With a New Introduction on Blowback in the Post – 9/11 World
Chalmers Johnson defines blowback as the "unintended consequences of policies that were kept from the American people." He also puts it in a simpler phrase: "a nation reaps what it sows." A lot of it is retaliation for political interference and economic imperialism. One example is the Lockerbie bombing of 1988, which was in retaliation for Reagan's bombing of Libya in 1986. (Note: this book was published in 2000, so his passage that "the innocent of the twenty-first century are going to harvest unexpected blowback disasters from the imperialist escapades of recent decades" is tragically ironic and foreshadowing. But blowback has been experienced by other empires, so America's not the only one. Look at the Soviet Union, Britain, and Rome.
Johnson explains America's imperialist influence in Japan, in particular, the notorious rape case in Okinawa in 1995. That was the most publicized case. In fact assault and harassment of Okinawans is commonplace. There's a clause in the U.S. forces occupation treaty that gives the U.S. military accused of crimes the right not to hand over guilty soldiers to the local authorities. It's kind of like the diplomatic immunity ambassadors in foreign countries get. (Remember Lethal Weapon 2?)
Individual countries are covered in detail: Japan, both Koreas, and China, in particular. The words "American Empire" in the title are no mistake. True, it's not outright political annexation as was done in the Roman, Spanish, or British Empires, but an economic hegemony. Where the Soviet created an Eastern bloc with countries such as East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Poland, so did the U.S. No, not in Western Europe, but in East Asia. Comprising of Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Taiwan, and before their fall to Communist regimes, the former French Indochina countries. In fact, what's the first thing a newly-elected Japanese prime minister does? He flies straight to Washington D.C. to report in to his new masters.
Another factor of American foreign policy is its support, defense and economic, of repressive anti-Communist regimes, such as South Korea and Indonesia. America hardly batted an eye when in 1980, a student demonstration protesting martial law was violently put down in what became known as the Kwangju uprising. The same is true for the Kopassus commando squads in Indonesia, who violently put down Suharto's opponents.
Then there's Indonesia, where Suharto, who had been put in power by the CIA in 1965, was ousted with the help of the DIA because the IMF was unable to help Indonesia's financial problems. Conclusion: Suharto was no longer useful so he was dumped. The collapse of the Asian rim economies is also touched on.
Another similar pattern is how former dictators are given immunity for their crimes. Ferdinand Marcos died in exile in the U.S., General Chun Doo Hwan was pardoned by South Korean President Kim Young Sam, and Suharto was deemed too ill to stand trial.
The ultimate message in this book is indeed, that a country reaps what it sows. Solution: less imperialism, less interference, more peace, in other words, an end to the hegemony. There's so much peaceful potential that the U.S. has--why not use that?
THE SORROWS OF EMPIRE
Author: Chalmers Johnson
Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic
In the years after the Soviet Union imploded, the United States was described first as the globe's "lone superpower," then as a "reluctant sheriff," next as the "indispensable nation," and in the wake of 9/11, as a "New Rome." In this important national bestseller, Chalmers Johnson thoroughly explores the new militarism that is transforming America and compelling us to pick up the burden of empire.
Recalling the classic warnings against militarism-from George Washington's Farewell Address to Dwight Eisenhower's denunciation of the military-industrial complex-Johnson uncovers its roots deep in our past. Turning to the present, he maps America's expanding empire of military bases and the vast web of services that support them. He offers a vivid look at the new caste of professional militarists who have infiltrated multiple branches of government, who classify as "secret" everything they do, and for whom the manipulation of the military budget is of vital interest.
Among Johnson's provocative conclusions is that American militarism is already putting an end to the age of globalization and bankrupting the United States, even as it creates the conditions for a new century of virulent blowback.The Sorrows of Empiresuggests that the former American republic has already crossed its Rubicon-with the Pentagon in the lead.
NEMESIS: THE LAST DAYS OF THE REPUBLIC
Author: Chalmers Johnson
The long-awaited final volume of Chalmers Johnson’s bestselling Blowbacktrilogy confronts the overreaching of the American empire and the threat it poses to the republic In his prophetic bookBlowback, Chalmers Johnson linked the CIA’s clandestine activities abroad to disaster at home. In The Sorrows of Empire, he explored the ways in which the growth of American militarism and the garrisoning of the planet have jeopardized our stability. Now, in Nemesis, he shows how imperial overstretch is undermining the republic itself, both economically and politically. Delving into new areas—from plans to militarize outer space to Constitution-breaking presidential activities at home and the devastating corruption of a toothless Congress—Nemesisoffers a striking description of the trap into which the dreams of America’s leaders have taken us. Drawing comparisons to empires past, Johnson explores in vivid detail just what the unintended consequences of our dependence on a permanent war economy are likely to be. What does it mean when a nation’s main intelligence organization becomes the president’s secret army? Or when the globe’s sole “hyperpower,” no longer capable of paying for the vaulting ambitions of its leaders, becomes the greatest hyper-debtor of all times? In his stunning conclusion, Johnson suggests that financial bankruptcy could herald the breakdown of constitutional government in America—a crisis that may ultimately prove to be the only path to a renewed nation.
DISMANTLING THE EMPIRE: AMERICA’S LAST BEST HOPE
Author: Chalmers Johnson
In his prophetic book Blowback, published before 9/11, Chalmers Johnson warned that our secret operations in Iraq and elsewhere around the globe would exact a price at home. Now, in a brilliant series of essays written over the last three years, Johnson measures that price and the resulting dangers America faces. Our reliance on Pentagon economics, a global empire of bases, and war without end is, he declares, nothing short of "a suicide option."
Dismantling the Empire explores the subjects for which Johnson is now famous, from the origins of blowback to Barack Obama's Afghanistan conundrum, including our inept spies, our bad behavior in other countries, our ill-fought wars, and our capitulation to a military that has taken ever more control of the federal budget. There is, he proposes, only one way out: President Obama must begin to dismantle the empire before the Pentagon dismantles the American Dream. If we do not learn from the fates of past empires, he suggests, our decline and fall are foreordained. This is Johnson at his best: delivering both a warning and an urgent prescription for a remedy.
ROGUE STATE: A GUIDE TO THE WORLD’S ONLY SUPERPOWER
Author: William Blum
William Blum's book should open the eyes of the blind, but, unfortunately, they continue to be fixed on certain specific points, while keeping silent about the very bleak overall picture.
Nevertheless, William Blum tackles big issues: the danger of depleted uranium bombs for the populations and all soldiers in the field, Big Brother ECHELON, the drugs smuggling CIA, the use of human guinea pigs, the relentless search for 'barbarian enemies' in order to justify the enormous defense budgets, the frontal attack on the Bill of Rights, and most of all, the unending list of secret military and other interventions in foreign countries against democratically elected governments or to sustain despotic regimes. The result is truly appalling: millions of victims.
Of course, there are some minus points here. This book is already very partially out-of-date because it attacks President Clinton's policies. Also, the author forgets sometimes to mention some aspects of specific situations, e.g. the ethnic cleansing policies in former Yugoslavia, or the real situation in Cuba (the colossal living standard differences between the few and the many, the travel prohibitions, no freedom of speech ...).
But we need Bill Blum's voice. Not to be missed.
Author: Charles Derber with Yale R. Magrass
How Empires, the Born-Again and the Politically Correct Do Evil in the Name of Good
What do empire, the born again, and the politically correct have in common? Is patriotism a good thing? Did General Patraeus betray us, or did MoveOn? Does morality often serve immoral purposes? This book offers a new way to approach these questions, which lie just beneath our increasingly poisoned political conversation today. Derber and Magrass show that the problem today is not just lying but immoral morality, doing evil in the name of good. Both Republican and Democratic presidents, they show, have been immoral moralists. The authors explore three ancient codes of immoral morality frighteningly resurrected in America today those of empire, the politically correct, and the born again. The British preached the White Man's Burden to show empire was a moral obligation. Bush today proclaims that the U.S. must occupy Iraq to spread liberty. Although the right today has recrafted historic arguments that empires bring peace, and fundamentalists battle moral decay, the authors show that the Democratic Party and the left have their own IM, with Democrats supporting empire and the left its own political correctness. America's political divide today is a backlash to the progressive revolution of the 1960s and 1970s secular, antiwar, and feminist that created a radical break from traditional values and set the stage for current morality wars. In the spirit of de Tocqueville, this powerful book offers a rich and vivid portrait of America s political landscape, exploring ideas that can help move the nation to a new morality and politics.
Author: Andrew J. Bacevich
The Realities & Consequences of U.S. Diplomacy
In a challenging, provocative book, Andrew Bacevich reconsiders the assumptions and purposes governing the exercise of American global power. Examining the presidencies of George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton--as well as George W. Bush's first year in office--he demolishes the view that the United States has failed to devise a replacement for containment as a basis for foreign policy. He finds instead that successive post-Cold War administrations have adhered to a well-defined "strategy of openness." Motivated by the imperative of economic expansionism, that strategy aims to foster an open and integrated international order, thereby perpetuating the undisputed primacy of the world's sole remaining superpower. Moreover, openness is not a new strategy, but has been an abiding preoccupation of policymakers as far back as Woodrow Wilson.
