Thomas Rosiello’s Book Review

american nations

The United States of Afghanistan?

By Thomas Rosiello

The recent War in Afghanistan was the longest war in U.S. history when it ended in December 2014. The treacherous and deadly conflict showed that what the world calls “Afghanistan” is not a nation with a shared culture and language, but is in fact a large and varied geographic area in which many different groups of people live, each group with its own culture and language. Many who had never heard the words before learned about the Pashtun, Uzbek, Turkmen, and other groups. Colin Woodward believes that the U.S. is similar to Afghanistan.  In his new book, American Nations, Woodward argues that there are 11 cultural regions that made and make up the United States, including Yankeedom, the Midlands, and the Far West.  Each is a distinct region with distinct ideas about religion, economics, and government. Historically, each of these regions lived peacefully and independently until governments looked to bring them together, and forced them to live with one another in a united government. Woodward explores how the conflicts between these regions shaped the United States and continue to do so today. He writes in his introduction, “our divisions stem from this fact: the United States is a federation composed of the whole or part of 11 regional nations, some of which truly do not see eye to eye with one another.”

Woodward traces threads in the history around the American Revolution, the Civil War, and other geographical divides and explains that these political conflicts all stem from the rivalry created between different cultures. He goes on to argue that without these wars, the different cultures would not have worked together and become the country that is the U.S., and that these cultures explain and shape the political landscape of the United States today.

Woodward has an intriguing point, and proves his point well with facts and logical explanations. By the end of the book you are convinced he is right, and that his hypothesis is also right that the current Mexico-United States border will change significantly by the year 2100. The book is consistently interesting but not as consistently engaging for the reader. What is an excellent historical argument lacks the writing style or other approach to make the book fun to read. This is a good book about political science, the formation of the United States, and generally about how cultures live together. For fellow Hopkins students who have taken Atlantic Communities 1 & 2, you find a very interesting perspective on the information we learned during those classes. But do not expect a page-turner; it is an interesting read, but not a gripping one.

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