America has been in Arabia for well over six decades, yet American access to the inner workings of the Saudi world is limited at best. Even the 9/11 Commission could only scratch the surface of things: "Saudi Arabia has been a problematic ally in combating Islamic extremism," its report stated. "At the level of high policy, Saudi Arabia's leaders cooperated with American diplomatic initiatives aimed at the Taliban or Pakistan before 9/11. At the same time, Saudi Arabia's society was a place where Al Qaeda raised money directly from individuals and through charities. It was the society that produced 15 of the 19 hijackers." In "Crosswinds: The Way of Saudi Arabia," Fouad Ajami attempts to unravel the mystery that is Saudi Arabia: its political culture, its religious life, its relationship to the United States and the rest of the world, and all that makes up "the Saudi way."Told in large part in the Saudis' own words, "Crosswinds: The Way of Saudi Arabia" offers revealing insights into nearly every aspect of life in that country, from the "official" Saudi narrative of its own perfection-rooted in a cultural reluctance to name, and thus acknowledge, its troubles-to why the sordid political condition of the Arab and Muslim world worked to the advantage of the House of Saud to how the ethos of the Arabian Peninsula's cultural uniqueness can become an all-too-convenient alibi for intolerance and self-righteousness. Ajami also details the inner workings of the Saudi leadership, including how the Saudi ruling bargain was radically changed by the first gulf war of 1990-91, why President Obama's promise of engagement with Iran awakened dormant Saudi suspicions that an American deal with Iran would be made at their expense, and how the 2003 terrorist bombings in Riyadh--"Saudi Arabia's 9/11"--brought about a remarkable change in the official Saudi line on terrorism."I am lucky to have some access, gained over the course of two decades, to Saudis drawn from a broad segment of the population," says Ajami in his foreword. "I try in these pages to be true to what they told me." The result is a fascinating look inside a complex land and its people.