A vast, sweeping political analysis of the principal elements of American “empire.”
First-time author Rosa evaluates American democracy by asking: Does the U.S. satisfy the conditions to be called an empire, and what does such a classification reveal about American sources of prosperity and the symptoms of its decline? The first chapter is devoted to a comparative analysis of the American empire and its Roman, Mongol and British counterparts. The second provides a relatively brief synopsis of American history, identifying the beginning of Lyndon Johnson’s presidency as the start of the country’s decline. Rosa declaims, somewhat dramatically, that “[i]t seemed to many that the fabric of American society was becoming threadbare if it had not already been torn completely.” The book’s third section offers an “autopsy” of American degradation that attributes its fall to “corrupt and inept leadership,” “decline in virtue among the citizenry,” “over-expansion” and “attack from internal and external enemies.” Even as a broad historical survey, this abbreviated account is too cursory and partisan (think conventional libertarianism) to interest the unconverted. In the fourth section, “95 Theses,” the author catalogs 95 areas of American political and cultural life that he believes need rehabilitation for America to thrive again—more of a laundry list of familiar complaints than a series of rigorous case studies. This section suffers from an excess of ambition, as it covers topics as contentious as abortion and affirmative action, policy as wonky as the estate tax and Medicaid, and amorphously defined “culture” and “taboo issues.” Many of these famously difficult subjects receive only a few paragraphs, ensuring oversimplification. The author does a creditable job assessing whether it’s meaningful to apply the ancient term “empire” to America’s unique modern polity. However, after a thoughtful introduction, the book often reads more like a political talk show than a scholarly investigation.
A sound discussion of America’s version of “empire,” disappointingly followed by narrowly partisan bullet points.