Vine offers much to ponder about our militarized foreign policy and its deep antecedents.

THE UNITED STATES OF WAR

A GLOBAL HISTORY OF AMERICA'S ENDLESS CONFLICTS, FROM COLUMBUS TO THE ISLAMIC STATE

A wide-ranging survey of the American way of war, expensive and incessant, in support of an empire we’re not supposed to have.

In the last 20 years, writes anthropologist Vine, some 4 million people, combatants and civilians alike, have died in American wars in places such as Afghanistan, Iraq, and Yemen. At the same time, some 2.7 million Americans have been “sent to fight wars that have raged continuously since the U.S. military invaded Afghanistan on October 7, 2001.” When asked if this were a “forever war,” a general replied, “Define forever.” Pentagon planners once called it a “long war.” Now, writes they author, they use the term “infinite war,” which in time may come to embrace China and/or Russia as well as the countless small nations that the U.S. has taken on in recent history. In a fluent narrative, Vine extends this infinite war into the past as well, showing that America was founded on a martial culture that has been at war with someone since well before the nation came into being, with a “permanent frontier” and a penchant for ethnic cleansing in the case of Indigenous nations. At one point in history, courtesy of the Andrew Jackson so admired by the sitting president, the country was fighting five wars at once—not just the second war against Britain now called the War of 1812, but also wars against the Indigenous peoples of the Southeast. This frontier notion meant that “by the middle of the nineteenth century, there were 60 major forts west of the Mississippi River and 138 Army posts in the western territories.” The network of American military bases is no less extensive around the world, and the hundreds of bases and many client states the nation maintains today amount to nothing less than an empire, even if we disavow harboring territorial designs beyond our borders.

Vine offers much to ponder about our militarized foreign policy and its deep antecedents.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-520-30087-3

Page Count: 456

Publisher: Univ. of California

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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A scattershot exercise in preaching to the choir.

THE WAR ON THE WEST

A British journalist fulminates against Black Lives Matter, critical race theory, and other threats to White privilege.

“There is an assault going on against everything to do with the Western world—its past, present, and future.” So writes Spectator associate editor Murray, whose previous books have sounded warnings against the presumed dangers of Islam and of non-Western immigration to the West. As the author argues, Westerners are supposed to take in refugees from Africa, Asia, and Latin America while being “expected to abolish themselves.” Murray soon arrives at a crux: “Historically the citizens of Europe and their offspring societies in the Americas and Australasia have been white,” he writes, while the present is bringing all sorts of people who aren’t White into the social contract. The author also takes on the well-worn subject of campus “wokeness,” a topic of considerable discussion by professors who question whether things have gone a bit too far; indeed, the campus is the locus for much of the anti-Western sentiment that Murray condemns. The author’s arguments against reparations for past damages inflicted by institutionalized slavery are particularly glib. “It comes down to people who look like the people to whom a wrong was done in history receiving money from people who look like the people who may have done the wrong,” he writes. “It is hard to imagine anything more likely to rip apart a society than attempting a wealth transfer based on this principle.” Murray does attempt to negotiate some divides reasonably, arguing against “exclusionary lines” and for Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s call for a more vigorous and welcoming civil culture. Too often, however, the author falters, as when he derides Gen. Mark Milley for saying, “I want to understand white rage. And I’m white”—perhaps forgetting the climacteric White rage that Milley monitored on January 6, 2021.

A scattershot exercise in preaching to the choir.

Pub Date: April 26, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-316202-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Broadside Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2022

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A deceptively slender but rich argument in favor of conserving liberal ideals—and liberal government.

LIBERALISM AND ITS DISCONTENTS

The renowned political scientist and philosopher considers classical liberalism and the broad range of enemies arrayed against it.

“By ‘liberalism,’ ” writes Fukuyama, “I refer to the doctrine…that argued for the limitation of the powers of governments through law and ultimately constitutions, creating institutions protecting the rights of individuals living under their jurisdiction.” Born of events such as the English civil war and the Enlightenment, this liberalism also encouraged diversity of thought, religion, and ethnicity, placing it squarely in the crosshairs of today’s authoritarian nationalists, not least Donald Trump. Fukuyama has often been identified with conservative causes, but his thinking here is democratic to the core, and he has no use for such pathetic lies as Trump’s insistence that the 2020 election was stolen. That said, the author notes that liberalism has many enemies on both the left and the right for numerous real yet correctable failings. The neoliberalism that has emerged over the past couple of generations has accelerated inequality, and numerous institutions have been eroded while others, such as the Electoral College, have been revealed to be anti-democratic. Both left and right, the author argues, have trouble accepting that governing over diversity, the hallmark of liberalism, means governing over many ethnic and national groups, strata of income, and competing interests. He adds, however, “Left-of-center voters…remain much more diverse” in political outlook. Essential to a liberal society, Fukuyama insists, is the right to vote: “Voting rights are fundamental rights that need to be defended by the power of the national government.” While he insists that individual rights take precedence over group rights, he also observes that the social contract demands citizen participation. To the conservative charge that the social contract is one thing but the “common moral horizon” another, he answers that yes, liberalism does not insist on a single morality—which “is indeed a feature and not a bug.”

A deceptively slender but rich argument in favor of conserving liberal ideals—and liberal government.

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-374-60671-8

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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