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.


Did you know that /b/ is responsible for kicking off the DDoS attacks on Iranian government websites?
parfacy: Sumeragi || Gundam 00 (pic#216564)

[personal profile] parfacy 2009-06-17 12:06 pm (UTC)(link)
Thank you for the book recommendation. I added to my shopping list o/

It's not that I'm not grateful for the attention Iran is getting on my flist and around, lately, but I'm a bit wary at just how much or how little people understand the situation in Iran. I'm one of those who think the Burma internet activism was a fad, so you may feel free to shoot me. I don't want this to become yet another internet fad, giving people something to do.

It's a situation that's very, very far from a black and white picture.
parfacy: Shiro || Deadman Wonderland (I have no idea what's going on)

[personal profile] parfacy 2009-06-17 04:05 pm (UTC)(link)
1. I hope this attention doesn't become negative in the long run, but with a place like Iran, having your cover blown means years and years in prison. I pray for their safety.

2. That's the thing. I don't think many people involved in this aptly understand the larger context here. Right now, Iran is really in a tricky situation (see Israel, see the Gulf region, see the US, see Iraq, etc) that world-wide tension will only worsen it. It's like being in a position where any sort of interference will go downhill from here on. I'm not a pessemistic person, but this is Iran. It's a whole different category with politics, culture, sectarianism, and history attached. It's not really the Big Bad President against the Little Poor Oppressed Reformists. There are so many levels of conservatism there that you can't navigate with a simple "End to all censorship!" slogan.

It's a corrupt government, but it's also been corrupt long before Ahmedinejad, and I don't think it will be a stellar beacon of reform after he's gone.

We just say "Nejad", but I know what you mean.

parfacy: Shiro || Deadman Wonderland (I have no idea what's going on)

[personal profile] parfacy 2009-06-17 09:06 pm (UTC)(link)
Mousavi's a long time politician, actually, and an Ayatollah al-Khomaini supporter. In his newspaper, he defended the revolution for years. He's actually in the same party as Nejad. What many people fail to see that there is no opposition parties in Iran, just conservatives, and moderate conservatives.

If I remember right, he's the last prime minister in Iran, and the only thing separating him from Nejad is that he was backed by former president Khatemi.

I fail at TV culture.
schiarire: (Default)

[personal profile] schiarire 2009-06-17 06:07 pm (UTC)(link)
Hee, was Caroline in this class? She was talking about Oren recently, too!

It sounds like an amazing book. I'll try to read it in the fall, when I can get English books again!
schiarire: (Default)

[personal profile] schiarire 2009-06-17 06:18 pm (UTC)(link)
She loved him. She was talking about how at first she thought it was weird that he could be a US citizen and ambassador to the US, but then decided it was ideal.

Yeah, I bet GU does! I've just checked and it's in the Prussian Cultural Archive (= Berlin's biggest library, but with a hilarious name) but you aren't allowed to check it out so I probably won't be reading it here.