House of War: The Pentagon and the Disastrous Rise of American Power by James Carroll

03 Jul

I have just been catching up on the Review supplement in the Weekend Australian. Fortunately, Roy Williams’s review of this new book is online — at the moment. (The Oz is a bit iffy with its freely accessible archiving.) Williams asks: “How should the US have responded to 9/11? Is it naive to imagine that instead of a vengeful and failed pre-emptive war, the tragedy might have given birth to a new era of hard-headed international co-operation, led by a shocked and chastened America? For a short time after 9/11, the US held the sympathy of the world. Why did it squander so much goodwill and make the earth an even more dangerous place?” He continues:

James Carroll’s persuasive thesis in House of War is that “the Pentagon effect” is to blame. And that George W. Bush and his circle of neo-conservative advisers are best understood as a product of that phenomenon, which has profoundly shaped American society and policy since World War II. According to Carroll, the Pentagon is like a “metaphysical creature”, a self-perpetuating institution that sustains its near-limitless funding by systematically exaggerating foreign threats and scaring the hell out of American people.

As guardian of the US’s ever-expanding arsenal, the Pentagon has assumed for itself an insidious influence over the nation’s industry, universities, media and government. It has contrived to ensure that since 1946, the US has spent more than $14 trillion on arms. For the Pentagon, 9/11 was “a gift from the gods”.

Carroll’s thesis is radical, but he is at heart a conservative. His father was a senior Pentagon officer, and Carroll himself was a Catholic priest. The book is informed by love of country and sincere Christian morality.

It is also informed by a deep knowledge of post-war history and the key personalities inside the departments of State and Defence during the past 60 years. Most of all, Carroll knows a great deal about nuclear weapons. As he explains the origins of the Pentagon effect, it is a riveting story…

Congratulations too to MyScribbles for the provocative entry America’s Dirtiest Open Secrets: Carroll’s book would tend to support his thesis, don’t you think? This post has taken his blog into the top rank again: hottest post of the day on WordPress — even eclipsing Big Brother!

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Posted by on July 3, 2006 in Current affairs, News and Current Affairs, Politics


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