Colossus: The Rise And Fall Of The American Empire
- Penguin Books Ltd
- Publication Date:
- 02 June 2005
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Yes. I liked the book. Most political books tend to be biased towards one party or the other. Since this is less a political book and more a history book, it sidesteps that. But really, one of the few politics books that I REALLY enjoyed reading. I read a lot of them, but this one was actually very enjoyable. He brings up many good points, and many things that I was completely unaware of. Also, I read the book like a year and a half ago so if I'm foggy on the details it's because I can't completely remember them. Sorry. But a great read nonetheless.
Extremely interesting view of America's role and behavior in world history. Ferguson assets that 1) the United States has unconsciously been an empire throughout much of history, 2) The U.S. is not just a 'traditional' empire, as it also focuses on soft/economic power, 3) Both U.S. citizens and foreigners have had mixed feelings towards Empire, 4) The U.S.'s imperialism may yet be a positive in world affairs. Covers a wide range of topics, from the Middle East to economics to the relationships between U.S. and Asian and European and Middle Eastern powers. Bold and incisive book, and one very much worth thinking about.
In general, I would think that this is a pretty good book. The analysis is succinct, however, I do find fault when Niall goes on to defend the US attack on Iraq. I agree that Saddam was no angel, but he was, as far as I know, set up by the US! The biggest problem, again as far as I can see, is that they have often meddled in the affairs of other countries, and in recent times, this has cost them monetarily, as well as in terms of friendship.The scary part is that I would rather have a world where the US is the dominant country, to a world where China is the dominant country. I really like the Chinese people. It's Chinese politicians that I am scared off.The US does need to look at it's own economy a little more carefully, to avoid losing it's dominance too fast. Sadly, I doubt that this will happen. This is something that Niall Ferguson could have covered: what happens if the US fails?
Niall Fergueson, having examined the workings of the British empire, makes the case for an American empire. His book is divided into two parts. The first part is a splendid analysis of US imperialism up to the Iraq invasion. Arrived to the present, the historian tries to analyze America and the world in the second part. The first part is a joy to read and filled with insights. The second part is a stumbling hack job. Unnecessary errors (the Schwarzenegger Terminator is not the only one, Kosovo is not a city, ...) and weak excursions (about the byzantine European Union, the British empire or modern China) can barely conceal that a historian is not equipped to predict the future. Ferguson is overconcerned with the Iraqi occupation which in the long run will be an episode of American Folly but hardly relevant for US history.Unfortunately, Ferguson never clearly defines 'empire'. He dismisses the exact definition in the introduction which clearly do not apply to the US. Most clearly, America lacks subject peoples (as it did in Cuba and the Philippines). It sometimes occupies countries but no longer for keeping the territory. What Ferguson is talking about, and what his title 'Colossus' implies, is not empire but superpower. Trying to translate his knowledge about the British empire to the US is a flawed approach. He predicts the fall of the American empire due to three deficits: the economic deficit, the manpower deficit and the attention deficit. The last one shows the basic flaw in his argument: Most Americans do not care for empire, they barely know much about the world outside the US, they do not speak foreign languages, they do not travel abroad. Compare this to the British empire where the elite was deeply involved with India and their other colonies.Read the brilliant first part, especially the lessons of the Philippine adventure, and forget the second part.
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