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.
Part I: Rise
Part II: Fall?
Conclusion: Looking Homeward
It used to be that only foreigners and those on the political fringes referred to the "American Empire." Invariably, they did so in order to criticize the United States. Since the attack on the World Trade Center in September 2001, however, there has been a growing volume of more mainstream writing on the subject of an American empire. The striking thing is that not all those who now openly use the "e" word do so pejoratively. On the contrary, a number of commentators seem positively to relish the idea of a U.S. imperium.
There is ...
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).
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.
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