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

Michael B. Oren
  • Review
By – November 14, 2011
While pre­vi­ous stud­ies on America’s involve­ment in the Mid­dle East focused on spe­cif­ic peri­ods, regions, and top­ics, this book pro­vides the read­er with a detailed his­to­ry of the com­plete involve­ment of Amer­i­ca since it gained inde­pen­dence in the whole Mid­dle East and North Africa. Despite the fact that the book is very detailed, heav­i­ly anno­tat­ed, and based on numer­ous archival sources and pub­li­ca­tions, it is high­ly read­able, writ­ten in a rich, descrip­tive lan­guage. In his exam­i­na­tion Oren focus­es on the three main ele­ments in Amer­i­can involve­ment in the Mid­dle East: pow­er, faith, and fan­ta­sy and their influ­ence on one anoth­er. Thus, in addi­tion to exam­in­ing the pur­suit of Amer­i­can inter­ests in the region, Oren checks how reli­gion shaped Amer­i­can atti­tudes toward the region and what the per­cep­tions of the Mid­dle East were in the Amer­i­can imag­i­na­tion. We also learn how this involve­ment shaped Amer­i­ca: for exam­ple, how the con­flict with the Bar­bary States influ­enced the con­sti­tu­tion and the estab­lish­ment of the US Navy. Based on sound schol­ar­ship, this is an impor­tant con­tri­bu­tion to Amer­i­can and Mid­dle East­ern stud­ies, and of great val­ue to spe­cial­ists and the gen­er­al pub­lic alike. Bib­li­og­ra­phy, illus­tra­tions, index, maps, notes.
Rachel Simon, a librar­i­an at Prince­ton Uni­ver­si­ty, does research on Jews in the mod­ern Mid­dle East and North Africa, with spe­cial ref­er­ence to Libya, Ottoman Empire, women, and education.

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