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Summer 2004
The Providential Scholar
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Using the same four-point analysis of empire, he concluded that the Iraq War was doomed to failure ("What astonishes me now," he says, "is how accurate I was"), because, in his view, U.S. policy emphasized military power at the almost total expense of political and ideological. In addition, Mann concluded that the comparatively unilateral war would increase, not reduce, the number of terrorists and create a deadly and unnecessary confusion between international networks like Al Qaeda and regional movements like Hamas and Hezbollah.

"My argument," he writes in the introduction to Incoherent Empire, "can be illustrated with a rather ghastly metaphor. The American Empire will turn out to be a military giant, a backseat economic driver, a political schizophrenic and an ideological phantom."

He concluded that the Iraq War was doomed to failure, because the U.S. was emphasizing military power at the almost total expense of political and ideological.

As the passage illustrates, Mann writes in a colorful, direct style — "I hate academic jargon and scholastic language," he says with a wince — and his feelings about the current role of the United States in the world are quite pessimistic. But they also contain a kernel of optimism — that nation-states, regardless of their excesses, have done away with the Age of Empire; that Americans in any case do not actually have much appetite for the "imperial project"; and that some form of messy global compromise will eventually become possible once America begins its inevitable retreat from hegemony.

By that time, Mann will probably be done for the moment with the Fox News world of Hannity & Colmes (where he was told last spring that "if you and people like you had your way ... the Iraqi people would still be living under terror [and] the world would have to fear [Saddam's] weapons of mass destruction"), and back pursuing the quieter pleasure of finishing off The Sources of Social Power's long-awaited Volume 3. But if the past is any guide, don't wonder if Mann's next work has surprising relevance to the modern day.


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