Wednesday, May 31, 2006

House of War

I've been reading House of War by James Carroll for the past week. It is an imposing and difficult read. Difficult because of what it reveals about our history. The 500+ pages (and over 90 pages of endnotes) are a carefully researched and a surprisingly personal account of the Pentagon and the people who have perpetuated it. My knowledge of military history is spotty pre-1980 so the first 2/3rds of the book fills a gap for me. Carroll focuses the narrative on the brutality of war, the self-deception and paranoia of generals, presidents and the American public that leads to an absurd nuclear arsenal and continues to grow 60+ years after the atom-bomb was unleashed. I think Carroll's analysis was sharpest and deepest at the beginning, personal and insightful in the middle, but growing foggy and shallow by the end.
The story, as one might guess by the sub-title (the Pentagon and the disastrous rise of American power) holds a dark mirror to the actions and policies of our government. Indeed the Pentagon is imbued with super-human malevolence that perverts all attempts to control it.
Carroll's views with a few exceptions overlap/reinforce my own, which may be why I liked the story despite what it uncovers about the American psyche.


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