American Theocracy, a Book Review
In his two most recent books, American Dynasty and Wealth and Democracy, Kevin Phillips has perhaps rightly earned the prestigious moniker of America’s premier analyst and critic. Now, in his new release, a doom and gloom tome some 480 pages long, Kevin Phillips assails three overlapping, growing, forces that threaten to rain on the parade of the American way of life. Actually, American Theocracy : The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century, at $26.95 retail is still a great value because it is really three books in one, with just enough threads woven between the very different but often interrelated fabrics to help illustrate the upcoming perfect storm.
Kevin Phillips, as a former Republican strategist and observer for over 30 years, has a keen sense of the current political and economic landscape. When contrasted against his commanding historical perspectives, the author is aptly able in his book to show how past world powers, from the Roman to the British empires, have faced and failed the same critical circumstances the United States currently faces at the beginning of the 21st century. American Theocracy demonstrates that essentially every world dominating power is lured by the sirens of global over-reach and ultimately falls into the traps of resource depletion, runaway debt and the wars of militant religion.
In Part I of American Theocracy, Kevin Phillips looks at the ramifications of our preocupation of oil, past and present. The book maintains that American supremacy was derived by our exploitation and effective use of a newly useable form of energy on the world stage. While other nations were trapped in their inertias of coal, wind and water infrastructures, America quickly realized the versatility of this black gold and leveraged a nation around it. In fact, with only roughly five percent of the world’s population, Americans still consume over 25 percent of the world’s oil. But supply of this precious resource has always been a concern. American Theocracy points to World War II especially, which was waged by Japan and Germany to secure their hold on this vital fossil fuel for modern economies. The book takes care to explain that America itself has been heavily involved in its own petro-imperialism over the last century. Moreover, the life blood of our economy is becoming more difficult to find and extract even as the world economies are demanding more. One little know fact in all of this, as other Middle East supplies are being exhausted, is that Iraq is the last large pool of oil on the planet. And all of this still virtually untapped, near the surface. American Theocracy describes how Iraq has never been able to pump much of its oil, with U.N. sanctions in the 90’s, war with Iran in the 80’s and so forth. With the thinly disguised cloak of spreading democracy and fighting terror, it is of little surprise, given our history of petro-imperialism in the Middle East, and the fact that there is an estimated one trillion dollars in estimated profits for the (American) companies who will pump it, that we found ourselves with troops in Iraq.
Complicating matters further, Part II of this book explores the unprecedented rise in evangelical religion and its surging influence in American politics, especially under the presidency of George W. Bush. Kevin Phillips believes Republicans view the world in apocalyptic terms and endeavor to shape domestic and foreign policy around fundamentalist religion. This undue influence of faith over fact, and religion over (prudent) reason has resulted in inept policies, which only serve to weaken our respect, prestige and effectiveness in the world. This zealous underpinning has put us on a collision course with much of Islam, swelling the ranks, ironically, of terrorists, not to mention many other miscalculations, putting us in peril of a self-fulfilling prophecy. American Theocracy describes how we are endangering our future, as virtually every war is fought over resources or religious ideology. We seem to be running out of the former and have an over abundance of the latter.
In Part III, American Theocracy contends what is the traditional hallmark of an overextended world power: over consumption and massive public and private debt. Huge trade deficits, trillions of dollars in national debt and financial speculation, made worse by the influence of big business and Wall Street on Washington only serve to exacerbate the problem. The Republican Party, once the icon of sound fiscal policy, has discarded its ideals by mortgaging our country’s financial health and future to the whim of other countries in order to fund and maintain our status quo around the world.
American Theocracy : The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century is not without its critics. Many feel Kevin Phillips is biased and bigoted in his view as he tackles the concerns he has for the Christian right and their influence in America today. Others may feel he is not always accurate in his facts. But this is to be expected by stirring the pot and necessarily not always being politically correct. Having said that in view of the import of the thesis presented in no way detracts nor dismisses these vital problems all Americans face.