The American Way of War: How Bush’s Wars Became Obama’s

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Tom Engelhardt, creator of the vital website, takes a scalpel to the American urge to dominate the globe. Tracing developments from 9/11 to late last night, this is an unforgettable anatomy of a disaster that is yet to end.

Since 2001, Tom Engelhardt has written regular reports for his popular site TomDispatch that have provided badly needed insight into U.S. militarism and its effects, both at home and abroad. When others were celebrating the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, he warned of the enormous dangers of both occupations.

In The American Way of War, Engelhardt documents Washington’s ongoing commitment to military bases to preserve and extend its empire; reveals damning information about the American reliance on air power, at great cost to civilians in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan; and shows that the US empire has deep historical roots that precede the Bush administration–and continue today in the presidency of Barack Obama.

Tom Engelhardt created and runs, a project of The Nation Institute, where he is a fellow. He is the author of a highly praised history of American triumphalism in the Cold War, The End of Victory Culture, and of a novel, The Last Days of Publishing, as well as a collection of his TomDispatch interviews, Mission Unaccomplished.


“There are a lot of ways to describe Tom Engelhardt’s astonishing service to this country’s conscience and imagination: you could portray him as our generation’s Orwell, standing aside from all conventional framings to see afresh our dilemmas and blind spots, as the diligent little boy sending in regular dispatches on the nakedness of the emperor and his empire, as a Bodhisattva dedicated to saving all beings through compassion and awareness, but analogies don’t really describe the mix of clear and sometimes hilarious writing, deep insight, superb information, empathy and outrage that has been the core of Tom’s TomDispatches for almost a decade, or the extraordinary contribution they’ve made to the American dialogue. Check out this bundle of some of the best from that time span.”
–Rebecca Solnit, author of Hope in the Dark and A Paradise Built in Hell

“They may have Blackwater/Xe, Halliburton, aircraft carrier battle groups, deadly drones by the score and the world’s largest military budget, but we have Tom Engelhardt — and a more powerful truth-seeking missile has seldom been invented. Long-time fans like me will be happy to see some of his most memorable pieces reprinted here, although woven together in a way that makes them still stronger; for anyone not yet familiar with his work, this is your chance to meet one of the most forceful analysts alive of our country’s dangerous, costly addiction to all things military.”
–Adam Hochschild, author of Bury the Chains and King Leopold’s Ghost

“Tom Engelhardt is the I. F. Stone of the post–9/11 age — seeing what others miss, calling attention to contradictions that others willfully ignore, insisting that Americans examine in full precisely those things that make us most uncomfortable.”
–Andrew J. Bacevich, author of Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War

“Tom Engelhardt is among our most trenchant critics of American perpetual war. Like I. F. Stone in the 1960s, he has an uncanny ability to ferret out and see clearly the ugly truths hidden in government reports and statistics. No cynic, he always measures the sordid reality against a bright vision of an America that lives up to its highest ideals.”
–Juan R. Cole, Professor of History at the University of Michigan


“The mainstream media have always been easily distracted and beguiled… This makes us particularly fortunate to have a few relentless souls like Tom Engelhardt around, using the Internet not to chase the latest chatter but to tenaciously chronicle, explore and illuminate the unspoken realities that shape our political discourse… Engelhardt, a longtime book editor, is the creator and editor of the website… He is the finder and cultivator of important progressive voices… But at the heart of is Engelhardt’s own work and his… thesis that America is a modern empire that has become addicted to the wars that are hastening its decline… His new book is a seamlessly edited collection of his writings… and establishes him as one of the grand chroniclers of the post-9/11 era.”
— Dan Froomkin, senior Washington correspondent for the Huffington Post, “The Essential, Undistractable Engelhardt,”Neiman Watchdog and Huffington Post.

“On 9 /11 the well-regarded writer and editor Tom Engelhardt was drafted. Ever since he has been a conscript in the campaign against America’s knee-jerk wars. His weapon has been his eloquence. For nearly a decade, he has written passionate criticism and shrewd analysis on his website Now a collection of his dissections of U.S. military policy has been published as a book, The American Way of War: How Bush’s Wars Became Obama’s. This is an invaluable catalog of the Pentagon-driven mistakes, myths, self-deceptions, and crimes that have wreaked havoc in Iraq and Afghanistan. That the American wars are proving to be as fruitless now as they were then unnecessary keeps them from rising to the level of actual tragedy, even as the lives of countless individuals have been tragically cut short. This book is a permanent record of the TomDispatch website’s ongoing but more ephemeral masterpiece-in-progress.”
James Carroll, Boston Globe columnist and author of the bestselling Constantine’s Sword at the Daily Beast

“Tom Engelhardt is ‘a national treasure’ — as University of Michigan professor Juan Cole aptly puts it. A treasure of a man, author, crack book editor and master of ceremonies of the essential website — a project of the Nation Institute — his latest book is composed of 29 essays… all of it, no holds barred: America as we know it, defined and explained according to its ethos — war… Like an extended Motown shuffle with some hard-hitting Stax breaks, and never devoid of an all too human sense of humor and pathos, Tom’s book takes us for the ride… and it does lead to a black hole in our collective soul.”
— Pepe Escobar, “Infinite War,” Asia Times

In this pithy collection of essays, Engelhardt charts the long history of America’s obsession with war… In an epilogue wryly titled ‘Premature Withdrawal,’ Engelhardt condemns pundits and strategists who keep the Warspeak machine in motion. ‘What, of course, makes their arguments particularly potent is the fact that they base them almost entirely on things that have yet to happen, that may, in fact, never happen,’ he writes. Engelhardt himself has been working for years to deflate such fantasies on TomDispatch, from which these essays were culled. In his latest book, as in his daily dispatches, he takes on our war-possessed world with clear-eyed, penetrating precision.
Zoe Slutzky, “Dispatches from the Rambo Republic,” Mother Jones

Tom Engelhardt provides a clear- eyed examination of U.S. foreign policy in the Bush and Obama years, and details unsparingly how Obama has inherited — and in many cases exacerbated — the ills of the Bush era… In doing so, he forces the reader to confront the likelihood that the forces that have made U.S. foreign policy what it is run far deeper than mere personalities, and conversely that changing the U.S.’s stance in the world will require far more than simply voting the ‘good guys’ into power… One striking feature of the book is how seamlessly it flows, despite the fact that some of its contents were written in the first Bush term while others were written only a few months ago. This, in itself, is one indication of how little has changed… “The American Way of War” is, all in all, a very depressing read. But for that very reason, it is an important book for anyone hoping to understand how the U.S. arrived at its current predicament during the Bush years, and how it remains in this predicament despite Obama’s best efforts — or perhaps because of them.”
— Daniel Luban, “The More They Promise Change,” Inter Press Service

“What most strikes me, is [Engelhardt’s] insistence on showing us things we ought to have already seen and really haven’t. He asks us to quietly pause and marvel in silence, or to ponder along with him, the perverse and unnatural wonder that is our war-based society and our war-based economy, beginning perhaps with the wonder that we live in these things unknowingly. Engelhardt’s writing in this new book puts into historical context, and into the context of possible alternatives some of our more bizarre/mundane phenomena.”
— David Swanson, Firedoglake