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Engelhardt, Trumptopia?

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[Note for TomDispatch Readers: Let’s hope all of us have a decent Thanksgiving in a year that’s been all too difficult. TomDispatch will be back on Tuesday, November 30th. In the meantime, do consider picking up a copy of historian Alfred McCoy’s remarkable new Dispatch Book, To Govern the Globe: World Orders and Catastrophic Change, as so many who have praised it from Andrew Bacevich (“history on an epic scale — sweeping, provocative, and unsparing in its judgments”) to Amy Goodman (“a brilliant distillation of 700 years of geopolitics”) to Adam Hochschild (“no one sees a bigger picture more brilliantly than Alfred McCoy in this powerful, enlightening, and frightening book”) suggest, it will change how you see our world, its past and future. Check out McCoy’s recent TD piece, if you want to know more about it. Remember as well that you can visit our donation page and for $100 (or $150 if you live outside the U.S.), McCoy will sign and personalize a copy for you and you’ll be doing this website a great favor. Finally, my deepest thanks to all of you who have already done either of the above! You’re champs! Tom]

Welcome to the Martians!

Our World Is Increasingly Like a Science-Fiction Novel

Who knew that Martians, inside monstrous tripodal machines taller than many buildings, actually ululated, that they made eerily haunting "ulla, ulla, ulla, ulla" sounds? Well, let me tell you that they do -- or rather did when they were devastating London.

I know that because I recently reread H.G. Wells's 1898 novel War of the Worlds, while revisiting an early moment in my own life. Admittedly, I wasn't in London when those Martian machines, hooting away, stalked boldly into that city, hungry in the most literal fashion imaginable for human blood. No surprise there, since that was almost a century and a quarter ago. Still, at 77, thanks to that book, I was at least able to revisit a moment that had been mine long enough ago to seem almost like fiction.

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Andrea Mazzarino, Our Needs Versus the Pentagon’s

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[Note for TomDispatch Readers: In case you missed the last TD post, historian Alfred McCoy’s stunning new Dispatch Book, his history of empire and imperial orders from the sixteenth century to late tomorrow night (and beyond, given what he writes about our climate-changing future), has just been published. I urge you to pick up a copy of To Govern the Globe: World Orders and Catastrophic Change. Believe me, you won’t regret it! Of it, Adam Hochschild says, “In an age where most scholars concentrate on a limited specialty, no one sees a bigger picture more brilliantly than Alfred McCoy. In this powerful, enlightening, and frightening book he gives us a magisterial view of the empires of the past — and of the force in our future which promises to dwarf them all.” And Jeremy Scahill writes, “McCoy’s latest book To Govern the Globe is a formidable work of scholarship spanning an incredible arc of world history. Yet it is a gripping and fast-paced read that manages to distill the complex history of the rise and fall of world empires into a gripping narrative that is simultaneously exhilarating and terrifying.”

And here’s another familiar reminder for those of you who would like to offer some special support (always deeply appreciated) to this site as the year ends. Just visit our donation page and for a minimum of $100 (or, if you live outside the U.S., $150), McCoy will sign and personalize a copy of To Govern the Globe for you and send it your way. Finally, my deepest thanks to all TD readers who have already done either of the above! Tom]

Don’t you wonder sometimes why officials in Washington have never paid the slightest attention to that famous old Vietnam-era song lyric, “War! What is it good for? Absolutely nothing!”? After all, two decades of the American “Global War on Terror” (as it was once called) seems, above all, to have acted as a remarkable recruitment poster for terror outfits that, in these years, have spread from Afghanistan across the Greater Middle East and deep into Africa. In some sense, in our time, terror — ask Afghans now being bombed and murdered by ISIS-K — isn’t so much the cause of war as the price of war.  And honestly, I can’t help but think that, if he were alive today, Osama bin Laden would be laughing all too hard, since from his point of view no one could have expected a better response to the 9/11 attacks than this country offered when it promptly invaded Afghanistan (with Iraq already in the gunsights of the Bush administration’s top officials).

Recently, in a striking piece at the American Prospect, Stephanie Savell laid out just how, in these years, Washington’s version of militarism has become “the most significant recruiting device for groups that use terror tactics.” She focused on Africa where — no matter what you may have heard — our forever wars are anything but over. Like today’s author, TomDispatch regular Andrea Mazzarino, Savell was a co-founder of Brown University’s remarkable Costs of War Project, which has continually produced crucial information on our disastrous wars and their effects that you could find nowhere else, including the stunning costs of, and death toll (especially on civilians) from, those conflicts.

Today, in her usual deeply personal and thoughtful way, Mazzarino considers the costs of war for us in this country or, put another way, why it’s been so hard for so many in Washington (hi, Republicans! Hi, Joe and Kyrsten!) to imagine spending the sort of money on our needs that they wouldn’t think twice about forking over to the military-industrial complex for our wars from hell and the weaponry to pursue them right into a series of horrors, including (as the New York Times reported recently) the covert killing of women and children in stunning numbers. Tom

The Costs of War (to You)

Where So Much of Our Money Really Went

As a Navy spouse of 10 years and counting, my life offers an up-close view of our country’s priorities when it comes to infrastructure and government spending.

