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Fear's Empire: War, Terrorism, and Democracy in an Age of Interdependence Hardcover – September, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The attacks of September 11, 2001 struck fear into the hearts of Americans. Despite being the world's lone superpower and despite being possessed of an unprecedented share of the world's wealth, Americans learned they were vulnerable to terrorists who operated with neither country nor army. In response, the Bush administration began a "war on terrorism," invading countries which it suspected of harboring terrorists or having the desire to harm American interests in the future. But America asserting itself by preemptively waging war is both wrongheaded and dangerous, according to Benjamin R. Barber. In Fear's Empire, he suggests that unilateral military action perpetuates an image of America as an aggressive force that operates outside the accepted precepts of international law and policy. This could lead to less support from other countries in fighting a shadowy enemy and, because it perpetuates the image of America as self-righteous aggressor, could lead to generations of increased terrorism while contributing to a bunker mentality of fear back at home. But Barber does more than say what's wrong; he offers a detailed plan for a more conscientious foreign policy alternative. He draws a distinction between Pax Americana the strategy of preventive war which the United States used in Afghanistan and Iraq and Lex Humana or "preventive democracy," a strategy in which democracy is developed as a means of establishing a lasting peace around the world by encouraging a practical self-determination. Barber draws important distinctions: simply demanding that other countries adopt America's laws and processes will not work and exporting America's consumer driven economic lifestyle would be nothing short of disastrous. But by extending the notion of the social contract to the world, helping countries establish their own democratic societies, and using democracy as a model for nations to work together, Barber argues, peace could be established and fear's empire finally defeated. Barber's writing is intellectual without being pedantic and passionate without being unnecessarily shrill or partisan. Such an approach is welcome in a political climate where the loudest shouters tend to get the most notice. --John Moe

From Booklist

The logic of preventative war, argues this assertive critique of the Bush administration's supposedly new foreign policy, isn't so fundamentally different from the cold war doctrine of deterrence: both amount to fighting fear with fear. What is different, however, is the world. In an increasingly interdependent world with no check on American power, where destruction is assuredly unilateral, friends and enemies alike read displays of power not as deterrence but as dominance--an ultimately counterproductive strategy since resentment further fuels terrorism. Barber's thesis is a tightly presented, if essentially familiar, pragmatic argument in favor of "preventative democracy" and multilateralism, backed up by his previous book Jihad vs. McWorld (1995) on exporting democracy versus exporting capitalism; a host of New York Times editorials; and Bob Woodward's Bush at War [BKL D 15 02]. It's embellished and made unique, however, by its examination of the myths of moral confidence presented in, for example, Melville's thoroughly American characters Billy Budd and Amasa Delano. Fresh-faced innocence, argues Barber, doesn't look convincing when worn by an angry, frightened giant. Brendan Driscoll
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (September 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393058360
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393058369
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.9 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.9 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,714,502 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Alessandro Bruno on January 14, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This book was welcome follow-up to Benjamin Barber's famous book Jihad vs. McWorld and in it he expands on the themes of already established in that book. In many ways the first book foretold the present foreign policy challenges faced by the 'North'and the 'Sout'h'. However, unlike harsher dialectics proposed by Samuel Huntington and more recently Richard perle in his draconian solution to world problems featured in the lamentable but unequivocably harsh "An End To Evil", Barber does not speak in terms of black or white. His approach is well reasoned, and differs in tone even from other alternative, or so called 'liberal' texts that criticize America's current foreign policy approach. Barber writes with reason and suggests that rather than exporting democracy and markets, the more priviliged world under America's leadership should be engaged in the building of citizens and civil society first, for it is on that basis that lasting democracies are built. I found the book became more interesting and engaging in the second half where the argument against the idea of a preventive war, turns into an argument against the éxport'of democracy for the creation of the right structures and circumstances that help to build and sustain democracy in the developing world. This is an important work that should be read by all those who wish to understand - reasonably and without hyperbole - the dangers of America's current foreign policy
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38 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Kip Leitner on January 6, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I've been thinking of reading this book; Reading Gaetan Lion's negative review convinced me to go ahead, since in my view Lion's polemic overreaches. This is one way I decide whether or not to read or not read books -- by profiling the reviewers and analyzing their polemics.
In more than 100 reviews on Amazon, Lion writes in a concise, informative way, giving generally balanced in-depth reviews. But something in this book peeves him. I wan't to find out what it is, since his overt criticims just don't seem justified to me.
In his review, Lion criticizes Barber for failing to recommend specific solutions to the Jihad vs. McWorld dilemma. Lion finds Barber's "preventative democracy" too unspecific.
I would suggest that the principles of preventative democracy are so simple that Barber felt no need to elaborate. Brainstorming a few as fast as I can type and think:
1) Pay for election monitoring processes (UN does this well)
2) Support micro-loans, a well known economic strategy
3) Do not send weapons systems to dictators, this just distracts
them from trying to become more democratic.
4) Give grants for internet infrastructure to increase the
power of free media in countries where there is little
5) Do not train military advisors from countries that do not
practice democracy.
6) Support religious freedom
7) Increase cultural exchanges with so-called "bad" countries
to allow democratic ideals to penetrate their insularity
I don't understand why Lion faults Barber for omitting specifics as a wide slate of democracy-enhancing programs is well-known.
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Masaki Tanaka on January 15, 2004
Format: Hardcover
JIHAD vs. McWorld was good, but this is much better! Above all the author well understands the importance of what George Washington once emphasized as a maxim of American Foreign Policy: international coordination. What the Bush Administration has done so far is almost reversal of the heritage. Preventive war (means nothing but invasion) not Preemptive war, list of 'Rogue States,' democratization with missiles, etc. Only 10 out of about 200 countries reluctantly follow the U.S. The author excellently illuminates such endangering America. Really brilliant! I am convinced that Prof. Hoffmann also recommends.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME on December 26, 2004
Format: Hardcover
A couple of centuries ago, essayists voiced opinions in newspapers or pamphlets. Some, hidden in anonymity, could counsel protest and sedition. Today's freer societies allows the writer to drop a mask hiding identity. Voicing opinions openly is easier. The downside is that it may take a whole book. And the problems appear to be looming far larger than they were long ago. Examining foundation causes takes more ink. In this insightful study, Benjamin Barber applies the best essayist's style to address the issues underlying today's American expansionism. A nation that once based its relationship with other nations on the promise that it would never start a war, has adopted an unilateral adventurist role. And that new identity has far outstripped in time and scope any historical precedent. The entire globe is threatened with becoming "Americanised". Why should that be happening?

With clear, incisive prose Barber examines the roots of the values held in the United States and how those are being manifested in its "foreign policy". Once, it was important to Americans that society be governed by "the rule of law". This commonly-used and nearly trite phrase reflected both the foundation of compromise among the States embodied in the US Constitution and in how Americans interacted with other nations. The attitude created a sense of moral superiority to American dealings with other nations - an attitude Barber labels "exceptionalism". This high sense of self-worth carried the American population across the continent. Who else could coin a term like "Manifest Destiny" to sweep aside indigenous peoples in creating a contiguous empire?
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