From Publishers Weekly
Like ancient Rome, America is saddled with an empire that is fatally undermining its republican government, argues Johnson (The Sorrows of Empire
), in this bleak jeremiad. He surveys the trappings of empire: the brutal war of choice in Iraq and other foreign interventions going back decades; the militarization of space; the hundreds of overseas U.S. military bases full of "swaggering soldiers who brawl and sometimes rape." At home, the growth of an "imperial presidency," with the CIA as its "private army," has culminated in the Bush administration's resort to warrantless wiretaps, torture, a "gulag" of secret CIA prisons and an unconstitutional arrogation of "dictatorial" powers, while a corrupt Congress bows like the Roman Senate to Caesar. Retribution looms, the author warns, as the American economy, dependent on a bloated military-industrial complex and foreign borrowing, staggers toward bankruptcy, maybe a military coup. Johnson's is a biting, often effective indictment of some ugly and troubling features of America's foreign policy and domestic politics. But his doom-laden trope of empire ("the capacity for things to get worse is limitless.... the American republic may be coming to its end") seems overstated. With Bush a lame duck, not a Caesar, and his military adventures repudiated by the electorate, the Republic seems more robust than Johnson allows. (Feb.)
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The third book in a series begun with Blowback
(2000), which predicted harsh comeuppance for the post-cold war American "global empire," and The Sorrows of Empire
(2004), which continued Johnson's thesis with a lambasting of American militarism pre- and post-September 11, this book continues the author's broad condemnation of American foreign policy by warning of imminent constitutional and economic collapse. In a chapter analyzing "comparative imperial pathologies," Johnson reminds readers of Hannah Arendt's point that successful imperialism requires that democratic systems give way to tyranny and asserts that the U.S. must choose between giving up its empire of military bases (as did Britain after World War II) or retaining the bases at the expense of its democracy (as did Rome). Johnson also predicts dire consequences should the U.S. continue to militarize low Earth orbits in pursuit of security. To some extent a timely response to recent arguments in favor of American empire, such as those of Niall Ferguson in Colossus
, this account also reiterates Johnson's perennial concerns about overseas military bases, the CIA, and the artifice of a defense-fueled economy. Brendan DriscollCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved