Tom Engelhardt of Tom Dispatch wrote A Nation Unmade by War to offer his explanation of why America is in decline. Rather than accepting complexity, he unites everything under the destructiveness of the neverending wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and where the hell else we’re intervening. It’s true, neverending war is bankrupting us and undercutting the social fabric with failing infrastructure, education, healthcare, and the safety net.

So much is going wrong, rising inequality, a partisan rift that functions as a proxy for racial divides with the Republicans embracing open white supremacy and white nationalism, and an election of a corrupt conman though racist appeals.

I struggled to finish as the book became tedious. It’s not just that it is relentlessly pessimistic absent even glimmers of hope, but I don’t believe in a unified theory of failure. Yes, America has given itself over to a faux-patriotism that trades actual service for making a fetish of service. Rather than everyone at risk of going to war, of serving, we buy off our guilt in evading service by “honoring the troops.” Now we have started  treating the military like a political class. Generals are filling positions in civilian government as though we were Argentina or Chile thirty years ago. It’s dangerous and Engelhardt is right to remind us that along with the daily outrage fest, a whole lot of other things are going on.

He also thinks the militarization and constant war are responsible for things more logically explained by the persistence of racism and the backlash against a Black president. Also, if the generals were really in charge, they actually believe climate change is a serious global security threat.

It felt like blog posts strung together so it felt repetitive and tedious. I also think if you’re going to hand me 10,000 problems, you have an obligation to offer some solutions, so actions. Otherwise, it’s the road to despair, helplessness, and in the end, apathy.

I received an e-galley of A Nation Unmade by War from the publisher through Edelweiss.

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