Imperialism and War: The History Americans Need to Own by Walter L. Hixson

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Transcending the mythology of “American exceptionalism,” the acclaimed historian Walter Hixson unveils a long history of war and imperialism, one that is deeply embedded in the American national DNA. From Columbus to the “forever wars” of the modern Middle East, Americans have sought imperial domination over other peoples, invariably deemed inferior, and have regularly chosen to go to war with them.

The consequences of the nation’s violent aggression have been severe yet not fully analyzed owing to the powerful boundaries erected by patriotic nationalism. Americans have viewed themselves as a “chosen people” and the United States as a “beacon and liberty,” the champion of the “free world,” but this self-serving discourse has served to enable continental and overseas imperialism and war.

Americans typically professed to go to war because they “had to” or to make the world “safe for democracy,” but only rarely were these scenarios in play. Rather, Americans usually chose to go to war, and US foreign policy rarely produced or even sought to produce democratic outcomes. Instead, the United States often engaged in violent repression of other peoples and bolstered dictatorial regimes, including those engaged in mass murder.

US war and imperialism frequently proved ineffectual, as they were often grounded in dramatic misperceptions. Foreign aggression also often sowed the seeds for “blowback” attacks and the continuation or renewal of conflict and warfare. Moreover--and rarely analyzed--continental and overseas aggression also undermined democracy, civil liberties, and progressive reform on the home front.

Rooted in decades of study and delivered in crystal clear and direct language, this book is must-reading for anyone wishing to go beyond the clichés that typically structure discussions of the history and contemporary prospects of American foreign relations. In a bold conclusion Hixson outlines the desperate need for adoption of a new paradigm of “cooperative internationalism” to transcend the nation’s penchant for war and imperialism fueled by national self-worship.

Year: 2021

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