The Eagle's Shadow Why America Fascinates and Infuriates the World

Mark Hertsgaard; New Afterword by the Author




Trade Paperback

272 Pages



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Americans rarely used to think about the outside world. As the mightiest nation in history, the United States could do as it pleased. Now Americans have learned the hard way that what outsiders think matters. When terror struck on 9-11-01, author Mark Hertsgaard was completing a trip around the world, gathering perceptions about America from people in fifteen countries. Whether sophisticated business leaders, starry-eyed teenagers, or Islamic fundamentalists, his subjects felt both admiring and uneasy about the United States, enchanted yet bewildered, appalled yet envious.

This complex catalogue of impressions—good, bad, but never indifferent—is the departure point for a short, pointed essay in the tradition of Common Sense and Culture of Complaint. How can the world's most open society be so proud of its founding ideals yet so inconsistent in applying them? So loved for its pop culture but so resented for its high-handedness? Exploring such paradoxes, Hertsgaard exposes uplifting and uncomfortable truths that force natives and outsiders alike to see America with fresh eyes.

"Like it or not, America is the future," a European tells Hertsgaard. In a world growing more American by the day, The Eagle's Shadow is a major statement about and to the place (and people) everyone discusses but few understand.

This edition includes a new afterword by the author.


Praise for The Eagle's Shadow

"[A] balanced book on the urgent topic of Americans' and foreigners' misperceptions of each other."—The Economist

"Engaging and informative . . . a revealing portrait on others' current views of the 'Parochial Superpower' and everything associated with it . . . Hertsgaard captures the mixed and often confusing presumptions of those who see America from afar and often through Hollywood-tinted glasses, and he offers a variety of explanations why, as his subtitle states, America fascinates and infuriates the world."—Peter I. Rose, The Christian Science Monitor

"'My country right or wrong': a stance that is the betrayal of patriotism. Real patriotism implies not only the right but obligation to admit to and speak openly about where and when one's country is wrong. And this can only be understood fully when one takes into account how the rest of the world perceives that country. Mark Hertsgaard has gone widely into the world to find out, in relation to the power of the USA. He's found the answers in a pithy, vastly informative book, a strikingly original analysis of the American Dream at home and the ways it haunts the rest of the world—particularly the developing world—often as a yearning to share it, often as an enacted nightmare of America's dominance of the global economy."—Nadine Gordimer

"A fine reporter . . . For years, Mark Hertsgaard has been asking what others think of us . . . He's had an urge to help us, even force us, to break through that self-involvement and look at ourselves as others see us. He wants us to understand that there are other lives out there in the wider world."—Tom Engelhardt, Los Angeles Times

"With some wide-ranging interviews and observations based on travels in Europe, Africa and the Middle East . . . [Hertsgaard's] conclusion is probably right: that the world has a love-hate relationship with Americans, mingling fascination and revulsion, and a suspicion that America is and will continue to be the future—if it is lucky."—Martin Walker, The Washington Post

"Honest self-examination is what Mark Hertsgaard, a freelance journalist and author, sets out to accomplish in The Eagle's Shadow, a thoughtful book based on his travels, conversations, interviews and eavesdropping around the world . . . Hertsgaard has a light hand with political analysis that is extremely refreshing. He doesn't pretend to be authoritative, like so many news analysts, about cultures he knows little about, and he doesn't need to tell us that he 'loves America.' He wouldn't have written the book if he didn't."—Susan Salter Reynolds, Los Angeles Times

"There are many significant issues raised in this book, from the consequences of America's accelerating exportation of pop culture to its current proclivity for unilateral action . . . Mr. Hertsgaard writes that 'our democracy is an embarrassment to the word, a den of entrenched bureaucrats and legal bribery.' He writes that 'our media are a disgrace to the hallowed concept of freedom of the press,' that they 'may as well be a formal part of the government, for all the critical distance they usually maintain.' And he compares America's bombing of Dresden during World War II to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, arguing that both acts 'pursued military or political objectives by killing vast numbers of civilians' . . . 'When we are ready to face facts again,' he argues, 'we may see that our country was in crisis before bin Laden's bombers set off on their mission of hate. Politically, we live in a democracy that barely deserves the name.'"—The New York Times

"A verbal thrashing from a journalist who visit many countries and discovered that they adopt our pop culture and consume our Big Macs, they hate us for our greed, arrogance, and more."—Kirkus Reviews

"Hertsgaard was already circling the globe investigating other nations' perceptions of America when last September's terrorist attacks lent an unanticipated urgency to his findings. Few of those he interviewed in the 15 countries he visited express anything like the deep hatred of the U.S. that motivated the terrorists. Many voice warm admiration for America's dynamic economy, vibrant culture, and open political system. However, these same people also complain bitterly about how Americans dominate a world we poorly understand, sanctimoniously boast of democratic virtues while ignoring our complicity in the crimes of authoritarian regimes, and destroy other countries' deep-rooted cultural traditions by exporting our crass culture of self-indulgence and haste . . . As difficult as sober self-criticism may be amidst the flag-waving that now defines the national mood, Hertsgaard summons us to that task."—6Bryce Christensen, Booklist

Reviews from Goodreads



Read an Excerpt

The Eagle's Shadow

For Malcolm Adams, as for most people around the world, America is more a mental image than a real place. He will almost certainly never see the United States...

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  • Mark Hertsgaard; New Afterword by the Author

  • Mark Hertsgaard is the author of five books. His journalism has appeared in The New Yorker, Time, Harper's, The New York Times, The Nation, The Guardian, Die Zeit, and many other publications around the world. He is a frequent contributor to National Public Radio and Worldlink TV. Visit his Web site at

  • Mark Hertsgaard