"Is America an empire? Few Americans would say so. Yet never before in the history of the world has one nation been so far ahead of all others in its military, economic, cultural and political power. In warfare the United States is close to "full spectrum dominance" all over the globe. Its free market model has left the alternatives for dead. Its popular culture, too, has a universal appeal. And its foreign policy now explicitly aims at changing other peoples' regimes and rebuilding their nations. If this isn't an empire, what is it?"."In Colossus, Niall Ferguson ranges across the entire history of America's foreign entanglements, examining all the different dimensions - military, economic, cultural and political - of American power and fusing them into a single coherent vision. Along the way, he confronts the challenges America faces from its principal rivals for hegemony, the European Union and China. Perhaps most important, he offers a compelling and original analysis of the profound interconnection between this country's domestic economic health and its foreign affairs - the bottom line of imperialism, American style." "At once a work of history and contemporary political economy, Niall Ferguson's Colossus is by any measure a major achievement - a peerless reckoning with American power that will need to be read by any thinking citizen of this unspoken empire."--BOOK JACKET.
Unfortunately, Ferguson never clearly defines 'empire'. He dismisses the exact definition in the introduction which clearly do not apply to the US. Most clearly, America lacks subject peoples (as it did in Cuba and the Philippines). It sometimes occupies countries but no longer for keeping the territory. What Ferguson is talking about, and what his title 'Colossus' implies, is not empire but superpower. Trying to translate his knowledge about the British empire to the US is a flawed approach. He predicts the fall of the American empire due to three deficits: the economic deficit, the manpower deficit and the attention deficit. The last one shows the basic flaw in his argument: Most Americans do not care for empire, they barely know much about the world outside the US, they do not speak foreign languages, they do not travel abroad. Compare this to the British empire where the elite was deeply involved with India and their other colonies.
Read the brilliant first part, especially the lessons of the Philippine adventure, and forget the second part.
The scary part is that I would rather have a world where the US is the dominant country, to a world where China is the dominant country. I really like the Chinese people. It's Chinese politicians that I am scared off.
The US does need to look at it's own economy a little more carefully, to avoid losing it's dominance too fast.
Sadly, I doubt that this will happen. This is something that Niall Ferguson could have covered: what happens if the US fails?
Now, it is no secret that Ferguson is a staunch conservative, but his digressions, jabs at "Old Europe" and his seeming infatuation (at the time) with the prospects of the Iraq War got a bit tedious at times.
His central tenet in this book seems to be, that America needs to own up to its position, don the purple mantle, and get down to the business of being the military governor pro tem of the underdeveloped world - insinuating that the manpower for such an endeavour could be mustered by introducing a conscription scheme inspired by the ancient Roman one, where convicts and illegal immigrants could achieve social status and citizenship by donning the uniform. Europe, by contrast, is described as a somewhat dysfunctional federation of states where the workers and unions have too much power.
If you take it for what it is - and take its age into account, it's allright. I wasn't blown away, but there were quite a few tidbits of trivia that I did not know before.