Nina Trige Andersen is a historian and freelance journalist. She is a regular contributor to Modern Times Review.

In his new book, Alfred W. McCoy collects his multiple analyses of the US as an empire, and describes how violence practiced in the periphery will accompany you all the way home.

In the shadows of the American century

Alfred W. McCoy


War always returns home. That is one of historian Alfred W. McCoy’s crucial points in his description of the US as a global empire, an understanding based on his own experiences in life. He was born in 1945 at the end of the Second World War, a period which also marks the beginning of American global warfare. McCoy’s father served in the army like the majority of the other fathers he knew. On the outside his life looked nice: «Wherever we went, our neighbours were more or less like us: dad, the war veteran, mom, the suburban housewife, two or three kids, a dog, a small house, a mortgage, a car, a local church, crowded schools, and, of course, scouts. When I was in elementary school, it all felt pretty nice.» But it turned out there was a «dark side», hidden under «prosperity’s glow». Drunkenness, violence and suicide caused by the mental wounds from the war. There was an obligation to be tacit about that, and McCoy soon found out that «Washington’s bid for power carried heavy costs». Precisely how vast those costs were he observed at close range while studying to be an historian.

Distilled analysis

In the Shadows of the American Century is a distilled analysis based on McCoy’s historical investigations of activities such as the CIA’s participation in drug production, the establishment of the military industrial complex and the use of the former colony the Philippines as a laboratory for surveillance technologies. The first part of the book introduces the phenomenon of geopolitics and its historical origin, and describes the US’ strategies to secure global dominance (a dominance that has often included active support of the establishment of dictatorships and other dubious activities including torture) long before the pictures from Abu Ghraib went viral. The second part concerns the development of all-encompassing surveillance capabilities and the change of American military influence from traditional force of arms to high-tech cyber warfare. Lastly, the third part lines up scenarios for the eventual end of «the American Century».

The war always returns home

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