BookBrowse Reviews Colossus by Niall Ferguson

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Colossus

The Price of America's Empire

by Niall Ferguson

Colossus by Niall Ferguson X
Colossus by Niall Ferguson
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  • First Published:
    Apr 2004, 400 pages

    Paperback:
    Apr 2005, 400 pages

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The American Empire?

From the book jacket: 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 world’s 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 don’t seek empires," insists Defense Secretary Rumsfeld. "We’re 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 it’s 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, it’s an empire in denial—a hyperpower that simply refuses to admit the scale of its global responsibilities.

Comment: 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 in 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 it is a thought provoking read in its own right. 

"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." -- Kirkus Reviews

This review first ran in the April 6, 2005 issue of BookBrowse Recommends.

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