historians on the clash of Muslim Countries with Judeo-Christian based ones, like Bernard Lewis' work.
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