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Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » The Complex: How the Military Invades Our Everyday Lives (American Empire Project) » User review

It's got the whole world in its hands

  • Dec 29, 2009
There is a tremendous amount of information in this book, and it's hard to think of anything that documents more conclusively -- indeed, exhaustively in several senses -- the military-industrial-entertainment-academic-congressional-executive-scientific-commercial complex as it exists in today's America. "The Complex" is a useful reference to have around, and deeply enlightening. Still, there are a couple of ways I think the book could have been improved.

For one thing, I went through the whole book lamenting that it was entirely unsourced: not only does author Nick Turse give no references for where he found all the facts and figures he reports, he didn't even footnote the books and authors he directly quoted in the text. It was only at the end, in a "bibliographic essay" I imagine most readers would probably skip, that he mentions "I have posted complete citations and further information online" (p. 273). Surely, for a book that depends so heavily on the reliability of sources, there was a less severe alternative than eliminating printed citations entirely?

The other thing I think I'd like to have seen is more explanation sooner about why all this matters. Given who's likely to be reading books in "The American Empire Project," maybe that wasn't considered necessary. But I thought the last chapter, "The Homeland Security State," was the strongest part of the book. The text as a whole would have benefited from having some of that argument in the front of the book as well.

Still, this is a very useful and impressive piece of research and compilation, and a valuable companion to other books in the aforementioned American Empire Project (I'm particularly a fan of Chalmers Johnson, as well as Andrew Bacevich, who isn't part of the AEP but covers similar issues of America's collapse into empire). While not everyone may want to read the dense and sometimes bewildering collection of connections Nick Turse outlines, it's hard to argue this isn't the sort of thing everyone should know about.

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Andrew S. Rogers ()
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Mostly, I'm a moderately prolific Amazon.com reviewer who's giving Lunch a try as another venue for my reviews.
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About this book


In his exhaustively researched first book concerning the extent to which the "military industrial complex" has infiltrated the life of the average American, journalist Turse starts off by documenting how many times supposedly innocent consumer choices support major Pentagon contractors then covers similar ground in greater detail. Turse has up-to-date information on a previously well-covered subject and casts a wide net, including the movie industry, video gaming and military recruitment tactics in his analysis. Many of Turse's facts are purely economic, but some of them are astonishing. Who knew, for example, that in 2005, the Department of Defense spent $1.2 million on donuts in Kuwait? Or that Harvard received over $300 million in DoD funds in 2002, after being pressured, despite concerns about discrimination, to allow military recruiters access to its law school students? Though Turse offers plenty of interesting information, ultimately this book would have been more convincing if, instead of simply amassing and condensing such information, he had built a stronger argument about what it all means.
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ISBN-10: 0805078967
ISBN-13: 978-0805078961
Author: Nick Turse
Genre: Science
Publisher: Metropolitan Books
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