If the 20th century was the American century, the 21st century may be a time of reckoning for the United States. Chalmers Johnson, an authority on Japan and its economy, offers a troubling prognosis of what's to come. Blowback
--the title refers to a CIA neologism describing the unintended consequences of American activity--is a call for the United States to rethink its position in the world. "The evidence is building up that in the decade following the end of the Cold War, the United States largely abandoned a reliance on diplomacy, economic aid, international law, and multilateral institutions in carrying out its foreign policies and resorted much of the time to bluster, military force, and financial manipulation," writes Johnson. "The world is not a safer place as a result." Individual chapters focus on Okinawa (where American servicemen were accused of raping a 12-year-old girl in "Asia's last colony"), the two Koreas, China, and Japan. The result is a liberal-leaning (and Asia-centric) call for the United States to disengage from many of its global commitments. Critics will call Johnson an isolationist, but friends (perhaps admirers of Patrick Buchanan's A Republic, Not an Empire
) will say he simply speaks good sense. All will agree he is an earnest voice: "I believe our very hubris ensures our undoing." --John J. Miller
From Publishers Weekly
This no-holds-barred indictment of what Johnson calls the post-Cold War American "global empire" is not for the faint of heart. Among the opening images is a plastic bag containing three pairs of bloodied men's underwear gathered as evidence from the brutal 1995 gang rape of a 12-year-old Okinawan girl by two American marines and an American sailor, a crime that was officially passed off as an aberration but may qualify more accurately as another move in the endgame of, in Johnson's astringent phrase, "stealth imperialism." In his highly critical appraisal of the global U.S. military presence, Johnson, president of the Japan Policy Research Institute and prolific commentator on Japan and Asia, focuses on the effects of "blowback," a term coined by the CIA to denote the unintended consequences of policies that were in many cases kept secret from the American public. From anti-Chinese pogroms carried out by U.S.-trained soldiers in Indonesia to the viciously suppressed 1980 pro-democracy demonstration in Kwangju, South Korea, Johnson examines the fallout from what he sees as American "economic colonialism." Detailed assessments of American engagement in Japan, Korea and China are coupled with closer-to-home observations on the liquidation of American jobs in places such as Birmingham, Ala., and Pittsburgh, the latter yet another consequence of the massive U.S. trade deficit with the countries of East Asia. Brazenly spending ever-swollen defense budgets, Johnson argues, the Pentagon is fueling an "antiglobalization time bomb" that could blow up at any moment. His chilling conclusion--backed by copious and livid detail--is that a nation reaps precisely what it sows. (Apr.)
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