skywalker: (bsg (cabin in the woods))
the girl who leaps through space! ([personal profile] skywalker) wrote2009-06-16 09:17 pm
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If a professor becomes Israel's US ambassador, will he still write law school recommendations?

I'm going to use the interest in Iran on my flist to pimp a book to American readers. It's Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East, 1776 to the Present by Michael Oren.

There are a shitload of books on Britain in the Middle East or of America in specific Middle Eastern events, but Power, Faith, and Fantasy is unique in the fact that it's an attempt at undertaking a complete look at how America and the Middle East have shaped each other (did you know that the most common fiction book in colonial America was 1001 Arabian Nights? That the Statue of Liberty was originally a veiled Muslim woman?), in military/economic, religious, and social terms. I'm not saying the book is a perfect account (off the top of my head, I don't think it does the U.S.S. Liberty affair full justice... and it doesn't explain Said well enough because my knowledge about Orientalism is still fuzzy), but it's actually a delight to read (it's written very lightly, almost like storytelling, with lots of interesting asides and stories of really cool people) and a great intro to American foreign policy or Middle Eastern history.

The author was on the Daily Show, if that intrigues you.

If you watch the two parts of that interview, you will have watched a ten-minute summary of the first lesson of my "America in the Middle East" class from fall semester. That's right! I had this guy for class. The reason I actually went to write this post was that, thinking about Iran, I thought of his "power, faith, and fantasy" approach, then went to see if he'd written anything about it ... ... ... ... ... only to discover that he hasn't written anything recently because he was appointed Israel's ambassador to the U.S. CURSE YOU, PROFESSOR OREN, DOES THIS MEAN YOU WON'T REALLY BE USING MY TERM PAPER AS AN EXAMPLE FOR FUTURE CLASSES? Sob, I wanted to take his military history class, too. Don't let that put you off, though; Oren has a fabulous and balanced-enough approach to things, to the point where my hyper-pro-Palestinian global conflict TA in London praised Oren in a review session.

As a security studies major who loads up on history classes, I cannot stress how important I think history is to have some understanding where we are today, and I believe that America's historical interaction with the Middle East is exceptionally valuable to understanding the present. History is important. You should not engage in Iranian activism without knowing at least a little bit about the American women and men, missionaries and politicians, and many others whose decades- and centuries-old footsteps you are following in. While there may be better books for specific topics or time periods, and you won't learn everything about the subject from one book, you won't find a more engaging overview of American involvement in the Middle East than Power, Faith, and Fantasy.




Tangent!

Did you know that /b/ is responsible for kicking off the DDoS attacks on Iranian government websites?

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