Book: The American Way Of War: Guided Missiles, Misguided Men and a Republic In Peril
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Ignore Jarecki's "confession" to being "first and foremost a filmmaker" on page 1, rather than a "policy scholar, a soldier" or an "insider to the workings of America's military establishment."
Pay his humility no mind. Jarecki possesses a keen eye for detail, an ability to listen closely to his subject's personal and professional motivations (and the often-felt tension between the two), and a knack for speaking synechdocally – that is, using individuals and moments to illustrate larger systemic and historical truths, and the reader is better for it.
The book begins, as his film does, with President Dwight David Eisenhower's 1961 "Farewell Address," in which the President ,Ike, warns Americans to guard against the dangers of the "military-industrial complex," that potent and profit-seeking combination of special interests that might spell the death of the U.S. republic. Jarecki then takes us on an historical and global tour of the United States, from its early 20th century emergence as a global imperial force to the present moment, with some remarkable stops along the way, from interviews with Air Force pilots and West Point cadets to conversations with those in the highest levels of government, including Richard Perle and Republican Presidential candidate John McCain, who proclaims the United States to be "the greatest force for good in the world today."
How McCain measures this goodness is, of course, a matter for readers to ponder, given the economic and political realities of our current moment, and Jarecki's book, while wisely steering clear of an attempt to exhaustively chronicle America's empire-building abroad, explores the historical tension between America's desire to remain a neutral, even isolationist player on the world stage, and its desire to build an Empire. Eisenhower, for whom Jarecki has deep admiration (as have I, even more so after reading Jarecki's book) remains the central figure here, walking a remarkable line between competing pulls on his loyalty as a military man, a policymaker, and a compassionate human being in a tough position of leadership.
Not surprisingly, as Eisenhower himself warned, the war-making and profit-taking interests have dominated this debate during the past sixty years, and Jarecki takes pains to explian the nuances that undergird the building of the most powerful (and expensive) Empire in world history. His final chapter, "Shock & Awe At Home" – is a referendum on the years 2000-2008 of King George Bush's administration. For anyone who is unfamiliar with or has forgotten how the "U.S.A. Patriot Act," or John Yoo's new and novel legal theory of the "unitary executive," or John Warner and the Military Commissions Acts, or the FISA nonsense, or dozens of other presidential abuses of power have reshaped the federal government's very essence over those eight years, a close reading of this chapter alone is worth the price of the book. And I am not comfiorted by the conclusion most observers make here – that, once Mr. Bush exits office stage right, somehow everything will 'return to normal.' Sunset clauses somehow provide little comfort here."
And the years since the Bush era have proven that nothing has returned to normal; that, in fact, the 'new normal' is a post-9/11 era of massive, widespread federal and state government security state infrastructure, laws, and technological interference with citizens' privacy, Constitutional rights and freedom on many levels. And sunset clauses that have been re-newd by the Obama administrtion, keeping the Patriot Act firmly entrenched as the new, permanent, law of the land.
Soeaking critically, as a U.S. historian, and secessionist/decentralist, my arguments with Jarecki's vbook are not insignificant. I find troubling his refusal to touch the mountain of evidence – the scholarly and well-researched work of David Ray Griffin or Michael Ruppert, for example – that suggests that the 9/11 attacks served as a "false glag" operation engineered by elements within the U.S. government to advance a "New Pearl Harbor." This is an odd omission, since this phrase is one he uses repeatedly in tenbook, quoting the Project For A New American Century's statemebt calling for a new "defensive" posture – one that essentially advocates a policy of "full spectrum dominance" in which the U.S. militarizes the entire globe and outer space. (Orwell would be nodding knowingly now.)
Jarecki's otherwise spot-on "irontriangle" analysis – in which he masterfully
considers the intricate interconnectioons among the U.S. military, profit (and war) seeking global corporations, and both the legislative and executive branches – largely leaves out teh vital role of U.S. media and "news" outlts as propaganda arms for war-making (General Electric builds weapons systems for the Pentagon AND own NBC, whjch hypes war 24/7. This is not a coincidence.)
And, perhaps most importantly, Jarecki chooses to downplay the tremendouys amount of money U.S.-based corporations (and the politicians who front for and work with them – Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and George Bush) have made supporting what former Bush I insider-turned-whistleblower Catherine Austin Fitts calls "the tapeworm economy."
The country of Iraq is a perfect example here. Let's connect-the-dots: the U.S. miliotary-industrial-medi-energy-complex makes mney bombing and destroying Iraq, "re-building" Iraq, often badly and /or corruptrly, while privtizing all its assets. Oil black gold), is the bloody tipof the spear point here, as one million Iraqis have doed since the U.S. 2003 invasion, 2 million more have been displaced (made homeless), and the U.S. taxpayers have been left footing what Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stieglitz has estimated to be a $3 trillion dollar war ("on terror" that "will not end in our lifetim,es," according to Dick Cheney.)
If I sound outraged, I am – and while I deeply apprciate Jarecki's willingness to listen to all sides, I found myself wishing h'd take off the gloves, at times. Burt I am also willing to own my own sense of outrage, and laud Jarecki for his vital contribution to this important and unfolding conversation about the future of the United States under the [ongoing] regime that is the "military-industrial complex." In turning to the written word, filmmaker Jarecki has produced what many will see as a mknor tour de force, an importnt book, at a pivotal moment in the history of the United States republic-turned-empire.
[reviewed on October 7, 2008]