Alfred W. McCoy

Alfred W. McCoy is professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, a TomDispatch regular, and author most recently of the book, Torture and Impunity: The U.S. Doctrine of Coercive Interrogation (University of Wisconsin, 2012) which explores the American experience of torture during the past decade. Previous books include: A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, from the Cold War to the War on Terror (American Empire Project); Policing America’s Empire: The United States, the Philippines, and the Rise of the Surveillance State, and The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade. He has also convened the “Empires in Transition” project, a global working group of 140 historians from universities on four continents. The results of their first meetings were published as Colonial Crucible: Empire in the Making of the Modern American State.

Articles by this author

Views
Monday, July 17, 2017
Trump’s Road to Debacle in the Greater Middle East
The superhighway to disaster is already being paved. From Donald Trump’s first days in office, news of the damage to America’s international stature has come hard and fast. As if guided by some malign design, the new president seemed to identify the key pillars that have supported U.S. global power...
Read more
Views
Tuesday, April 04, 2017
The Bloodstained Rise of Global Populism
In 2016, something extraordinary happened in the politics of diverse countries around the world. With surprising speed and simultaneity, a new generation of populist leaders emerged from the margins of nominally democratic nations to win power. In doing so, they gave voice, often in virulent...
Read more
Views
Monday, February 22, 2016
How a Pink Flower Defeated the World’s Sole Superpower: America’s Opium War in Afghanistan
After fighting the longest war in its history, the United States stands at the brink of defeat in Afghanistan. How can this be possible? How could the world’s sole superpower have battled continuously for 15 years, deploying 100,000 of its finest troops, sacrificing the lives of 2,200 of those...
Read more
Views
Tuesday, September 15, 2015
Grandmaster of the Great Game: Maintaining American Supremacy in the 21st Century
In ways that have eluded Washington pundits and policymakers, President Barack Obama is deploying a subtle geopolitical strategy that, if successful, might give Washington a fighting chance to extend its global hegemony deep into the twenty-first century. After six years of silent, sometimes secret...
Read more
Views
Monday, June 08, 2015
The Geopolitics of American Global Decline
For even the greatest of empires, geography is often destiny. You wouldn’t know it in Washington, though. America’s political, national security, and foreign policy elites continue to ignore the basics of geopolitics that have shaped the fate of world empires for the past 500 years. Consequently,...
Read more
Views
Tuesday, February 24, 2015
The Real American Exceptionalism
"The sovereign is he who decides on the exception,” said conservative thinker Carl Schmitt in 1922, meaning that a nation’s leader can defy the law to serve the greater good. Though Schmitt’s service as Nazi Germany’s chief jurist and his unwavering support for Hitler from the night of the long...
Read more
Views
Tuesday, January 21, 2014
Surveillance and Scandal: Time-Tested Weapons for US Global Power
For more than six months, Edward Snowden’s revelations about the National Security Agency (NSA) have been pouring out from the Washington Post , the New York Times , the Guardian , Germany’s Der Spiegel , and Brazil’s O Globo , among other places. Yet no one has pointed out the combination of factors that made the NSA’s expanding programs to monitor the world seem like such a slam-dunk development in Washington. The answer is remarkably simple. For an imperial power losing its economic grip on the planet and h
Read more
Views
Monday, July 15, 2013
Surveillance Blowback: The Making of the U.S. Surveillance State, 1898-2020
The American surveillance state is now an omnipresent reality, but its deep history is little known and its future little grasped. Edward Snowden’s leaked documents reveal that, in a post-9/11 state of war, the National Security Agency (NSA) was able to create a surveillance system that could secretly monitor the private communications of almost every American in the name of fighting foreign terrorists. The technology used is state of the art; the impulse, it turns out, is nothing new.
Read more
Views
Friday, November 09, 2012
Beyond Bayonets and Battleships: Space Warfare and the Future of U.S. Global Power
It’s 2025 and an American “triple canopy” of advanced surveillance and armed drones fills the heavens from the lower- to the exo-atmosphere. A wonder of the modern age, it can deliver its weaponry anywhere on the planet with staggering speed, knock out an enemy’s satellite communications system, or follow individuals biometrically for great distances. Along with the country’s advanced cyberwar capacity, it’s also the most sophisticated militarized information system ever created and an insurance policy for U.S.
Read more
Views
Tuesday, August 14, 2012
Impunity at Home, Rendition Abroad: How Both Parties Made Illegality the American Way of Life
After a decade of fiery public debate and bare-knuckle partisan brawling, the United States has stumbled toward an ad hoc bipartisan compromise over the issue of torture that rests on two unsustainable policies: impunity at home and rendition abroad.
Read more

Pages