Michael Oren's new history of America in the Middle East.
Adams hesitated, because public opinion overwhelmingly favored Greece in its struggle for national and religious independence. Jackson, however, ruled that the national interest demanded that Washington favor the Ottomans, and he presented a treaty to Congress "to foster the intercourse between the countries." These dichotomies—idealism vs. realism, evangelism vs. commerce, fascination vs. repulsion—are the story of two and a half centuries of American policy in the region. "The debate over the essential nature of the Middle East and its relations with the United States," concludes Oren, "shows no signs of waning."
The book he has produced is not going to educate Americans about the Middle East. It is about America and its motivations—both public and hidden—and the repetitive nature of missteps driven both by ignorance and good intentions. So, it is a book that can only provide the very first step—maybe the most essential of steps—as America struggles to reshape its policy in the Middle East. Before being educated about the region and the forces that shape it, Americans must re-examine the forces that motivate America.
Shmuel Rosner is a Tel Aviv-based columnist. He blogs daily at Rosner's Domain.