Great book! Originally I thought this was going to be about the decline of the American empire, but it's really more of a strategy of how to deal with...moreGreat book! Originally I thought this was going to be about the decline of the American empire, but it's really more of a strategy of how to deal with a world where so many other countries are now adopting American ideals and strategies of their own to become legitimate competitors politically, economically, and militarily. It's a fast read, and considering all the economic discussion, fairly easy for a economy illiterate like me to understand. The best thing is Zakaria's unabashed enthusiasm for America's ability to learn from her mistakes and be a beacon to the rest of the world. It really gives one hope for the future and also puts the many "crises" domestic and foreign in a much more rational perspective. Between this and the election, it's making me more proud to be an American than I have been in awhile.(less)
By far and away the most horrifying, depressing book I've ever read. "A Problem From Hell" comes close, but at least in that, and it's a very VERY sma...moreBy far and away the most horrifying, depressing book I've ever read. "A Problem From Hell" comes close, but at least in that, and it's a very VERY small comfort, America was guilty at most of inaction, the perpetrators of the horrible crimes a distinct "other". But in Robert Fisk's amazingly detailed and angry volume of deceit, colonialism, atrocities, and everything that is horrid about the Middle East situation, my own country is directly or indirectly culpable. Fisk covers most of the major events of the last century, including the Armenian genocide, the battle for Israel/Palestine, the war in Afghanistan against the Russians/Taliban/Americans, leading up to and ending with the bloody American occupation in Iraq up through 2005. For anyone interested in current events in the Middle East and what is ostensibly World War IV (World War III fought from 1946 through the late '80's as a "cold war"), I HIGHLY encourage you to read it, though in small increments. At 1000 pages and with bleak story followed by horrific story followed by tragic story, there is not a glimmer of happiness in this tome. I've had at minimum two nightmares as a direct result of reading this thing.
It's no mystery why Fisk is so hated and dismissed in American circles as "anti-American". He does not shy away from pointing fingers at both the U.S. and Israel in being partially and many times wholly responsible for the havoc that has been wreaked over the last 50 years. And I can't say that I blame him. Reading this is a cold shock of water if most of your news comes through mainstream American media and "embedded" journalists. This guy has been on the frontlines of every major Middle Eastern war since Russia rolled into Afghanistan in the late '70's. It's absolutely irresponsible to dismiss him as "anti-American" considering he's seen more death and destruction and risked his life more times in his journalistic tenure than any American save those soldiers who've fought in Germany/Japan/Korea/Vietnam/Lebanon/Somalia/Afghanistan/Iraq/etc.
What is probably one of the hardest things to read is Fisk's assessment of the terrorist attacks on 9/11. While he of course condemns them, he's able to put them in a much broader context than the one we're used to in America in that it "changed everything", that it was an isolated incident that had no historical context, an island of tragedy that bore no relation to the turmoil across the ocean. Instead, he paints it as a horrible but inevitable extension of the war that was already being waged overseas, al-Qaida using a new strategy after American embassy bombings and the U.S.S. Cole attack failed to kick U.S. forces out of Saudi Arabia. Equally hard to stomach is watching the U.S. sell biological and conventional weapons and looking the other way as Saddam Hussein gassed the Iranians and the Kurds during the '80's while was our "friend", even absolving him when an Iraqi plane "accidentally" strafed a U.S. warship.
A sobering and depressing read, but also very well-written as Fisk is able to explain extremely complicated issues in an understandable away. For those interested in modern history, and for those looking for another intelligent view to help answer "What the hell is going on?", this is essential reading.(less)
I would have given this one five stars were it not for the dialogue and some of the plot aspects. The plot stuff, after reading the Afterword, was pro...moreI would have given this one five stars were it not for the dialogue and some of the plot aspects. The plot stuff, after reading the Afterword, was probably due to the fact that Card was writing this novel around a video game he was helping a company develop. Which is unfortunate, because it brought too much of a sci-fi twist into what would have been a very scarily plausible story. As to the dialogue, it was a little amateurish in many places. The different characters pontificated on freedom and democracy in a way no real person would. That, and the banter between the characters was also straight out of a college freshman writing class (I would know, I wrote some pretty craptacular dialogue in my freshman writing classes). The other issue was the Special Ops team. We're never introduced to any of them, just a bunch of names are thrown out, and eventually you kind of have an idea who each person is, but no real idea what they look like (except I eventually figured out Cat was a big black guy).
Anyway. . .this is still a good book. Card is a smart guy and very well-read, and this is a great story about a potential future where "red state/blue state" animosity boils over into a civil war replete with the assassination of the president and an attempted coup. He grounds it in enough reality (one of the characters goes on "The O'Reilly Factor", another talks to a reporter at the Washington Post), that there is some semblance of reality here. And it is a chilling potential future. Card posits in the book that the accusations about America being the next Roman empire are off-base, that America in the end is not out to control the world; but he also gives us a chilling warning that we're on the verge of becoming such an empire as we're nearing the end of our "republic phase" and if we're not mindful, we're entering the "dictator phase" a la Augustus Caesar, with a potential dictator waiting in the wings, just waiting for a civil war to break out so that he (or she) can bring the country back together and then cleverly rule it with an iron fist.
As a former far lefty, some of the discussion in the book was uncomfortable for me, a lot of snide comments about liberals and progressives. But Card is actually pretty even-handed. Because what he's warning about is political extremism from either side of the aisle, and as he says in his afterword, the right vs left vitriol that we see today is the worst it's been since the eruption of the Civil War. Card's afterword is pretty right on the money, discussing the fact that in today's political climate, moderates (of which I'm trying to become) are seen as traitors to either side because they're trying to find a middle ground. I don't necessarily agree with all of Card's views (I think he skews a little too conservative and has too much respect for the current Pres for my taste), I'm willing to listen to his viewpoints. And his point is that there's probably a lot of us moderates out there, the "screamers" on both sides are drowning them out, to the detriment of us all.
All in all, a really thought-provoking book. While it's definitely not the best Card book I've read, and is in fact the weakest, it's still highly imaginative, with enough "reality" to make you ponder its wider meaning.(less)