Paul William Roberts’ book, “Homeland” depicts America’s downfall from 1950 to 2050, where she becomes an isolated world empire. His work of fiction, although many of the events he describes are real and familiar (watergate scandal, US coup d’etats in Panama, Georgia, Lebanon…), describes how modern day America becomes a cold, unfriendly country, seeking world domination. National security is at such a risk, that in 2050, American presidents are no longer identified by name – you vote for a party instead. Media corporations all work together to relay one message and this is all carefully coordinated by the policy planning committee of the US administration.
As the main character recounts the last years of his life, he gives us a chilling image of the world to come: Israel is destroyed by a Chinese nuclear bomb that wipes out the entire country; a “friendship war” erupts between the US and Canada, and the US conquers Canada, becoming “The United States of North America, USNA.” (And of course, the nuclear bomb the US uses to gain Canada – and all the resources she comes with – does not destroy the precious Alberta oil fields); a nuclear bomb destroys Seattle and other American states; Muslims are no longer free to practice their religion in the US so they either leave or practice in hiding; the US finds itself in a another cold war, this time against the Chinese; and so the US becomes a “super-government” in control of all other governments, known as “US-Global.”
The brief description of the plot in the book’s insert describes all these events and initially, it seems it will be a fascinating tale of America’s downfall (or perhaps rise?) that will take place in just forty years. Yet, these events are only related in the last eight pages of this book and instead, the author focuses on depicting the very slow US regression from 1950. The first 250 pages of this book tell the story of the US as we know it – or perhaps, as we don’t know it. The book sheds a new light on the US relationship with Saudi Arabia, Israel, the war in Iraq (just a plan to access oil, all along) and various other foreign policy operations that the US plays a discreet role in overthrowing their democratically elected governments: Panama 1989, Serbia 2000, Belarus 2001, Georgia 2003, Ukraine 2004, Kyrgyzstan 2005, and Lebanon 2005.
By revealing how the policy planners and advisors work in the US administration, the reader finds himself slowly understanding how the carefully constructed national security and foreign policy objectives can all come crumbling down. For example, the main character is recruited to work as the head of a policy planning organization. His job is to research the best foreign policy options for the United States. However, as he explains in the book, he is manipulated and presented with information to make certain decisions, only realizing later on that his thoughts were controlled by someone else.
One of the main ways the book expresses the failure of democracy in the US is that even when presidents change, foreign policy often doesn’t (and for those of you who say Obama is changing this, know we have yet to see him take any different action than his predecessors, even though he claims his views are different) and this is because those who work in the US administrations – the advisors, the planners, the less prestigious jobs – they do not change every four years. Their opinions and thoughts continue on ensuring US foreign policy generally remains the same.
So while the book is interesting, especially for a political science junkie like myself (and I do note that if you haven’t heard of terms like the military-industry complex and realpolitik, the book does not really give any basic explanations), the most fascinating part of the book is left till the end. It is only in the last eight pages that we hear of the deterioration of the US. In fact, it is only in the last chapter that the author begins discussing the 21st century. Perhaps the author wants us to realize how the events that occurred and are occurring will affect the world as we know it, and therefore he takes us down a slow recount of all the mistakes the US has made in the last hundred years. But readers expect the author continue this slow recounting, and the last ten pages of the author’s explanation of the new world order, feel rushed and neglected.
I believe the author made this deliberate choice to show us that it does not really matter what happens in 2050 – the specifics don’t matter but the general picture might (hopefully not) come true: nuclear bombs, global warfare, lack of privacy and freedoms. The names of the countries can be interchangeable – the author knows it doesn’t have to be China who drops the bombs, and it might not be the Muslims who are kicked out of the US, but some ethnicity will, and some country will use a nuclear bomb. That’s the point he is hoping to achieve.
Does this mean we need to send the US administration letters expressing our concerns or write to the media demanding our freedoms? It means we have to learn from the main character’s mistakes: we have to learn to be aware. Only when a hundred years go by, and the world as we know it has changed and can never go back to what it was, will we realize what we missed. So the author is asking us to open our eyes, in the hopes that his story never comes true.
* We are slaves of the law in order that we may be free