Although based on expectations that eliminating barriers to the movement of trade, capital, and ideas nurtures not only affluence but also democracy, the aggressive pursuit of openness has met considerable resistance. To overcome that resistance, U.S. policymakers have with increasing frequency resorted to force, and military power has emerged as never before as the preferred instrument of American statecraft, resulting in the progressive militarization of U.S. foreign policy.
Neither indictment nor celebration, American Empire sees the drive for openness for what it is--a breathtakingly ambitious project aimed at erecting a global imperium. Large questions remain about that project's feasibility and about the human, financial, and moral costs that it will entail.
THE NEW AMERICAN MILITARISM
Author: Andrew J. Bacevich
How Americans are seduced by War
Andrew J. Bacevich's The New American Militarism: How Americans Are seduced By War, Oxford University Press, New York, 2005, ISBN 0-19-517338-4, is the most coherent analysis of how America has come to its present situation in the world that I have ever read. Bacevich, Professor of International Relations and Director of the Center for International Relations at Boston University, is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and holds a Ph.D. in history from Princeton. And he is retired military officer. This background makes him almost uniquely qualified to comment on the subject.
Bacevich admits to an outlook of moderate conservatism. But in ascribing fault for our plight to virtually every administration since W.W. II, he is even handed and clear eyed. Since he served in the military, he understands the natural bureaucratic instincts of the best of the officer corps and is not blinded by the almost messianic status that they have achieved in the recent past.
His broad brush includes the classic period, the American Revolution - especially the impact of George Washington, but he moves quickly to the influence of Woodrow Wilson and his direct descendants of our time, the Neoconservatives. The narrative accelerates and becomes relevant for us in the depths of the despair of Vietnam. At that juncture, neocon intellectuals awakened to the horror that without a new day for our military and foreign policy, the future of America would be at stake. At almost the same time, Evangelical Christians abandoned their traditional role in society and came to views not dissimilar to the neocons. America had to get back on track to both power and goodness. The results of Vietnam on American culture, society, and - especially - values were abhorrent to both these groups.
The perfect man to idealize and mythologize America's road back was Ronald Reagan. Again, Bacevich does not shrink from seeing through the surreal qualities brought to the Oval Office by Reagan to the realities beneath them. The Great Communicator transformed the Vietnam experience into an abandonment of American ideals and reacquainted America with those who fought that horrible war. Pop culture of the period, including motion pictures such as Top Gun and bestselling novels by many, including Tom Clancy completely rehabilitated the image of the military.
The author describes how Evangelical leaders came to find common cause with the neocons and provided the political muscle for Reagan and his successors of both parties to discover that the projection of military might become a reason for being for America as the last century closed.
One of his major points is that the all volunteer force that resulted from the Vietnam experience has been divorced from American life and that sending this force of ghosts into battle has little impact on our collective psyche. This, too, fit in with the intellectual throw weight of the neocons and the political power of the Evangelicals.
Separate from but related to the neocons, Bacevich describes the loss of strategic input by the military in favor of a new priesthood of intellectual elites from institutions such as the RAND Corporation, The University of Chicago and many others. It was these high priests who saw the potential that technology provided for changing the nature of war itself and how American power might be projected with `smart weapons' that could be the equivalent of the nuclear force that could never be used.
So it was that when the war we are now embroiled in across the globe - which has its antecedents back more than twenty years - all of these forces weighed heavily on the military leaders to start using the force we'd bought them. The famed question by Secretary of State Madeline Albright to General Colin Powell: "What's the point of having this superb military that you're always talking about if we can't use it?" had to have an answer and the skirmishes and wars since tended to provide it.
Bacevich clearly links our present predicaments both at home and abroad to the ever greater need for natural resources, especially oil from the Persian Gulf. He demolishes all of the reasons for our bellicosity based on ideals and links it directly to our insatiable appetite for oil and economic expansion. Naturally, like thousands of writers before him, he points out the need for a national energy policy based on more effective use of resources and alternative means of production.
It is in his prescriptions that the book tends to drift. The Congress must do its constitutionally mandated jobs or be thrown out by the people. Some of his ideas on military education are creative and might well close the gap between the officer corps and civilians that he points to as a great problem.
But it is the clearly written analysis that makes this book shine. It should be a must read for those who wonder how we got to Iraq and where we might be heading as a society. The nation is in grave danger, and this is a book that that shows how we got to this juncture. Where we go from here is up to us. If we continue as we are, our options may narrow and be provided by others.
