Off the shelf
By Pete Creighton
We are powerful but insecure
Zbigniew Brzezinski, The Choice: Global domination or global choice, Basic Books, 2004, $12.49 (Amazon.com).
Norman Solomon, War Made Easy, How presidents and pundits keep spinning us to death, Wiley, 2005,$24.95.
This is just a brief look at two among many recent books plucked from the "New Nonfiction" selection at the Library. Most of us are weary of our war by now, but several talented authors seem to be begging to be heard. It's our future — or our children's — and we should listen to them.
First, The Choice, is by a familiar and respected figure, Zbigniew Brzezinski, former foreign affairs adviser to President Carter. His is a positive book, not dwelling on the dismal present — but on what we, the USA, should and must do to have a decent future.
Brzezinski says, "America must make a historic choice: Will it strive to dominate the world, or lead it?"
"We are the most powerful nation ever, but feel more insecure." We must work with other democratic countries to obtain global security. Otherwise, he says, "America could find itself alone and under assault in a setting of intensifying global chaos."
The second book goes into the past 40 years or so to tell us what went wrong with the way we use our power. The book is War made Easy, by Norman Solomon. He points his finger at three culprits who have been leading us astray. First, the current and past presidents and their advisers; second, our industrial-military complex; and third, surprisingly, the media. All three, he points out, act together to convince us to accept war.
Lyndon Johnson led us into Vietnam, and George Bush into Iraq. And they did it with the unwitting help of Congress and a willing, vast military power set in the Pentagon.
President Eisenhower, you may remember, warned that our military leaders, in close connection with industrial might, would have way too much power. The budget for "defense" is much , much more than needed to defend us. So we go to war — and the media goes along — accepting the reasoning of the Pentagon and White House.
Author Solomon is one of several independent reporters who tell us what the popular media leave out of their reports. His subhead: "How presidents and pundits keep spinning us to death." First they con us into going to war — and then report only our losses — not the much greater, mostly civilian, mayhem that our weapons deliver, he tells.
Solomon divides his painful description about equally between Iraq and Vietnam invasions and occupations, and includes as well destruction in Panama and Yugoslavia. Solomon's knowledge of our use of cluster bombs in attacks where civilian populations are present reveals the hideous details of the most savage weapon of modern warfare.
All of this is not told to us by the media, he says. The author is widely respected, his columns appear in major newspapers, and he is heard in various TV interviews.