In the shadows of the American century The rise and decline of US global power

Alfred W. McCoy

Book - 2017

"In a completely original analysis, prize-winning historian Alfred W. McCoy explores America's rise as a world power--from the 1890s through the Cold War--and its bid to extend its hegemony deep into the twenty-first century through a fusion of cyberwar, space warfare, trade pacts, and military alliances. McCoy then analyzes the marquee instruments of US hegemony--covert intervention, client elites, psychological torture, and worldwide surveillance. Peeling back layers of secrecy, McCoy exposes a military and economic battle for global domination fought in the shadows, largely unknown to those outside the highest rungs of power."--Page 4 of cover.

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Chicago, IL : Haymarket Books 2017.
Main Author
Alfred W. McCoy (author)
Item Description
"Dispatch Books."
Physical Description
359 pages : illustrations, maps ; 23 cm
Includes bibliographical references and index.
  • Introduction: US Global Power and Me
  • Part I. Understanding the US Empire
  • Chapter 1. The World Island and the Rise of America
  • Chapter 2. "Our S.O.B.s"-America and the Autocrats
  • Chapter 3. Covert Netherworld
  • Part II. US Strategies for Survival
  • Chapter 4. A Global Surveillance State
  • Chapter 5. Torture and the Eclipse of Empires
  • Chapter 6. Beyond Bayonets and Battleships: The Pentagon's Wonder Weapons
  • Part III. Dynamics of US Decline
  • Chapter 7. Grandmasters of the Great Game
  • Chapter 8. Five Scenarios for the End of the American Century
  • Acknowledgments
  • Notes
  • Index
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

McCoy (Beer of Broadway Fame), professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, portrays America, in its 20th-century rise to global governance, as Athenian in its ability to forge alliances, Roman in its emphasis on military superiority, and British in its vision of creating a global culture-one marked by a "restless, relentless quest for technological innovation." As the U.S. attempts to maintain global stability in a context of its waning power, its approach to this task has incorporated three elements. A "surveillance state of unprecedented power" and global dimension complements an "advanced cyberwar capacity" focused on providing information to the military. Underpinning both is a sovereign "defiance of international law" linked to an arrogation of moral leadership. That contradiction may prove to be what undermines American global hegemony, concludes McCoy. He describes a series of scenarios and the ways they could play out to end the American century, among them a rise of "backdoor empires," regional power blocs built around rising nations; a fostering of domestic divisions by relative and absolute U.S. economic decline; an escalation into disaster of regional crises; an outbreak of a full-blown world war due to a confrontation with China; and a global catastrophe caused by climate change. Even less-apocalyptic events point to "a striking decline in American global power by 2030." McCoy postulates a grim future-but readers will be split on whether his vision represents an accurate forecast or a hyperbolic one. (Sept.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review

McCoy (history, Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison) has produced a sobering and insightful study of America's rise to a global power after World War II. The author also examines recent trends to assess what the future holds for American hegemony in the world; he is not optimistic. Using data from the National Intelligence Council, McCoy explores the impact of economic slowdown or decline of American power as well as the effects further military misadventures would have on the economy. The rise of China as a world power is never far from McCoy's thoughts, and his assessment of that county's prominence and its burgeoning military and economic might is something that will interest all readers. Other chapters explore such relevant topics as surveillance, covert operations, and geopolitics as they relate to the rise and fall of the American Empire. VERDICT An outstanding book on an exceedingly important topic. Essential for all collections.-Ed -Goedeken, Iowa State Univ. Lib., Ames © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

If you're American and want to rule the world, get to work immediately. By McCoy's (History/Univ. of Wisconsin; Policing America's Empire: The United States, the Philippines, and the Rise of the Surveillance State, 2009, etc.) reckoning, you've only got a few years left.The so-called American century has run longer than 100 years. It began, the author argues, in 1898, when the U.S. assumed colonial territories formerly controlled by Spain, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Guam, and the Philippines. It extended throughout the industrialized 20th century and the Cold War but then faltered in the "bid to extend that hegemony deep into the twenty-first century through a fusion of cyberwar, space warfare, trade pacts, and military alliances." Considering that the current occupant of the White House has repudiated such pacts and alliances, it would seem that there are plenty of hard-power options left in terms of sheer military might, but that doesn't get the job done alone. That repudiation, however, is not unnatural. For as long as America has had an empireand McCoy does not shy from calling it thatthere has been an uneasiness, a "profound, persistent ambiguity" about whether a putatively democratic republic ought to be controlling distant countries, whether militarily or through soft-power paths. Meanwhile, our position abroad has been weakened by numerous missteps, as when, in one of the author's examples, the troop surge in Afghanistan had the unintended consequence of alienating country people and pushing them into the arms of a now-resurgent Taliban. McCoy closes with several scenarios for how American hegemony and superpower dominance will fadeand, he urges, "every significant trend points toward a striking decline in American global power by 2030." The likeliest beneficiary would be China, he adds, which makes war a near inevitability. If only a dozen or so years are left, then it's time to start preparing for a post-imperial worldwhich is unlikely to happen, given the present "inward looking" leadership. Sobering reading for geopolitics mavens and Risk aficionados alike, offering no likely path beyond decline and fall. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.