Power Faith and Fantasy is a weighty history of the USA’s involvement in the Middle East by Michael B. Oren. The content and theme of the book is truly incorporated in the book’s title. As an emerging world power with its religious missionary citizenry enamored with the Holy land, America creates some interesting fantasies and attempts at solving the area’s problems.
The book proves that oil was not the beginning nor sole interest of the USA in the area. Involvement of the USA in the area begins with the creation of a Marine Corps to release US shipping from the grips of Barbary Muslim pirates in the time of Jefferson. Instead of paying tribute, the US decides to use force and power to effectively ease and safeguard US shipping to Europe.
American missionaries established outposts and schools with the hope of converting the ‘Ayrab’. Such a position would prove to be not only untenable but underscored great misunderstandings and fantasies about the indigenous people of the Middle East. American arrogance comes through in the expectation that the people of the Middle East would obviously see the advantages of Western Democracy. The shock to missionaries that Muslims reject their way of life and beliefs sends them reeling. Brutal handling and assaults create the dangers requiring rescue missions. America would come to the missionary’s aid under the pretense of morality.
Hollywood has created a romantic vision of the Middle East that contributes to the fantasies about the area. In spite of the fact of much testimony to the harsh realities, dangers wrought in the area and the proud nature of its peoples, the USA seems opaque to the possibility that there is a legitimate clash of civilizations. America remains enamored with the birthplace of three of the world’s religions and still feels a largesse toward the area.
Cold War politics played the heaviest role in the USA choosing Israel over the Arab oil states as an ally against the Soviet Union. Now that the Cold War is past, and the Soviet Union is broken up, one wonders whether the alliances will change.
Anyone interested in a deep understanding of America’s relationship to the Middle East and Holy land will gain much knowledge from this contribution.