Former Republican strategist Phillips takes an uncompromising view of the political coalition, led by radical religion, that is driving America to the brink of disaster. From Ancient Rome to the British Empire, Phillips demonstrates that every world-dominating power has been brought down by a related set of causes: a lethal combination of global over-reach, militant religion, resource problems, and ballooning debt. It is this same axis of ills that has come to define America's political and economic identity in the past decade. Military miscalculations in the Middle East, the surge of fundamentalist religion, the staggering national debt, the costs of U.S. oil dependence--together these factors are undermining our nation's security, solvency, and standing in the world. If left unchecked, the same forces will bring a debt-bloated, preachy, energy-starved America to its knees.--From publisher description.
Read in April, 2007
As I continue reading, I stop caring about my earlier complaint. This really is an outstanding book. Frightening too, since, if correct, Bush is just the tip of the iceberg, and even dramatic "regime change" in the U.S. won't be able to stop our accelerating decline.
One thing I hadn't thought about (or known about, really) before: our adventures in the Middle East may not be so much about petroleum as about petro-dollars, i.e., the seldom-discussed agreement with Saudi Arabia to price all petroleum sales in U.S. dollars (thereby making this the world's preferred reserve currency, which in turn supports America's burgeoning debt). Saddam's Iraq threatened to end the dollar's monopoly, according to Phillips, by officially pricing his oil in euros as of 2000 (p. 93) [the U.S. quickly reversed this in June 2003].
argues very convincingly that the American empire is crumbling due to its overdependence on oil, unwillingness to change, consumer debt culture and religious fundamentalism. Very interesting and convincing, if overburdened with examples and repetitious. Definitely worth reading.
Section on oil was a bit alarmist, as he unjustly places oil far above all other commodities. Much of what he says about oil is true of any resource that is needed for survival, but unlike food stuffs, oil is not quite a necessity. This was overly apparent when he attempted to prove American obsession with oil prior to the rise of the automobile.
Also, he fails to recognize the economic reality that just as oil rose quickly to dominate the marketplace, so too another replacement could just as easily rise in a free market, penetrating as thoroughly and unexpectedly in a way that would seem to us as unlikely as the rise of oil distribution seemed in America in 1900.
Section on religion was horrible--he blurs the distinction between Evangelical and fundamentalist as suits his foreordained anti-conservative argument. Essentially, he wants to use statistics to show that fundamentalists are everywhere in America, so he conflates fundamentalists with Evangelicals, while tightening the definition of fundamentalists to radical conservatives--a major error, especially since the more radically conservative an American is, the more likely they are to abandon the Republicans for a truly conservative party.
Does focus a bit on Bushian policies, but also on broader societal trends that started in the 1970s, and some earlier. Deepening worries of consumerism, fundamentalism, religion as intermediary in political issues, the greed for oil as political motivator. All of these topics are covered in greater detail in other books, but this one provides a solid overview of them all.
I find it quite interesting that the author was a Nixon strategist - he was arguably one of the presidents most responsible for this deepening fissure in American society.
The author does accurately foresee the 'Great Recession' crash of 2007-8, and the continued resurgence of the Far Right in the current presidential election is troubling (if morbidly amusing) to watch. One wonders if the end is nigh yet.
Unlike other best-selling polemics, “American Theocracy” is extensively researched and, for the most part, persuasive.
Phillips, a former Republican strategist and current media pundit, has an impressive tack record. Almost four decades ago as a young political strategist for the Republican Party, he wrote a remarkable book called “The Emerging Republican Majority.”
Published in 1969, he forecast the movement of people from the industrialized north to the south and the west would produce a conservative Republican majority that would dominate American politics for decades. The benefit, he wrote, was that it would restore stability and order to a society that was experiencing disorienting and at times violent change.
Although controversial at the time, it was the first book I read that forecast what, now, is history.
Shortly before publishing that book, the author joined the Nixon administration. He hoped to advance his forecast changes. Although a prolific political commentator, he has lost his enthusiasm during the ensuing decades for the Republican majority he forecast and helped create.
In his latest book, Phillips identifies three trends which threaten the United States’ future:
1. The defining, yet distorting role of oil in foreign and domestic policy.
2. Religion’s growing intrusion in politics and government.
3. Debt’s astonishing growth.
Using these three themes, Phillips weaves a convincing and well-written condemnation of the failure of our leaders to look beyond their self-interest and immediate ambitions to plan for the country’s future.
Although he continues the trend of his recent books to be critical of the policies of the current Bush Administration, for the most part, the author avoids inflammatory invectives
Rather he uses training as a lawyer, to deliver a skillful and thought-provoking indictment against this country’s leadership. However, unlike his first book, Phillips fails to offer the reader an original prescription for this country’s current problems.
Never-the less, this book’s broad and structural discussion of political and social changes makes it worth reading. Phillips’ passionless discussion draws a portrait of American society that readers may not welcome.
Yet, they will ignore it at their peril.
So does God exist or not? Good question. The next several chapters of Phillip's book pertain to the rise of a particularly pigheaded kind of fundamentalist christianity which Bush and by extension his political party pander to--even when it comes to pandering to absurdities. They are his base. They have kept him in power. Phillip's believes that many of them believe that the 'Anti-christ' is here right now and the Apocalypse is right around the corner. No doubt that there are those who are dim-witted enough (and I suspect I know some; but I'm not in any hurry to get to know these suspects better) to believe anything that their earthly representative with God's ear will tell them. Phillip's calculates the numbers of them and corresponds them regionally most strongly to the south and the southwest where the much more secular Democratic party is busy getting clobbered.
Which brings us to borrowed money. The Asian countries in particular China have been bankrolling our economy by buying US treasury bonds. Much about these last chapters is about how currency is manipulated--how manufacturing and industrial concerns vital to the nation are sold off piecemeal as profits are being made chasing paper credits and debits around the globe resulting in a few people making vast fortunes while less and less goes back to the population as a whole. Paralells are drawn here to other so-called world powers of the past (Spain In I believe its Golden Age; Holland which replaced it and in fact was replaced by Great Britain as the principal world power of the 18th and 19th century); countries also intent on de-industrializing while financializing their economies which Phillips contends (and to which I agree) is a recipe for disaster.
A couple other points he makes--that the policy of an unregulated Adam Smith type of free trade Capitalism is not going to work--that it does not bring costs down but leaves the population at the mercy of for instance the health care or energy industries just for two. That social safety net programs (demonized as socialism) while anathema to those of the religious right and the above mentioned free trade capitalists are essential to a nations' well being and part of the nations' fabric.
To finish off is the idea posited that a yahoo--any yahoo can spend his way to prosperity. So why not a country? Me too. One looks at our staggering trade deficit and then adds to it our staggering national budget deficit and wonders how in the world did this guy with a Harvard business degree ever get that degree or the present job that he has? We're paying for a war we cannot afford with money we cannot calculate in the present (so will have to be paid for by future administrations).???? It's quite like giving a 16 year old an unlimited credit card and encouraging him to go hog wild. With that for now I'm done.