For the last 40 years, American soldiers have been trading potshots with locals from Vietnam to Lebanon to Somalia to Iraq and wondering why. Since our troops have, of course, been sent to liberate these folks from one tyranny or another, shouldn't we be greeted with flowers and kisses like those old films from WWII. So why don't these locals at least recognize our good intentions, and stop shooting at us.
Blum's small volume won't furnish a definitive answer, but it will point the reader in the right direction. A collection of scatter-shot essays from one of empire's chief critics, the chapters are simply too brief and casual to have scholarly impact. I'm sure that critics, lacking better arguments, will dismiss the book as anti-American. Although the 26 chapters may be wide-ranging and impossible to organize, they add up to a damning glimpse at several of Washington's most cherished pieties-- 1) Our government respects democracy, 2) We're fighting terrorism everywhere, and 3) Our interventions are humanitarian. Washington expects us to swallow these truisms since everyone in authority keeps repeating them. Besides, "unAmerican" ideas like the author's aren't taught in school, read in newspapers, and are never, never seen on tv. No wonder, as Blum points out, 27% of adult Americans believe the sun revolves around the earth! For a culture that appears to equate critical thinking with a lack of patriotism, Blum's caustic aspersions on our popular mind-set seem a reasonable response.
Despite the book's mediocre quality, the author remains one of the most clear-eyed observers of America's far-flung and aggressive empire-- the 800 lb. gorilla no one wants to admit is in the room. Readers made curious by this loose collection should pick up Blum's master-work, Killing Hope, for a definitive look at how the empire operates. My one real complaint-- Why does the book conclude with a self indulgent cheap-shot at reality-challenged Angelenos? Mr. Blum should know that I, for one, live in Los Angeles and can assure him that I do not consult my astrological chart or any other psychic source for daily advice. No sir-ee, my wife does it for me.