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State vs. Defense: The Battle to Define America's Empire Hardcover – August 2, 2011

4.0 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Crown (August 2, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307408418
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307408419
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,754,042 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition
General Zinni's commentary is spot on! Mr. Glain's well written history provides a compelling lens with which to consider the militarization of America's foreign policy. The arrival of "State vs. Defense" could not be timelier as the nation grapples with its global role in a climate of diminishing resources. Few will agree with every dimension of this important book's implications, but the discussions the book will likely evoke after a reading are valuable in any circle. Whether a practitioner, student or observer, Mr. Glain's book is well worth a read and a readily accessible spot on one's bookshelf!
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Format: Hardcover
On the whole, I was favorably impressed with Stephen Glain's State vs. Defense.

It frames American Cold War history in terms of the steady erosion of the power and influence of the State Department, lost to the Department of Defense and its camarilla of radical-conservative supporters, lobbyists, and dollar-patriots.

None of the information in this work is new; much of it has been more cogently expressed elsewhere by writers like David Halberstam, Joseph Trento, Kevin Phillips, and an entire generation of academic historians. However, Glain's focus on the the battle between State and Defense gives his work a sharp focus, and allows him to show his readers how and why the post-war American world-view has been consistently manipulated to support a military machine so enormous that it's warped the very democracy it was created to protect.

Conservative readers will dismiss this book as a work of advocacy masquerading as history. Having lived through most of the period discussed in this book (and having spent perhaps an inordinate amount of time reflecting and analyzing), I feel it corresponds very well to events as I experienced them.

I did find a glaring factual error that should be corrected prior to the next printing: on p. 75, the author writes, "As a political tactic, McCarthyism was a success. Truman, having been portrayed as soft on communism, was handily defeated in the 1952 election by Republican candidate Dwight Eisenhower."

Perhaps this edition fell through from an alternate universe, but in our timeline the election of 1952 was contested by Dwight Eisenhower and the Governor of Illinois, Adlai Stevenson. Maybe the author included this as a test to see if any of his reviewers actually read the book.
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Format: Hardcover
Author Glain contends that American militarism created and intensified the Cold War (purposefully inflated assessments of purported enemies, the U-2 incident, placing missiles in Turkey that were aimed at Russia, the Tonkin Gulf incident/Vietnam War), has brought needless conflict, helped bring out 9/11 (stationing troops in Saudi Arabia post Gulf War I), and Islamist terrorism, is a major contributor to government deficits, and puts the U.S. at risk of confrontation with China (stationing Marines in Australia, the EP-3 spy plane incident, supporting India's increasing its nuclear arsenal, numerous assistance pacts with Asian nations). Glain's point is well founded - however, he fails to recognize that our State Dept. too often is complicit in this militarism, needless intruding in other's affairs (eg. Secretary's Clinton and Rice, on an almost daily basis) and insulting high-ranking officials (eg. National Security Advisor Rice vs. Russia) in those nations. (Even U.S. presidents have done this, repeatedly - eg. Obama's trip to China featured 'lectures' on human rights, etc.)

As of 2010, DOD had 190,000 troops and 115,000 civilian employees in 909 military facilities in 46 nations and territories. The cost, including Homeland Security, retirement benefits, exceeds $1 trillion/year - nearly 8% of GDP, and 5X that of China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea, combined. Glain also notes that most of those pushing this militarism have been legislators, civil servants, evangelists (new opportunities to redeem lost souls), American exceptionalists, and business leaders (United Fruit, Dole Pineapple) - with the obvious exceptions of Generals MacArthur and LeMay.

Increasing abilities of asymmetric warfare provide another strong reason for the U.S. to back away from militarism.
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Format: Hardcover
It's a little hard to describe all the many threads author Stephen Glain weaves together in "State vs. Defense," but the tapestry he creates with them deserves a place among the very best portraits of America's collapse into empire. I recommend it highly.

The title conflict, State versus Defense, is one of the most important of those threads. This is the recurring question of whether the United States' interaction with real or manufactured rivals (in roughly historical order: China, the Soviet Union, China, the Serbs, "drugs," Saddam Hussein, militant Islam, and now, China again) should be handled primarily by diplomats with regional expertise, or by generals, admirals, and hawkish congressmen with armaments plants in their districts. No prizes for guessing which side won that argument, when today the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and proconsular "combatant commanders" bestride the world like colossi while the director general of the foreign service (which Glain notes is a roughly equivalent position to JCS chairman) languishes in absolute obscurity.

The victory of the propagandistically-misnamed "Defense" Department in that struggle, and the parallel rise of the military-industrial complex (which Glain tellingly compares to the USSR's own "industrial-military commission," or VPK, which was a big contributor to the ultimate collapse of the Soviet economy), are big parts of Glain's argument, but there's much more too. He describes, for example, how by purging the State Department of its experienced and knowledgeable "China hands" and, by extension, creating a lasting political prejudice against any kind of State Department regional expert, McCarthyism blinded American leaders to the historical and geopolitical nuances of the situations we were and are confronting.
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