What is America? — A Short History of the New World Order by Ronald Wright, a Canadian historian and novelist of British extraction.
I thought that history was always written by the winners. It is not and this book proves it. A thoroughly well researched history of America (mainly but not exclusively the US), this is a profoundly sad book and very disturbing for being so.
It is a welcome antidote to Niall Fergusson’s triumphalist ‘Colossus: The Rise and Fall of the American Empire”. Fergusson – whose Cash Nexus is one of my favourite all time books on monetary history – has more recently drifted to the point where he is in danger of becoming the Dan Brown of modern history, adding colour to myths and dressing them up so well, they almost look like fact.
Wright’s book enthralled and sickened me mainly because it rang so uncomfortably true. This is absolutely not a book for everyone especially if you “believe in America”. But if you do have an open mind, you will learn a lot about the dark side of America. Too many times, I felt as though the smug visage of Dick Cheney was staring at me out of Wright’s all-too-uncomfortable paragraphs.
My favourite and simultaneously least favourite quote in it is from George Bush SENIOR: “I never apologise for the United States. I don’t care what the facts are”. With that sort of morality to guide him, should we actually be quite so hard on his son, W? I do not believe that the sins of a father should be visited on a son, but can a son go further and claim a form of moral diplomatic immunity if brought up in a household that subscribes to such nationalistic hubris?