Niall Ferguson brings his renowned historical and economic depth of field to bear on a bold and sweeping reckoning with America's imperial status and its consequences.
Is America an empire? Certainly not, according to our government. Despite the conquest of two sovereign states in as many years, despite the presence of more than 750 military installations in two thirds of the worlds countries and despite his stated intention "to extend the benefits of freedom...to every corner of the world," George W. Bush maintains that "America has never been an empire." "We dont seek empires," insists Defense Secretary Rumsfeld. "Were not imperialistic."
Nonsense, says Niall Ferguson. In Colossus he argues that in both military and economic terms America is nothing less than the most powerful empire the world has ever seen. Just like the British Empire a century ago, the United States aspires to globalize free markets, the rule of law, and representative government. In theory its a good project, says Ferguson. Yet Americans shy away from the long-term commitments of manpower and money that are indispensable if rogue regimes and failed states really are to be changed for the better. Ours, he argues, is an empire with an attention deficit disorder, imposing ever more unrealistic timescales on its overseas interventions. Worse, its an empire in deniala hyperpower that simply refuses to admit the scale of its global responsibilities. And the negative consequences will be felt at home as well as abroad. In an alarmingly persuasive final chapter Ferguson warns that this chronic myopia also applies to our domestic responsibilities. When overstretch comes, he warns, it will come from withinand it will reveal that more than just the feet of the American colossus is made of clay.
This is a not a light-weight, quick read - but it is well worth it nonetheless. Even if you don't feel compelled to buy the book itself, the next time you're in a bookstore I encourage you to invest 15 minutes into reading the introduction in full (part of which is excerpted at BookBrowse), because the intro outlines the arguments that Ferguson details more fully in the remainder of 'Colossus' and is a thought provoking read in its own right. (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).
The Washington Post's Book World - David Ingatius
Ferguson's book reads more like a long essay than a systematic work of history; it covers a wide swath of intellectual territory, but thinly. The book was written to accompany a British television series, and it has a fade-in, fade-out jumpiness that works better on the screen than on the printed page.
Michiko Kakutani - The New York Times
Like his earlier books, Colossus shows off Mr. Ferguson's narrative élan and his ease in using political, economic and literary references to shore up his arguments about history.
The erudite and often statistical argument has occasional flashes of wit and may compel liberals to rethink their opposition to intervention, even as it castigates conservatives for their lackluster commitment to nation building.
Is America ready to rule the world? Probably not. But, argues the author, it had better gear up to the task.....Discomfiting, highly provocative reading, with ammunition for pro and con alike.
Booklist - Brendan Driscoll
Amid the torrent of books on terrorism, liberalism, American empire, and the apocalypse, Ferguson's stands out not in its premise--suggesting that America is an empire is nothing new--but in its assertion that an American empire is good for the world (this coming from a European writer).
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Bill Davice A curate's egg An enjoyable but annoying read that lays claim to being an historical work whilst adopting the less demanding techniques of journalism. At times, the research base is magnificent. But there are some breathtakingly shallow dismissals of opposing... Read More
Rated of 5
Although the big suprise of 'Colossus' does indeed come with its promotion of American imperialism, one gets the feeling that Ferguson has discarded his professional objectivity for the sake of a little controversy. Taking an unlikely stance on a... Read More
Niall Ferguson is Herzog Professor of Financial History at the Stern
Business School, New York University, and Senior Research Fellow at Jesus
College, Oxford University. Born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1964, he lives in
New York and Oxfordshire, England.
A partial bibliography:
The Cash Nexus: Money and Power in
the Modern World, 1700-2000
Empire: The Rise and Demise of the British
World Order and the Lessons for Global Power
The Pity of War: Explaining
The House of Rothschild (2 books)
One small note of interest, when I checked bookseller rankings last year,
when the book was released in hardcover, 'Colossus' was selling better in the UK (where it's
subtitled 'The Rise and Fall of the American Empire') than in the USA.
Don't you think it interesting that a topic...
A Man Called Intrepid author dies aged 89(Dec 03 2013) William Stevenson, a journalist and author who drew on his close ties with intelligence sources to write two best-selling books in the 1970s, A Man Called...