The Emergency State: America’s Pursuit of Absolute Security at All Costs

David C. Unger. Penguin Press, $27.95 (368p) ISBN 978-1-59420-324-4
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Unger, a longtime member of the editorial board of the New York Times, surveys 70 years of American security policy in this provocative jeremiad. The author contends that modern defense policy, characterized by a “secretive, unaccountable emergency state” and defined by an “overreaching doctrine of global containment” in a permanent global war on terror, is not only unconstitutional but also obsolete and counterproductive. “Originally designed to wage hot war against Nazi Germany and cold war against Soviet-led international Communism” and developed by 13 presidential administrations—from FDR to Barack Obama—the emergency state has in fact made us more vulnerable. Unger further argues that the emergency state has trampled civil liberties, contributed to the deindustrialization of America, alienated the rest of the world, and prevented action on problems like global warming. The author concludes that only “a grass roots democratic revival” can sweep away the bipartisan emergency state, but he is light on the details. He does offer 10 proposals, including restricting the executive’s war-making powers and implementing universal military training, as baseline reforms. Unger’s broad indictment of defense policy—bipartisan if not nonpartisan—is sure to spark considerable and worthy debate. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 11/14/2011
Release date: 02/16/2012
Genre: Nonfiction
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