Recently, my husband, a naval officer currently serving with the Department of Energy, spent a week with colleagues touring a former nuclear testing site about 65 miles north of Las Vegas. Between 1951 and 1957, the U.S. conducted more than 1,000 nuclear tests in those 680 square miles of desert and only stopped when scientists began urging that the tests be halted because of soaring cancer rates among the downwind residents of Arizona, Nevada, and Utah.

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Alfred McCoy, Are Imperial World Orders Heading for Extinction?

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[Note for TomDispatch Readers: This is a big day for Dispatch Books! TomDispatch regular Alfred McCoy’s To Govern the Globe, his history of empire that sweeps you across five continents and seven centuries into our own moment (and beyond), was just published. Believe me, it’s a tour de force and one hell of a book! Of it, Amy Goodman says, “To Govern the Globe is a brilliant distillation of 700 years of geopolitics, exposing how we arrived where we are, amidst the worsening climate crisis and collapsing world orders. Al McCoy’s eloquently written book is a call to action for us all, as time still remains to prevent an unprecedented cascade of catastrophes.” Of it, Andrew Bacevich says, “To Govern the Globe is history on an epic scale — sweeping, provocative, and unsparing in its judgments. Alfred McCoy’s immensely readable narrative spans centuries, charting the rise and fall of successive world orders down to our own present moment shaped by China’s emergence as a great power and the blight of climate change.” Of it, Tom Engelhardt says, “To Govern the Globe explains our world to us in a way that I found endlessly illuminating and genuinely riveting (and I edited it!).”

Honestly, don’t waste a moment. Get a copy right now! Should you, however, want to offer some always much-needed support to TomDispatch right now, do visit our donation page and contribute at least $100. (If you live outside the U.S.A., make it $150 since it’s a big book and will be expensive to send abroad.) For that, you’ll get not only my deepest sense of appreciation, but a signed, personalized copy of To Govern the Globe from McCoy himself. So, don’t wait!  Do it now, while the offer still stands! Tom]

I have to admit that, in 2018, when I first read in the Guardian that, later in this century, the deadliest place for climate-change-induced heat waves could prove to be the North China plain, I was shocked. After all, that region is central to China’s agriculture and home to hundreds of millions of people. By century’s end, if climate change was not brought under control, that very area could become “the deadliest place on the planet for extreme future heatwaves” — and quite literally “unlivable.”

Right now, the best estimates are that the urge to keep global temperatures from rising above an already dangerous 1.5 degrees Celsius is little short of a fantasy.  A new analysis by Climate Action Tracker suggests that, based on recent promises made at Glasgow, the global temperature could easily rise a disastrous 2.4 degrees Celsius. And, if actual policies rather than future promises are the baseline for such calculations, that number could prove to be 2.7 degrees Celsius, according to a new U.N. report.  Mind you, if you live on the burning West Coast of North America; in its megadrought-ridden Southwest; on the Italian island of Sicily where the temperature hit a record 119.8 Fahrenheit this summer; on Greece’s second largest island, Evia, which almost burned to the ground in those months; in the Chinese city of Zhengchou, which was flooded in a historically unprecedented fashion; or in any of so many other places on this globe of ours, you know that the 1.1-degree rise already experienced is proving devastating.

Given that Washington seems increasingly geared up for a new version of last century’s Cold War, however, I must admit that the sole encouragement I found at Glasgow was — thank you, John Kerry and Xie Zhenhua — that the U.S. and China managed to craft a statement pledging that their two countries would indeed work together on climate change.  It was admittedly vague and lacked all details, but as Michael Klare has been arguing at this site for some time, if the greatest greenhouse gas emitter in history and the greatest one of the present moment can’t reach some kind of accord, we’re all quite literally cooked!

As Alfred McCoy, TomDispatch regular and author of the just-published book To Govern the Globe, reminds us today, within decades we could be at the end of the imperial era that began so many centuries ago. We may, in fact, find ourselves in a world shaped all too obviously for the worse as we humans take the place of the gods of the past by quite literally making the world’s weather in an apocalyptic fashion. With that in mind, consider the thoughts of a remarkable historian on what our world truly could hold in store for us. Tom

To Govern the Globe

Washington’s World Order and Catastrophic Climate Change

When the leaders of more than 100 nations gathered in Glasgow for the U.N. climate conference last week, there was much discussion about the disastrous effect of climate change on the global environment. There was, however, little awareness of its likely political impact on the current world order that made such an international gathering possible.

World orders are deeply rooted global systems that structure relations among nations and the conditions of life for their peoples. For the past 600 years, as I've argued in my new book To Govern the Globe, it's taken catastrophic events like war or plague to overturn such entrenched ways of life. But within a decade, climate change will already be wreaking a kind of cumulative devastation likely to surpass previous catastrophes, creating the perfect conditions for the eclipse of Washington’s liberal world order and the rise of Beijing’s decidedly illiberal one. In this sweeping imperial transition, global warming will undoubtedly be the catalyst for a witch’s brew of change guaranteed to erode both America’s world system and its once unchallenged hegemony (along with the military force that's been behind it all these years).

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