I intend to write more on this book, I finished it Tuesday night; for now I will just say that there is a hidden, central character in this book. And that character is ... Middle Eastern oil.
The central theme, as implied by the title, is that America has always had a prevailing fantasy about the Middle East, largely drawn from works of fiction, such as 1,001 Arabian Nights. Americans then came to believe, based on 'faith', that with a little guidance the Middle East could be modernized and remade in America's image (with a little exoticism thrown in). They continually were stymied, however, by the 'facts on the ground' and American economic and military power had to be added to make any 'progress' regarding modernizing the region.
And right from the start there were successes. But for some reason the Middle Easterners resisted conversion to Christianity or having western culture thrust upon them. Sometimes violently so. Which led to conflict, naturally.
Nevertheless, for about 130 years America was widely seen in the Middle East as being the champion of Arab rights, at least when compared to England and France.
Then came the internal combustion engine. Suddenly (OK, a little bit gradually) American ideals had to be balanced with 'strategic interests.' Meaning, largely, if there is oil beneath your sand we want you on our side. No matter your governing philosophy or with (or against) whom you are aligned. A tricky balancing act began. Then, along came the State of Israel ...
More to come.