Consider the following claims, each of which in Washington circles has attained quasi-canonical status. * The presence of U.S. forces in the Islamic world contributes to regional stability and enhances American influence. * The Persian Gulf constitutes a vital U.S. national security interest. * Egypt and Saudi Arabia are valued and valuable American allies. * The interests of the United States and Israel align. * Terrorism poses an existential threat that the United States must defeat. For decades now, the first four of these assertions have formed the foundation of U.S. policy in the Middle East. The events of 9/11 added the fifth, without in any way prompting a reconsideration of the first four. On each of these matters, no senior U.S. official (or anyone aspiring to a position of influence) will dare say otherwise, at least not on the record. Yet subjected to even casual scrutiny, none of the five will stand up.