THE LIMITS OF POWER: THE END OF AMERICAN EXCEPTIONALISM
Author: Andrew J. Bacevich
This man is a rarity in this nation: a brilliant, intellectual conservative, West Point grad, and former war veteran willing to take on the "neocon suits" in the Pentagon, Congress, and the White House who have led this nation to the brink of foreign policy, military, and economic ruin over the last 8 years.
A decorated Vietnam vet who recently lost his soldier son in the Iraq War, he is clearly (and thankfully) a Grand Canyon-sized fly in the ointment of the blind, unquestioning, "Either you support the war or you are “unpatriotic” or “un-American” Joe McCarthyist crowd calling the shots in Washington. As I listened to his utterly riveting interview on Bill Moyers last week, all I could think was, "If only Bush & Co. had listened to him, how many lives and $$$ could have been spared." But then Bush, Rove, et. al. would not have the spine to hear, let alone heed, such a compelling voice with a towering conscience, intellect, and abiding sense of responsibility to, and love for, the nation and Constitution.
WASHINGTON RULES: AMERICA’S PATH TO PERMANENT WAR
Author: Andrew J. Bacevich
When you spend the better part of a balmy Sunday indoors engrossed in the fascination of wanting to find out what is on the next page, page after page, you know you have a great book that opens your eyes and your mind to fresh ideas, a book that makes you question your most basic assumptions of how you see things as an American and beckons you to look at yourself in a different light. Andrew Bacevich achieves this in just 250 pages.
His real education began where no NATO soldier had been previously free to roam. The place was East Germany and the time was after the Berlin Wall came down. It continued as he earned a Ph.D. at Princeton and with a professorship at Boston College where he teaches and writes today. From that education, Professor Bacevich made some startling discoveries.
He defines this discovery as the credo and the trinity. "The credo summons the United States--and the United States alone--to lead, save, liberate, and ultimately transform the world." The sacred trinity requires the United States to "maintain a global presence, to configure its forces for global projection, and to anticipate threats with a policy of global interventionism." This relationship is symbiotic, according to Bacevich. "The trinity adds plausibility to the credo, and the credo justifies the trinity's... exertions." Implicit in both is the government's and people's tacit acceptance that the U.S. is called upon to do this, is the only nation capable of doing this, and that other nations really want the United States to do it. This is how Washington rules and this is America's path to permanent war.
Such interventionism began with possessions obtained from the Spanish-American War and Theodore Roosevelt's corollary to the Monroe Doctrine. Following World War II, this became the American way of thinking, that protection of America's vital interests meant we had the right to interfere in the political or economic direction of other countries, and most importantly, that the United States "exempts itself from the norms with which it expects others to comply."
It also meant that the best way to protect America was to establish bases in far off lands where we could strike an enemy before it struck us. This also meant ratcheting up the fear. First it was the fear of communism, then the fear of nuclear annihilation, then it was the domino theory that would eventually reach our border, and finally, the war on terrorism, which like all the others, has become a drain of human and economic resources, and an abject failure.
Andrew Bacevich achieves something few other authors do. He speaks from his heart and his mind. From both you get a glimpse of the man's soul. I could almost sense an anger from trying to convince the deaf to listen and make the blind see. (He has spoken in front of Congress more than once). He recognizes what few Americans do, that we are not a nation of unlimited manpower and economic resources that can sustain a permanent state of war, that costs so much to so many, and benefits so few--politicians and profiteers. He is a man engaged who wishes that Americans would become engaged by not thinking about what they want, but how they can serve, by not just paying lip service to our servicemen, but making their own sacrifices, as he and his son did. Bacevich wants a fiscally responsible America that finds its spirit in renewing itself and revitalizing its own democratic ideals rather than imposing them on others.
That is the way America was meant to be.
THE CASE FOR WITHDRAWAL FROM AFGHANISTAN
Edited By: Nick Turse
Leading commentators examine the Afghan debacle and its parallels with previous British and Soviet occupations.
Known as the graveyard of empires, Afghanistan has now been singled out as Obama’s “just war,” the destination for an additional thirty thousand US troops in an effort to shore up an increasingly desperate occupation. Nick Turse brings together a range of leading commentators, politicians, and military strategists to analyze America’s real motives and likely prospects. Through on-the-spot reporting, clear-headed analysis and historical comparisons with Afghanistan’s previous occupiers—Britain and the Soviet Union, who also argued that they were fighting a just and winnable war—The Case for Withdrawal From Afghanistancarefully examines the current US strategy and offers sobering conclusions. This timely and focused collection aims at the heart of Obama’s foreign policy and shows why it is so unlikely to succeed.
DEFEAT: LOSING IRAQ AND THE FUTURE OF THE MIDDLE EAST