on April 9, 2007
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.
His last section on the years from WWII to present was brief, but he acknowleded that it would be a fly-by because of so much material and interest that had already been written on the subject.
A long read at 600+ pages, but well worth it. I learned many new things and was reminded of some I had forgotten. Highly recommended.
on October 1, 2015
This is not just a work of history, but it must rank as one of the greatest works of history in the modern era. Mr Oren's ability to combine history, religion, military, agriculture, exploration, conservationism, sociology and more is astonishing enough, but to do so in beautiful prose devoid of abstruse words is worthy of Churchill, whose Nobel prize was for literature. The work of an extordinary mind, you cannot afford not to read it. A pity that some of our politicians either ignored or disbelieved him while he was an ambassador to,the USA.
on May 31, 2007
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!
Author of "America Misunderstood: What a Second Bush Victory Meant to the Rest of the World".
on March 17, 2013
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.