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July Book Club: "The United States of Fear" by Tom Engelhardt

Now that sabers are rattling in this country yet again, it's a good time to examine why Americans are so fearful and why our country is so quick to go to war. Additionally, we will analyze the long-term effects of an economy and a society that are largely dependent on the military-industrial complex.

In 2008, when the U.S. National Intelligence Council issued its latest report meant for the administration of newly elected President Barack Obama, it predicted that the planet’s “sole superpower” would suffer a modest decline and a soft landing fifteen years hence.

In his new book The United States of Fear, Tom Engelhardt makes clear that Americans should don their crash helmets and buckle their seat belts, because the United States is on the path to a major decline at a startling speed. Engelhardt offers a savage anatomy of how successive administrations in Washington took the “Soviet path”—pouring American treasure into the military, war, and national security—and so helped drive their country off the nearest cliff.

This is the startling tale of how fear was profitably shot into the national bloodstream, how the country—gripped by terror fantasies—was locked down, and how a brain-dead Washington elite fiddled (and profited) while America quietly burned.

Think of it as the story of how the Cold War really ended, with the triumphalist “sole superpower” of 1991 heading slowly for the same exit through which the Soviet Union left the stage twenty years earlier.

About Tom Engelhardt

Tom Engelhardt created and runs the website, 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. Each spring he is a Teaching Fellow at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley. is "the sideline that ate his life." Before that he worked as an editor at Pacific News Service in the early 1970s, and, these last three decades, as an editor in book publishing. For 15 years, he was Senior Editor at Pantheon Books where he edited and published award-winning works ranging from Art Spiegelman's Maus and John Dower's War Without Mercy to Eduardo Galeano's Memory of Fire trilogy. He is now Consulting Editor at Metropolitan Books, as well as co-founder and co-editor of Metropolitan's The American Empire Project. Many of the authors whose books he has edited and published over the years now write for He is married to Nancy J. Garrity, a therapist, and has two children, Maggie and Will.

To find out more about Engelhardt and his background, check out:

Harry Kreisler's interview, "Taking Back the Word", on the Conversations with History website.

Julian Brookes' interview, "Iraq, Bush, and Writing Long", on the Mother Jones website.

Nick Turse's two-part interview on the Tomdispatch website, "Reading the Imperial Press Front to Back" (part 1) and "On Not Packing Your Bag and Heading Home When Things Go Wrong" (part 2).

About Dan Diegos

This is a relatively new "Euro pub and cafe" located in the Bay Park area.  Morena Boulevard may seem like a strange location for a Euro pub/cafe, but perhaps the location helps keeps the prices affordable.  The food is mostly Irish and Scottish and most entrees cost around ten dollars.  The restaurant has over 100 beers from around the world to choose from.  This is a nice "mom and pop" business, the type of family-run, non-corporate establishment I strongly support.

Here are the restaurant's website and Yelp page.  Check out the nice story that Larry Himmel did about Dan Diegos on its website.

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  • Wilfredo P.

    Excellent discussion about the topics of this book, including perpetual war, bankrupting our country through war, the ignorance of many Americans about what is truly happening to our country, fear as a way those in power manipulate the population, and why even liberals like President Obama are virtually powerless against the military-industrial-Congressional complex. Everyone made good contributions and I think everyone enjoyed the good food at Dan Diegos.

    July 20, 2014

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