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Ain't My America: The Long, Noble History of Antiwar Conservatism and Middle-American Anti-Imperialism Hardcover – Apr 15 2008

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Metropolitan Books; First Edition edition (April 15 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805082441
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805082449
  • Product Dimensions: 21.4 x 14.9 x 2.4 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 408 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,097,635 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"Here begins the effort to restore a principled conservatism after the havoc wreaked by George W. Bush. Bill Kauffman is a terrific writer and Ain't My America is a terrific—and essential—book."—Andrew J. Bacevich, author of The New American Militarism

"This is my kind of book: historically grounded, fiercely honest, and wonderfully expressed. It is one of the best books I’ve read in years. Bill Kauffman is a conservative of the highest order, unlike the false brand now conducting our national affairs."—George McGovern

"You don't have to be a liberal, a progressive, or a socialist to oppose war and imperialism. Bill Kauffman's Ain't My America is a must read for those free-marketers, right wingers and conservatives who want to live in peace with the world. Regardless of your politics, if you are against wars of aggression and would like to try something other than bombing our way out of our problems, you will profit from this lively book."—Nicholas von Hoffman, author of Hoax: Why Americans are Suckered by White House Lies

"For those who have been neoconned into believing that conservatism means unquestioned support for the warfare state, Ain’t My America is the perfect way to show that real conservatives defend peace and liberty."—Ron Paul

About the Author

Bill Kauffman is the author of six books, most recently Look Homeward America (named one of the best books of 2006 by the American Library Association) and America First. (Dispatches from the Muckdog Gazette, 2004, is available from Picador in paperback.) Kauffman has written for The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, and The American Conservative, among other publications. He lives in upstate New York with his family.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 19 reviews
34 of 37 people found the following review helpful
Awesome apologetic and manifesto May 29 2008
By Andrew S. Rogers - Published on
Format: Hardcover
When I look over my old reviews on, I notice that I've given a lot of books four or five stars. On the one hand, it makes sense -- if a book's no good, I'm seldom inclined even to finish it, let alone write a review of it. But this creates the problem of what do I do when a book comes along that really merits the highest possible rating? So let me say here that the only reason I am giving "Ain't My America" five stars is because I can't give it six or even seven.

I wish I'd written this book.

"Ain't My America" is not simply one of the number of books coming out these days calling on the GOP to resuscitate its ancient dedication to peace, economy, and small government. Admirable as those books are, "Ain't My America" has a much larger scope, and Bill Kauffman a much more ambitious brief: the dismantling of empire, the rediscovery of community, and the rebirth of the patriotism of home, family, and locality.

It's, frankly, an unfamiliar and at times uncomfortable message. As the son of a navy family, I found myself strangely moved by Kauffman's description of the toll the unrooted military-family lifestyle has on marriages and children -- and while I admit to never having quite thought of it this way before, I find myself in absolute agreement with his contention that "family-values conservatives" should be the strongest opponents of war and militarism, precisely because of the impact those forces have on families and children. Once you accept that, it's hard to deny the author's contention that George W. Bush "is, by policy, the most antifamily president in American history" (p. 216).

And that's just one of the powerful arguments Kauffman presents. It definitely makes we want to track down his other books at the earliest opportunity. So too does his impressive skill as a writer. I particularly enjoyed his facility with the unusual vocabulary word -- though I noted with some disappointment that the flair for this he showed in the introduction and early chapters dissipated somewhat as the book progressed. Souvenirs I carry with me from the first few pages alone include "nescience," "temerarious," "gleet," "omnifariousness," "atrabilious," and "mingy," plus "fossicking about in tramontane sinkholes" and the frankly delightful "the dashing if dotty Samuel F.B. Morse."

As "conservative" pundits and politicians bang the war drums and sing songs in praise of empire, I've been wondering more and more if they would still love America if we weren't a -- even the -- global powerhouse. I suspect they would not, and that Bill Kauffman's vision of a "little America" is one they not only couldn't accept, they might not even be able to imagine it. It ain't their America. But more and more, "unrooted" as I admit to being, I'm coming to think it's mine.
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Superb, essential, enlightening May 8 2008
By Manfred Arcane - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Bill Kauffman's new book is a superb, essential and enlightening look at the noble tradition of skepticism and criticism on the American Right of predatory war and imperialism over two centuries of American history. Kauffman is a lively and entertaining writer sure to enrage many with his well-informed and researched jeremiads (especially his prescription on Texas!). This is a much needed, bracing correction to the spirit of the age, where there are three remaining presidential candidates in May 2008 and all three are unashamed, warmongering interventionists (especially the "conservative" McCain).

I loved this book and am amazed at the quality and prolific nature of this writer, what do they put in the water in Batavia? A minor quibble would be parts of chapter five. While interesting and well written, the criticism of space program (certainly a major budgetary boondoggle) doesn't quite seem to fit the overall theme of the book.

I feel that I have been introduced to a whole new crew of All-American heroes. I knew something about the eccentric John Randolph of Roanoke, but have a newfound respect for the portly anti-colonialist Grover Cleveland and, who would have thought it, the much maligned George McGovern.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Celebrating the forgotten road June 8 2008
By Earth that Was - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Bill Kauffman in "Ain't My America" has delivered an informative, entertaining and passionate tour through almost two hundred years worth of American conservative and middle class anti-militarism and anti-imperialism. This is a tradition that much of modern left and right would rather forget but Kauffman celebrates it.

