Phillips' latest book is a bitter disappointment, largely because it cannot decide whether it wants to be a philippic against the shortcomings of George W. Bush and his antecedents or a sweeping history of American power in the twentieth century. The result is an unsatisfying mess. The wide scope and broad range of ideas blur the single-minded focus necessary for a satisfying screed, but the larger themes can never quite emerge amid the accusation, insinuation, and invective. Still, Phillips' central idea is interesting and important. The twentieth century, he argues, saw a fusion of three major interests: the energy industry, Wall Street, and the defense industry. Four generations of Bushes have participated in and furthered the emergence of this finance-security-hydrocarbon complex, and the domestic and foreign policies of the second Bush administration emerge from this background. Phillips could have written a magisterial history of the age. Instead, we have a sloppy, confusing mess that his many admirers will do their best to forget.
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