Written by David C. Unger
Publication Date: February 16, 2012
America is trapped in a state of war that has consumed our national life since before Pearl Harbor. Over seven decades and several bloody wars, Democratic and Republican politicians alike have assembled an increasing complicated—and increasingly ineffective—network of security services. Trillions of tax dollars have been diverted from essential domestic needs while the Pentagon created a worldwide web of military bases, inventing new American security interests where none previously existed. Yet this pursuit has not only damaged our democratic institutions and undermined our economic strength—it has fundamentally failed to make us safer.
In The Emergency State, senior New York Times journalist David C. Unger reveals the hidden costs of America’s obsessive pursuit of absolute national security, showing how this narrow-minded emphasis on security came to distort our political life. Unger reminds us that in the first 150 years of the American republic the U.S. valued limited military intervention abroad, along with the checks and balances put in place by the founding fathers. Yet American history took a sharp turn during and just after World War II, when we began building a vast and cumbersome complex of national security institutions and beliefs. Originally designed to wage hot war against Germany and cold war against the Soviet Union, our security bureaucracy has become remarkably ineffective at confronting the elusive, non-state sponsored threats we now face.
The Emergency State traces a series of missed opportunities—from the end of World War II to the election of Barack Obama—when we could have paused to rethink our defense strategy and didn’t. We have ultimately failed to dismantle our outdated national security state because both parties are equally responsible for its expansion. While countless books have exposed the damage wrought by George W. Bush's "war on terror," Unger shows it was only the natural culmination of decades of bipartisan emergency state logic—and argues that Obama, along with many previous Democratic presidents, has failed to shift course in any meaningful way.
The Emergency State: America’s Pursuit of Absolute Security At All Costs reveals the depth of folly into which we’ve fallen, as Americans eagerly trade away the country’s greatest strengths for a fleeting illusion of safety. Provocative, insightful, and refreshingly nonpartisan, The Emergency State is the definitive untold story of how America became this vulnerable—and how it can build true security again.
"Like a skilled surgeon, David Unger lays bare the pathologies that have disfigured U. S. national security policy over the course of many decades. The result is a thoughtful, judicious, immensely readable, and vitally important book.
(Andrew J. Bacevich, author of WASHINGTON RULES and THE LIMITS OF POWER )
“David Unger's informative, historical and incisive narrative clearly illustrates that that the challenge of upholding democratic principles is a constantly evolving challenge for even the most mature of democracies and makes clear that there is no trade-off between security and the respect for human rights and civil liberties.”
(Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations (1997-2006) )
“In The Emergency State, David Unger documents with great passion as well as precision how the emergency state, started by Roosevelt and continued by other Presidents since, has not only undermined our civil liberties but has failed to promote our security or, in recent times, improved our prosperity. His 10 point plan for restoring a constitutional democracy deserves serious debate.”
(Morton H. Halperin, senior adviser at the Open Society Foundations )
“The Emergency State is a wake-up call for all Americans. David C. Unger brilliantly traces the origins and relentless growth of the national security state and the expansion of presidential power at the cost of individual freedoms.”
(David Wise, author of TIGER TRAP and co-author of THE INVISIBLE GOVERNMENT )
“The United States has grown into an overweening national security state, Unger argues in this provocative book. Agree with it or not, his biting analysis will make Americans think long and hard about how to balance the nation’s role in the world with the imperatives of protecting liberty, accountability, and prosperity at home.”
(Charles Kupchan, professor of international relations, Georgetown Univ. )
“I have read David Unger’s excellent book on U.S. foreign policy with interest. Mr Unger clearly has a keen grasp of the contradictions in America’s relationship with the outside world. I hope that this book will find a wide audience; then perhaps we can have an honest debate about where the true balance of U.S. interests lies.”
(Erik Jones, Director of Bologna Institute for Policy Research )
About the Author
DAVID C. UNGER has been an editorial writer at The New York Times for more than thirty years—where he writes about foreign policy, international economics, and military issues--and a member of the paper’s Editorial Board for twenty-two years. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and teaches courses in American Foreign Policy at the Bologna Center of The Johns Hopkins University Nitze School of Advanced International Studies.
Reading level: Ages 18 and up
Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: Penguin Press HC, The (February 16, 2012)
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