In the Shadows of the American Century

Narrated by: Arthur Morey
Length: 12 hrs and 32 mins
Categories: History, Americas
4.5 out of 5 stars (83 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

In a completely original analysis, prizewinning historian Alfred W. McCoy explores America's rise as a world power - from the 1890s through the Cold War - and its bid to extend its hegemony deep into the 21st century through a fusion of cyberwar, space warfare, trade pacts, and military alliances. McCoy then analyzes the marquee instruments of US hegemony - covert intervention, client elites, psychological torture, and worldwide surveillance.

Peeling back layers of secrecy, McCoy exposes a military and economic battle for global domination fought in the shadows, largely unknown to those outside the highest rungs of power. Can the United States extend the "American Century" or will China guide the globe for the next 100 years? McCoy devotes his final chapter to these questions, boldly laying out a series of scenarios that could lead to the end of Washington's world domination by 2030.

©2018 Alfred W. McCoy (P)2018 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Covert war history, frameworks, tech, dark sides

This book is a bit irregular in pacing and focus. It zooms into particular (ugly) incidents and might dwell there a bit, then it is suddenly mapping US agencies' parts and projects crisply, then it is taking a (somewhat conjectural, IMO) look into the future of our USA "empire" vis a vis experiences of other nations. (France in Algeria on the slope of its decline (resorting to torture and making familiar legalistic excuses) was a pretty unsettling one, often lost in the shuffle behind its better known imperial retreat in Vietnam, and lateral to us.) Along the way the author turns over a lot of rocks and we see things that might make us squirm (depending on our views). War and national hegemony after all, are frequently (quote) the hurt business (unquote) (to borrow an old phrase about prizefighting). Do these drone strikes, on net, inflict more excess suffering than, say, German families in showers of fire and shattered glass in Dresden fire raids? The author has an aim, and the aim is seemingly to discredit the tactics now long used and evolved. Yes, maybe we can do better, we should question some of this stuff (as classic agency problems creep in beneath bad monitoring -- Abu Ghraib is Exhibit A here), and this may shake us from torpor and prod us in that direction. Zooming in on the hurt business will always find blood and some human devaluation, and some very graphic individual views of dire suffering. (And Iraq, I will agree, was so poorly designed that the whole ensuing endless loops of horrors are but replays of our leaders' horrific misapprehensions and bunglings in every dimension from Moment One.) Some level of this is absolutely nothing new since the first creatures climbed out of the ooze, or whatever, and started fighting. Some error rate is bound to happen iln any real world. I am not excusing everything on display here, but rather, helping to label the product. Behind everything here, to my ears, is some hidden moral baseline of high ideals and human kindness that, if the reader listens closely, seems never to have actually existed, or at least, in USA's doings in the span of this work, didn't exist, going back to the Spanish American War in the late 1800s. I might feel smug and superior except that I live in the belly of the Pax Americana pretty secure and safe and prosperous. Again, don't get me wrong -- the fact that war has always been an unfit subject for display in sensitive decent old Aunt Hattie's parlor, is not to say there isn't some serious misconduct sprinkled across our history. This author put his thumb on it quite awhile back in his work. The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia.
In all, this has been a fine educational experience for me, and I don't expect balance (in the particular degrees and ways I might have imposed) here. Which is fine. I am a better-informed person after this listening.

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excellent and detailed summary

McCoy is brilliant ...he presents an excellent and detailed summary of events...not for the squeamish

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U.S. Empire - its history and current challenges

A very interesting way to think about both Empire - and America as an Empire.

McCoy details America's:
* Rise of its empire - Phase 1 America's 1899 war with Spain
Phase 2 After 1945 - establishing World Governing Bodies
Phase 3 - 21st Centure.

* Tools used in projecting America's empire abroad:
$ made from the Heroin trade in S.E. Asia.
Use of torture - Vietnam and Afghanistan.
Creation and enhancement of a Surveillance State - and 'manufacturing
consent' of a pliable U.S. population to support this surveillance state.
Investment in Military Technologies - perpetual war with drones substituting for soldiers.

McCoy's assessment are stark...." The U.S. Government will desperately seek to maintain its position of power in the world by further substitution of military power for economic in an attempt to maintain the U.S.' standing in the world...."

McCoy's thesis is that numerous factors in addition to Imperial OverReach are contributing to the U.S.' decline. Factors such as the economic impact of Globalization; the rise of China as peer Power to the United States; the decline in the Trust of the U.S. Government attendant with the Iraq wars - and with the Torture programs the loss of moral legitimacy for many of the U.S. Governments efforts. Finally the waste of resources attendant with the Iraq War.

An important book - raises a good question. It is unclear as to whether the U.S. Empire is in decline - or as Fahreed Zakaria indicates there is a ..."rise of the rest..."

This book opens the curtain about the foundations of America's empire, how it operates - the known and hidden costs of the current military and foreign policy.

The book and its subject are is valuable and should be read and discussed.

This book should be of interest to those interested in U.S. History and Foreign Policy challenges.

Carl Gallozzi
cgallozzi@comcast.net