Public Zone 公開區 => Bookwyrm 書蟲天地 => Topic started by: chin on 29 April 2010, 18:07:26

Title: "Addicted to War" and other books on the US Empire
Post by: chin on 29 April 2010, 18:07:26
I just received "Addicted to War - why the US can't kick militarism" today. I had actually read part of the book online ( and decided to buy the printed copy for show of support.  It's a picture book of comics and photos with heavy and condensed messages.

For example, with less than 10 pages in Chapter 1, the author tried to explain the hidden underlying financial, commercial and imperialistic motivates for the US involvements in wars big and small. Of course, the official justifications were always glorious and moralistic - from the White Man's Burden in the early days to promotion of democracy in more recent wars. The book is now free online and you can read the details.

I have not read to the end, so I can only guess the conclusion to the question in the subtitle of the book. When an empire was build on wars and conquests, it won't be easy to give up militarism.
Title: Re: "Addicted to War" and other books on the US Empire
Post by: chin on 29 April 2010, 18:18:06
I happened to read a few books many years ago, sort of on the same subject of American empire building, but with different views.

The first is Empire on the Pacific by Robert Smith Thompson. This book is not exactly critical of the US government, like the Addicted. But it's no patriotic book about American heroism. The following quote is the review on Amazon. This book does not get good reviews from American readers who post reviews on Amazon.

This revisionist history of the Second World War's Pacific theater announces that "the familiar story" we all know in which "the good guys beat the bad guys" isn't really true. In Empires on the Pacific, Robert Smith Thompson describes the "more complicated" version: "Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor was not unprovoked," and the war wound up becoming a mere extension of American imperialist aims that had been in place before the shooting started. The United States had two goals in fighting the war. It wanted to crush Japan's military might (a success) and turn China into a post-war ally (a failure). Thompson also wades into more familiar debates, arguing, for instance, that dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was not necessary because the Japanese would have surrendered anyway. It must be said that these views won't sway all readers, but they may appeal to many, especially those who admired Day of Deceit by Robert B. Stinnett.

Title: Re: "Addicted to War" and other books on the US Empire
Post by: chin on 29 April 2010, 18:30:59
The second book on the similar subject is "Savage Wars of Peace", by Max Boot. I read this 6 or 7 years ago, so my memory of it may be a bit rustic...

While explaining how the American empire was build on "small wars", the author put them in very positive lights, and argued for the necessity for the frequent use of force. Again the following is the review from Amazon, and predictably it got good reviews from American readers.

Keep in mind that this book was written around 2001, before the 2nd Iraqi War (the one that is still going on) and the invasion of Afghanistan. Only a few years after the Berlin Wall fell, after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the mood was swinging high for American primacy. The author wasn't shy at talking about empire building.

Whether fought for commercial or strategic concessions or even moral reasons, whether little-known or well-publicized, America's "small wars"--against, say, the Barbary pirates and the rebellious Boxers--played a large part in the development of what historian Max Boot does not hesitate to call an American empire. All arguments to the contrary, Boot insists, America has never been an isolationist power; it has "been involved in other countries' internal affairs since at least 1805," when American marines landed on the shores of Tripoli, and it has "never confined the use of force to those situations that meet the narrow definition of American interests preferred by realpolitikers and isolationists." Closely examining the record of those small wars, which far outnumber major conflicts, Boot argues that Americans have a historic duty to deliver foreign nations from aggression, even to intervene in civil wars abroad, especially if the product is greater freedom--for, he writes, "a world of liberal democracies would be a world much more amenable to American interests than any conceivable alternative." Readers may take issue with some of Boot's conclusions, but they merit wide discussion, especially in a time when small--and perhaps large--wars are looming. Boot's book is thus timely, and most instructive.
Title: Re: "Addicted to War" and other books on the US Empire
Post by: chin on 29 April 2010, 18:53:22
I recently just finish reading the Ascent of Money. The book was sort of financial history of the world. Just like many of our new technologies originated from defense related researches, many early day financial innovations (joint-stock companies, bonds) were linked to the finance of wars and empire building.

Specifically in more details were the commercial and financial motivations behind the British empire expansions. And this echos the same motivations behind the early (or even the present day?!) American empire building, as explained in Addicted. The followings are quotes from Addicted, supposedly by the business & political leaders in the US in around 1900.

"Our condition at home is forcing us to commercial expansion... Day by day, production is exceeding home consumption... We are after markets, the greatest markets in the world."

"I firmly believe that when any territory outside the present territorial limits of the United States becomes necessary for our defense or essential for our commercial development, we ought to lost no time in acquiring it."

Remember, in 1900, the PR techniques were not as refined. They said what's on their minds. Now the pretext would be to promote democracy, to bring down trade barriers, etc...

The first quote is interesting, because it has present day application and comparison. This is the prism through which the reemergence of China is examined and judged. In my opinion that's the logic why people do not buy the "peaceful raise" slogan.
Title: Re: "Addicted to War" and other books on the US Empire
Post by: chin on 29 April 2010, 19:03:43
Another somewhat related book is the "Confessions of an Economic Hit Man" by John Perkins. When this book first came out, I thought it was a bit sensationalism. I bought the book during my travel in SE Asia, and turned out quite an interesting hit.

How is this book related to the US Empire?

It is an "expose" of a former hit man who would serve the US "imperial" interest by getting third world countries to load up on foreign (mainly US) debt. Through these commercial & international financial institutions, the US was able to manipulate foreign states to serve her own interest. Again, just like the colonial days, the commercial interest and foreign policy was ultimately backed by military powers. There is a very fitting Chinese saying - 弱國無外交.
Title: Re: "Addicted to War" and other books on the US Empire
Post by: chin on 29 April 2010, 19:20:18

Empires raises and falls. Rationally we all know that.

During the course of changing power, some people will get the short end of the stick. Just ask the Native American Indians happened to be in South Dakota, or the Incas who happened to meet the Spanish seeking gold. They got wiped out.

Yet during these times of great changes, the Rothschilds & Rockefellers of the world were born, great cultures were created. You just hope that you are on the right time, right place, right side of the history.