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Empire as a Way of Life,
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This review is from: Empire As A Way of Life: An Essay on the Causes and Character of America's Present Predicament Along with a Few Thoughts about an Alternative (Paperback)
Though dead for sixteen years, it is remarkable how much of a visionary William Appleman Williams truly was. He opens this book with a description of how America's political system has transformed our original ideology into an empire that is ever thirsting for new markets and how we've become more or less a slave to our own creation. Since so few people participate in our political system, our system has devolved into empire, though it remains Williams' hope that somehow this will change. This book is his attempt to illustrate how empire has emerged through the machinations of members of each political party who choose to follow the path of empire. This path has led America to be at odds with much of the rest of the world as we attempt to satisfy our need for growth.
Readers should be forwarned that much of Williams' arguments in this book are rehashings of ideas he put forth with much more detail in Contours of American History, The Tragedy of American Diplomacy, and The Roots of the Modern American Empire. Empire as a Way of Life should not be a reader's first encounter with Williams. His earlier works illustrate how deep Williams'knowledge of US history truly is. What this book does is develop his earlier arguments into a concise indictment of our society and its need for empire to sustain our growth. Williams points out that this does not need to be the case, but disinterest amongst American voters and the corporate world's ability to manipulate the issues creats the reality in which empire thrives.
According to Williams, most, but not all, presidents give in to demands for empire and in reality do a disservice to the rest of the world and to our own ideology. Those presidents that do not share imperial thinking, such as Herbert Hoover, fall victim to some external force that limits or prevents them from realizing their full potential. But these are the people Williams speaks of most highly. Others, including FDR, JFK, and Henry Kissinger are not treated with kindness. NSC-68 is another source of our current dilemma for it has served as the blueprint for empire for nearly 40 years. Prior to this document, the Monroe Doctrine played a similar role.
This book does have its oddities, though. At the end of some chapters are accounts of US interventions around the world that seem somewhat out of place. They do not receive much attention in the actual chapter and do not really serve much purpose. However, also buried amongst the pages are Williams personal opinions that make this book such a treat to read.
It says much for a book that was written 21 years ago, predates the current neo-conservative movement, yet does so much to show how current events in Iraq are simply the story playing itself out beyond the pages of the actual book. In the introduction, Andrew Bacevich refers to Willaims as "Jeremiah" and given his ability to project the future, it is a moniker well deserved. We should take heed of what he says.
Empire As A Way of Life: An Essay on the Causes and Character of America's Present Predicament Along with a Few Thoughts about an Alternative(11 customer reviews)