Bennis, Phyllis. Challenging Empire: How People, Governments and the UN defy US power. 2006. Olive Branch Press, USA

However flawed the UN of the 21st century may still be, it remains a crucial part of any potentially successful effort to mount a serious challenge to US empire. PB

Although this is mainly a book about USA foreign policy and the internal and global resistance to it, Bennis dedicates it: For the dead of Iraq and New Orleans who paid the price for empire.

And an empire that wages war on distant shores also neglects its own shores with disastrous results. The cost of war has to come from somewhere and in the USA it comes from the poor and public services.

Bennis writes mainly about the resistance to militarism and imperial expansion exercised by her government around the world. This is not an intellectual treatise, but history as it is being made by people everyday.

In his introduction, Danny Glover, actor and activist, says that although wars still rage and much early resistance by the UN and other governments have collapsed, “Yet the tripartite internationalism that challenged the beginning of the Iraq war is still an important model, though it will require a great deal of work to reclaim and recapture that moment. This book aims to help that process”.

This book does express the urgency and action around global resistance of the war and what we need now is to learn from our own and others´ experiences how to make that moment into – long commitment, to learn that war cannot be stopped on a weekend. Bennis makes the connection between many events – from Europe´s growing global flexing of muscle to alliances of small nations with social movements to help sway the UN and to scuttle the WTO &ndash particularly effective in Cancun, Mexico in 2003.

We often do not recognize our successes until they are documented; Bennis does a good job of this and keeps hope alive for activists. In particular Bennis offers real hope that the UN with the power of many governments allied with citizen groups can and will resist empire and, that the UN does not have to be the tool of the USA, as Madeleine Albright once called it, if informed and motivated people around the world are willing to persevere in their resistance to war, poverty and injustice. Then empire will surely crumble. – if we keep working at reaction and positive resistance – being and demonstrating the alternatives so other citizens will join us.

Phyllis Bennis book review by Theresa Wolfwood.

Bennis speaks at World Social Forum, 2007. Photo © Theresa Wolfwood.

Activists need to integrate their community work with pressure on governments. Bennis writes: To change people’s lives demands change at the governmental level. It is therefore not enough for people to mobilize in the street: the mobilization must demonstrate enough strength to force those in power to change.

Filed under Book Reviews, Phyllis Bennis