THE WAR AT HOME by Frances Fox Piven


The Domestic Causes and Consequences of Bush’s Militarism
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Forget about blood for oil: this war’s about everything else, an excuse to loot the treasury at home as much as any wealth abroad.

So argues Piven (Political Science/CUNY; Why Americans Don’t Vote, not reviewed) in this vigorous but slight and not altogether satisfying essay. Her overarching thesis—that George Bush’s war on Iraq and the one on terror are aspects of a war on liberal society and the social welfare state—is, in the main, unobjectionable and unsurprising, and she capably shores it up with pointed observations on just how curious this Iraq war is, anyway: Where previous American wars have yielded the expansion of democratic rights, a kind of sop to the working people who have to bear the sacrifices of blood and dollars, “this period is markedly different,” characterized by tax cuts for the rich while “social welfare programs are being cut, both at the federal and the state level, and even some veterans’ benefits have been reduced.” Piven is probably correct to characterize this war as imperial, even though the jury’s still out; indeed, as she wisely notes, it is already fulfilling the dreams a little-known bureaucrat named Paul Wolfowitz announced in 1992, when he “called for a permanent American military presence on six continents capable of establishing and protecting a new world order.” All this war-making and empire-building, Piven argues, shores up the Republican right wing, but it exposes the whole enterprise as that sop “delivered to the big business interests that backed the administration and its party.” Fair enough, but it would be good to start naming names here, and Piven provides too few specifics, offering little in the way of sustained analysis but turning up interesting nuggets along the way: the fact, for instance, that Bush scored big with Arab-American voters in 2000 but has lost his following in the wake of the Patriot Act.

A sermon to the converted, but good fuel for arguments with the Republican next door.

Pub Date: Oct. 4th, 2004
ISBN: 1-56584-935-3
Page count: 176pp
Publisher: New Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 2004


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