Chalmers Johnson, author of Blowback:
The Costs and Consequences of American Empire and Sorrows
of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic, and the
guest on my March 26 radio show [stream]
spent decades as what he now calls a "spear-carrier
for empire." According to Mr. Johnson, we have "[t]o a certain extent …
been at war since 1940." When the U.S. government told him that our military
dominance of much of the planet was strictly for the purposes of "containing
communism," he believed them and presumably taught his University of California
students the same. He was even employed for six years as a consultant to the
Central Intelligence Agency.
When the Soviet Union collapsed, Johnson, like many other political thinkers,
expected NATO to be dissolved and our "containment" to end. When this didn't
happen, he had to reevaluate his past positions. While most of the establishment
just carried on with their spears, inventing new
excuses for American
empire along the way, a few who supported empire during the Cold War – Johnson,
Buchanan, Jude Wanniski,
etc. – wanted out. They understood an inescapable fact of history: empires fall.
the people of all these states had to pay the price for letting their "leaders"
take their societies past the point of no return.
It is easy to be a cheerleader for empire. "We're winning
the War on Terror!" Many Americans apparently believe that the military
will keep the rest of the world (which they see as inexplicably perturbed at
us) at bay, and that we may continue pretending our
choice of direction secures our long-term security. In the past, it may
have been easy to imagine America and its Constitution
lasting many more lifetimes, but it is becoming harder to suspend disbelief as the
body count, price
tag, and growing resentment
wrought by our current adventures continue to mount. More Americans seem to
be catching on. Empire weakens us.
By definition, empire means overextension, dependence on the conquered, debt,
taxes, and highly centralized power. None of these things are conducive to a
lasting, limited republic. The "father of the Constitution,"
James Madison, said as
Not despite but because of overwhelming military and political dominance
over its satellites and the endless reach of its internal bureaucracy, the Soviet
Union came crashing down. Its people were unable
to support their top-heavy leviathan state any longer.
Short of outright occupation, there are still many ways of controlling foreign
powers, and economic pressure of one
kind [.pdf] or another
usually paves the way for a new kind of colonialism that calls itself anything
but what it is. For those in denial about America's status as world empire,
Chalmers Johnson reports in Sorrows
of Empire that there are currently 725 American military bases in 153
countries. Most of these, while tangible expressions of forward-deployed military
power, are permitted by the governments of these countries, often even by their
citizens. These are "friendly" occupations that breed dependence
on the U.S. for the locals' defense and economy,
which in turn ratchets up pressure on cooperative states to relinquish their
most valuable domestic resources
through agreements private interests would have to pay much more to secure.
Many of these occupations create "blowback,"
including resentment against us for policies most Americans don't know about
or understand. Blowback is what killed 3,000 on 9/11.
Empire's solution? Wage more war and
bases, and on
If we believe in the free markets we claim to be exporting, let's show the
world by example, and offer to buy their oil. How much oil could the average
American have bought at the local Quick-E-Mart with money the government has wasted occupying the
and Central Asia? A
lot. It is much more costly to steal oil
than to buy it. American elites apply their mistaken belief in the domestic
power of government to international relations as well: if America needs oil,
they must use military force to "secure" it. They apparently think that if they
don't send in the Marine Corps, the people of the Middle East will just leave
the oil in the ground and make no money. If they were to do so, it would only
be as short-term revenge for recent meddling by the U.S. government. The more
aggressive our government is, the more reluctant to trade with us freely others
will be. If the U.S. treats the people of the Middle East with respect, of course
they'll sell the oil. Regardless, it happens to be under the ground in their
countries; it's up to them to sell or not.
Those waging war while preaching freedom and property rights ought to understand
this. Perhaps they just don't care.
The new domino theory (with America
Reds) holds that once we erect "democracies" in the Middle East, the remaining
"non-democracies" will fall in line. This is laughable. Our $2.57 trillion government foments coups, hires mercenaries to train the
"national guard" for amirs and sultans,
encourages revolutions, installs airbases on holy land, and so forth, all of
which ultimately brings our rivals together. The instability spread by having
Americans in camouflage all over Asia will only make it harder in the end for
us to get the oil we need. Even if ends justified means, the rhetorical gloss
of freedom and democracy ought
to be fading fast for even the most devout statists.
(For the record, none of our allies in the region – Saudi Arabia, Egypt,
Jordan, Oman, the United Arab
Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan,
– are democracies. Okay, I'll give you Djibouti. And
Israel is a democracy only if you don't count the folks living in the occupied
West Bank or Gaza.)
According to Chalmers Johnson, what was, in more rational times, America's
biggest fear, a Paris-Berlin-Moscow
axis, is now being realized. The aggressive position of the U.S. made it
happen. We might as well add China to the list, too. The old Sino-Soviet split is
healing quite nicely, as the Chinese-Russian "friendship treaty"
of 2001 and their upcoming joint military exercises
would seem to indicate. The Europeans are also warming to China. They will begin
selling them weapons again next
year. It's good that everyone wants to be friends, but these new friendships
are motivated by an increasingly common
view of America as their greatest potential threat.
We've gone so far down the path to empire and ruin that it may be too late
to turn back the tide with writing or voting. We may be left with two choices:
the bankruptcy and dissolution faced by the British Empire and the Soviet Union,
or the total devastation and unconditional surrender suffered by both Nazi Germany
and Imperial Japan. If the anti-imperial forces of this country were to put
everything they have into taking the House of Representatives in 2006, immediately
halting the expenditure of Treasury money on this imperial mess, and bringing
the troops home from their 725 or so foreign bases, we might be able to win
some forgiveness for our recent violence. The former soldiers may end up as
local cops or Homeland Security troops, but perhaps we'll be spared the airstrikes.