When did America’s involvement in the Middle East begin? Was it with the discovery of oil? The Suez Canal? The Cold War? The Arab Israeli conflict? Well, if you answered yes to any of those choices you’d be wrong. Michael Oren has written a comprehensive book covering 230 years of American involvement in the Middle East. All indications are that it is a great read and an exhaustive work of historical research. You can read one of the chapters on Michael Oren’s Web site. Titled “Rebs and Yanks on the Nile” it describes how an unlikely group of former Civil War officers (from both sides) had gone to Egypt in an attempt to modernize the Egyptian army. They ended up building a school system that educated Egyptian soldiers and their children. They also got into all sorts of whacky adventures – but you’ll have to read about that yourself.
The timing of this book’s publication is prescient – there is much talk about both the Walt/Mearsheimer “research” and Jimmy Carterâ€™s new bestselling book, but Oren’s work is really the most important rejoinder that anyone has offered. His thesis is that American investment in the region has nothing to do with an â€œIsrael lobbyâ€ or some nefarious Jewish influence, but reflects a much deeper American concern for the Middle East and Zionism, a concern that is grounded in faith and shared values, and that stretches all the way back to America’s founding.
Michael Oren is currently a senior fellow at the Shalem Center. He holds degrees in Middle East history from Columbia University and Princeton University and has been a visiting lecturer at Harvard University and Yale University. His last book, Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East was a New York Times best-seller and winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Award.
Oren’s going to be on NPR today on “All Things Considered,” has an appearance scheduled on Jon Stewart’s Daily Show as well as all the usual places… check him out – read the excerpt, buy the book! I’d write more but the Sabbath queen beckons…