The American Century

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The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II by John W. Dower provides an excellent overview of the “American Century” that Henry Luce coined in the 1940s. In his essay, “The American Century,” Luce “called on all Americans ‘to accept wholeheartedly our duty and our opportunity as the most powerful and vital nation in the world and in consequence to exert upon the world the full impact of our influence, for such purposes as we see fit and by such measures as we see fit’” (Dower, 13). Dower takes the concept of the “American Century” and continues by discussing throughout each chapter the violence that erupted from the United States following World War II. Through his analysis, he concedes that the United States, as a nation…show more content…
However, there is a war-ready mentality that remains because of nuclear arsenals (93% belonging to the United States and Russia) and defense budgets (Dower, 10). Additionally, there are millions who are displaced, and terrorism and suicide bombings take thousands of lives, so chaos remains in countries that are torn apart by internal conflicts. In Chapter Two, he characterizes World War II as “total war” because every resource was mobilized and every citizen in enemy territory became a target. While World War II brought the United States out of the Great Depression to become a prosperous, military power, it also left behind a legacy that impacted the entire globe. The immediate results included death, destruction, displacement, homelessness, starvation, and disease. Colonial powers lost their colonies during a period that was marked by even more violence by liberationists, nationalists, or guerilla warfare. Perhaps the saving grace to this legacy would be the global institutions that were put in place to prevent another Great War, such as the Bretton Woods System and the United Nations. Furthermore, there were war crime trials (Nuremberg and Tokyo) to hold leaders accountable for their “conspiracy to…show more content…
The United States established the School of the Americas (SOA), participated in Operation Condor, and created a series of torture manuals that were distributed by the SOA and the CIA. The United States supported these practices that ultimately resulted in the deaths of “political prisoners, torture victims,” or “nonviolent political dissenters” (Dower, 69). The next chapter leads Dower to explain how there was victory in the collapse of the Soviet Union and in the Gulf War against Iraq in the last decade of the twentieth century. There were advances in military technology as well, including precision warfare, infrared night-vision, and the global positioning system (GPS) (Dower, 72). George H.W. Bush envisioned a “new world order” for the United States that was “freer from the threat of terror, stronger in the pursuit of justice, and more secure in the quest for peace” (Dower, 77). Therefore, what followed was the expansion of overseas bases, modernization in weapons, a revolution in military affairs, and a fixation on oil in the Middle East. Dower continues in the next chapter with the declaration of the “global war on terror” after the al-Qaeda attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon in 2001. On September 15, the CIA began a “Worldwide Attack Matrix,” or an antiterror campaign that reached eighty countries (Dower, 88).
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