Click here to read reviewer Kelley Sittner Hartshorn's take on Colossus.
With the success of Chalmers Johnsonís powerful Sorrows Of Empire, which documents the tragic consequences of American unilateralism and hegemony, it seems only natural that more books about America as Empire would hit the bookshelves. The problem is, most of them have been saying the same thing Ė that America as Empire is not working, and never will.
But bestselling author and noted historian Niall Ferguson has a different take on the concept of America as Empire, and he lays it out in rich and intriguing detail in his new book, Colussus: The Price of Americaís Empire. Ferguson, author of Empire: The Rise and Demise of the British World Order and the Lessons for Global Power,argues that not only IS America an Empire, but that our great nation could in fact become a powerful positive force for global leadership if certain factors were in place. We are an Empire, and have been for quite some time, Ferguson states, even if it were something a majority of citizens would rather deny. But we have let our power go astray, and become an ineffectual empire, one that leaves countries devestated with unfinished business when we decide to nation-build, and then leave before the building is complete.
Ferguson suggests it is our hastiness and short attention span as a nation that often leads us into problems when policing other nations. We go in, try to quickly restore order, but because of financial and political constraints and idealogical concerns, we leave without ever finishing the task of creating or restoring true democracy and order. Add to this the current fixation of invading countries that decide to fight back, the massive deficits that military spending rack up, as well as domestic problems that vie for budgetary demands, and you have an empire on the verge of disaster. In fact, Ferguson states that domestic issues and problems have become so big, most politicians donít dare seriously address them, leading the public to believe they have been shortchanged by a leadership bent on fixing other countries rather than fixing our own.
While many readers may vehemently disagree with Fergusonís idea that America should be proud to be an Empire, even encourage it, they miss his main point; that being the leaders of the free world can be a good thing, if done with attention, humanity and basic good planning for long-term effects, as well as short-term needs. When those things do not fall into place, then, yes, he admits our Empire becomes a giant, unwieldy Colussus reeling out of control.
This is a fascinating book, filled with rich historical detail, comprehensive discussions of political issues and foreign policy, and fresh ideas on dealing with the growing need of global leadership that brings together a coherent vision of American power, and our nationís ability to step up to the plate. Because the author takes a different approach to hegemony, even sees it as a basically positive force, the reader is enlightened with a new perception of what the possibilities are for our country, and our world, if only we can keep our focus, stay the course, and demand that our lousy, corrupt leadership do the right thing, for the right reasons.
Empire can be a good thing after all.