The historian James Martin was once interviewed. Although usually labelled a 'revisionist' Martin preferred to see himself as an 'additionist', remembering what the other books leave out. Kauffman too has delivered a worthy additionist effort.

This is a passionately partisan and in many ways joyous book. Kauffman introduces a grand selection of characters, not all, but most of them heroic, making a stand for peace and the defense of the old constitutional republic against the many faces of Mars.

Kauffman's shows the great western tradition of American neutralism that crosses party and generational boundaries. George McGovern (Dem.) of South Dakota and North Dakota's Senator Nye (Rep.), the pre-WW2 champion of the Neutrality Acts, both share common roots deep in the American heartland. He explores the careers of Robert Taft and Howard Buffett, of Students for a Democratic Society's Carl Oglesby (who dreamed of a New Left / Old Right alliance against the Vietnam War, before the Marxists threw him out), the Anti-Imperialist League of the late 19th century and Bob Dylan, amongst a phalanx of antiwar artists and writers, more often than not agrarians. He reminds us of the antiwar writings of Robert Nisbet, perhaps postwar America's leading sociologist, certainly leading conservative sociologist, who penned a radical critique of the impact of war as the progenitor of many of the ills of modern society. And he gives exposure to the great postwar critic, Felix Morley, as well as William Appleman Williams.

Kauffman's writing style owes much to the gonzo style and "Rolling Stone" than academe, however his book is lovingly researched and sufficiently referenced to allow interested readers to dig into more conventional scholarly works and original authors on their own.

The tradition Kauffman embraces is actually too large to fit into a single volume. He doesn't explore the great polemic against the arms trade H.C. Engelbrecht and F.C. Hanighen's "The Merchants of Death" that was influential post-WW1 or how Hanighen went on to edit the conservative digest "Human Events". He doesn't explore early and perceptive critiques of the Vietnam War by right wing conspiracy theorist Dan Smoot, Oswald Garrison Villard (who helped found the NAACP) nor the work of the writer Louis Bromfield, an right wing isolationist who (unusually) regulary rubbed shoulders with the Hollywood set in the forties . Still Kauffman has done a remarkable job for one volume.

My main complaint is small. As someone who reads on my daily commute that the chapters do sometimes seem a tad long, I would have preferred more and shorter chapters. Highly recommended.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
A History of American Antiwar Conservativism Dec 23 2008
By J.L. Populist - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In "Ain't My America" Bill Kaufmann gives a history of American politicians that have gone against imperial ambitions during various eras of our government. Ranging from opposition to each war to the resistance of expansion regarding Louisiana, Hawaii, Texas, and territories like the Phillipines, Guam, and Puerto Rico.

From the author: "Ignore the neoconservative gleet about America being the world policeman. Neutrality, abstention from foreign quarrels, minding our own business- these, and not the perpetual war in service of American Empire, are our birthright."

He was particularly harsh in assessing the actions of former presidents Wilson and Truman. And rightfully so. Consider the incarceration of vocal dissenters of WWI under Wilson and Truman's unconstitutional power grab in embroiling us in Korea.

Mr. Kaufmann provides some information on the America First Committee, and some of it's prominent members and donors.

Most books that I have read about the real conservative movement in America cover the Republican party. Mr. Kaufmann effectively demonstrates that anti-imperialism and anti-war positions cross party lines. George McGovern is a prime example!

He quotes Robert Taft's January 5, 1951 speech to Congress.An excerpt from the speech that has proven timeless is this - "The principle purpose of the foreign policy of the United States is to maintain the liberty of our people. It's purpose is not to reform the entire world or spread sweetness, and light and economic prosperity to peoples who have lived and worked out their own salvation for centuries, according to their customs, and to the best of their abilities."

An interesting tidbit was the information on Nebraska Representative Howard Buffett. He had a libertarian stance and he was Warren Buffett's father. Mr. Buffett had connections to Robert Taft and Murray Rothbard.

I hadn't heard of T. Coleman Andrews before reading this book. He had served as Commissioner of the IRS from 1953-1955 and resigned his post due to his opposition to the income tax. After his resignation he suggested "that every person who gets a tax return receives a copy of the Communist Manifesto with it so he can see what is happening to him."

Bill Kaufmann covers a lot of conservative political figures through American history with wit and some humor. This is a worthy read on the history of those holding the original conservative ideals.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Ain't My View, But.... Maybe it will be now Sept. 3 2013
By Dr. D. Watkins - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Quirky, funny, and too clever by half, Kauffman is an outstanding writer who takes an unpopular and unconventional notion--- that the US has no business engaging in foreign wars--- and articulates the strong historical movement supporting US non-involvement in geographical conflicts abroad.
Kauffman can write, no doubt about that, and he articulates an anti-war (or technically, pro-neutral) position that is vastly underrepresented in US textbooks and history lessons.
Because of that, this book is eye-opening. It describes the vibrant intellectual American tradition urging the US to forego it's imperialist behaviours, stop trying to establish Jeffersonian democracy everywhere (or pretending to), and instead focus on being the beacon that enlightens the world rather than the drone that attacks it.
Given that the US has not won a war that lasted longer than a week, it's time to listen anew to this approach.
Only 3 stars because of his idiosyncratic writing style which favours style over substance at times and relies on anecdotal quotations too much. Still, I'll be reading more by Bill Kauffman.