When he was recently booed by a lot of the audience in Tampa, Florida, for invoking the infamous blow-back doctrine, some of Representative and Republican presidential hopeful Ron Paul’s defenders blamed those who did the booing. Yet at least one friendly commentator made mention of the fact that Dr. Paul has a tough road to hoe because the matter of explaining how to understand anti-Western/American terrorism is not simple, not susceptible to sound bites.
Well, roads are always tough to hoe, what with all the asphalt. But what makes this particular highway so hard to cultivate?
Is it a good idea to explain 9/11 and other terrorist attacks on Western and especially American populations by reference to the fact that the West has inserted itself into many regions of the Muslim world without much popular support from those who live there? The idea is that because governments such as that of the US have indeed done this, there can be no complaint when those who live there carry out attacks on Westerners including hundreds of innocent people who had nothing at all to do with the foreign policy that perpetrated the insertions.
If you think that is the idea behind blowback — that military interventions excuse rather than help explain retaliatory attacks — then I suggest you put down the garden tools, back away from the turnpike, and go read something about the concept.
If you have some terrible sin to atone for and your hair shirt is at the cleaners, read the rest of Machan’s deep thoughts.
Chalmers Johnson died on November 20, 2010, but — for me at least — his spirit lives on in the most active of ways. In his last years at TomDispatch.com, he regularly chewed over the profligacy of the Pentagon, our unbridled urge for military spending, and our penchant for war-making and war preparations without end. He was convinced that we had long passed the point at which we were still a “republic,” that we had decisively opted for empire, and — long before the U.S. intelligence community came to that conclusion — that we were on the downward slide, helped along by what he called a “military Keynesianism” run amok.
One question he raised regularly in conversation, but never answered in print, was: What would it mean for the United States — i.e., a great military superpower — to bankrupt itself? After all, we aren’t Argentina. But if there was no obvious model to draw on, he never doubted one thing: if we didn’t change our ways and reverse course on empire, we would certainly be a candidate for debtor’s prison and a wreck of a country. In his last major essay, also the title of his last (and still unbearably relevant) book, he turned to the issue of “dismantling the empire,” knowing full well that it wasn’t on any imaginable Washington agenda.
Having just lived through one of the more bizarre months in the history of the former republic — what I recently termed “a psychotic spectacle of American decline” — it seemed to me that Johnson’s “dismantling” essay couldn’t be more timely, and so on this quiet Sunday in August, on the weekend the author of Blowback would have turned 80, I’m bringing it back from the TomDispatch archives. It was first posted on July 30, 2009, and it has only gained in relevance from the two years of debacle that have followed. If only I could bring Chalmers back as well. This country could use him right now.