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‘The Emergency State:’ overreaching presidents, from Roosevelt to Obama | The Seattle Times

To establish that we have arrived at the condition which Madison feared, Mr. Unger then surveys recent American history and all its presidents, from Franklin Roosevelt to the present. This is done through an engaging and easily understood historical narrative which addresses foreign policy, the economy and civil liberties.

The tale begins by illustrating that Woodrow Wilson was the midwife of our present day Emergency State with his entry into World War I after making a false promise to keep America out of the war. To this he added the machinery of his notorious Palmer Raids on suspected radicals from Then we learn that Franklin Roosevelt was the godfather of all the problems which the author identifies in the present day United States. He and Wilson set the precedents which their successors followed and expanded into ever increasing executive power, from Harry Truman to Barack Obama, with the exception of Jimmy Carter.

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The following illustrates his analysis from presidents Roosevelt through Richard Nixon. For example, we learn that it was Roosevelt, and earlier Wilson, who instituted the fine art of spying on citizens for political reasons, and who used to that end J. Edgar Hoover and the F.

Roosevelt also created the permanent military-industrial complex about which President Dwight Eisenhower sounded the alarm. Bush, and his successors, instead of dismantling the emergency state and enjoying a peace dividend, preserved it intact and committed it to policing rogue states and terrorists, enemies hardly comparable to the world wide threat of international Soviet communism.

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The author believes that using Wilsonian rhetoric, Truman with his policy of universal containment hoodwinked the general public into believing that the welfare of the nation was crucially linked with the outcome of any local leftist, anti-colonialist or nationalist dispute. Yet American history took a sharp turn during World War II, when we began to build a vast and cumbersome complex of national security institutions, reflexes, and beliefs.

‘The Emergency State:’ overreaching presidents, from Roosevelt to Obama

Originally designed to wage hot war against Germany and cold war against the Soviet Union, our security bureaucracy is no longer effective at confronting the elusive, non-state-supported threats we now face. We have ultimately failed to dismantle our outdated national security state, Unger argues, because both parties are equally responsible for its expansion. While countless books have exposed the damage wrought by George W. Bush's war on terror, Unger shows it was only the natural culmination of decades of bipartisan emergency state logic-and argues that Obama, along with many previous Democratic presidents, has failed to shift course in any meaningful way.

In this provocative and incisive book, Unger proposes a radically different paradigm that would better address our security needs while also working to reverse the damage done to our democratic institutions and economic vitality. Your rating Click on the stars for rating.


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  • "The Emergency State: America's Pursuit of Absolute Security at All Costs," by David Unger!

Your review Headline characters remaining Review characters remaining. Unger is a liberal, and he is really addressing his book to Democrats. They should read it. They will enjoy its solid bashing of Richard Nixon and George W. Share story.

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