193 of 205 people found the following review helpful
Chalmers Johnson is professor emeritus at the University of California, San Diego. Chalmers Johnson minces no words on his concerns with a U.S. overemphasis on the military. "The failure to begin to deal with our bloated military establishment and the profligate use of it in missions for which it is hopelessly inappropriate will . . . condemn the U.S. to . . . imperial overstretch, perpetual war, and insolvency, leading to a likely collapse similar to that of the former Soviet Union."
The 2008 Pentagon inventory includes 190,000 troops in 46 nations and territories, and 865 facilities in more than 40 countries and overseas U.S. territories. In just Japan, we have 99,295 connected to U.S. forces living there. The only purpose is to provide control over as many nations as possible. Britain, Germany, France, The Netherlands, and Japan have given up their empires, and we should too. Per Nick Turse ('The Complex: How the Military Invades our Everyday Lives') we could net $2.6 billion selling our base assets at Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean and another $2.2 billion for Guantanamo Bay - just two of those facilities. The Pentagon also has 234 golf courses around the world, 70 Lear Jet airplanes for generals and admirals, a ski resort in the Bavarian Alps.
Meanwhile, we continue trying to pacify Afghanistan, seemingly oblivious to the fact that Britain and the Soviet Union previously failed. Even Pakistan cannot command the Pashtun tribes in its own area; worse yet, its army trains Taliban fighters in suicide attacks and orders them to fight American and NATO soldiers in Afghanistan, while extorting huge amounts of money from Saudi Arabia, Persian Gulf emirates, and the U.S. to train 'freedom fighters.' Our linkage, however, with anti-Muslim Israel and India makes full Pakistani commitment impossible.
Another problem is that our overseas troops often bring sexual violence against local women and girls, 83% of which were not punished between 2001-08 in Japan. Our uniformed 18-24 year-olds have become 'ugly ambassadors' for the U.S. around the globe. As for U.S. military females, 90% of the rapes are never reported.
Johnson asks "What harm would befall the U.S. if we closed those bases that we garrison around the world?" Our prior predictions of disaster (falling Asian dominoes) proved false after the Vietnam War, and it was Vietnam, not the U.S. that put an end to the murderous reign of Pol Pot in neighboring Cambodia. Imagining that China would want to start a war with the U.S., even over Taiwan, would mean a dramatic change of personality for that country. The author believes that no evidence exists to suggest U.S. efforts advance global peace - in fact, we make it less likely (eg. Iraq), and our weapons and tactics (eg. cluster bombs, 10 million unexploded mines in Afghanistan, and 'surgical strikes') enrage locals. As for why few of the world's billion+ Muslims like the U.S. - estimates range from 500,000 to 1 million Iraqi children were killed as an outgrowth of U.S. sanctions. Johnson also goes on to document U.S. blocking contracts to improve Iraqi water and other utilities just prior to our invasion. Then there are the matters of torture and secret renditions - how did these acts reduce terrorism?
Statistics compiled by the Federation of American Scientists analyzed by Gore Vidal show 201 military operations initiated by the U.S. against others between the end of WWII and 9/11 - none of which directly resulted in the creation of a democracy. These included Iran (1953, 1979), Guatemala (1954), Cuba (1959-present), Congo (1960), Brazil (1964), Indonesia (1965), Vietnam (1961-73), Laos (1961-73), Cambodia (1969-73), Greece (1967-73), Chile (1973), Afghanistan (1979-present), El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua (1980s), Iraq (1991-present), Panama (1989), Grenada (1983). (The Korean War is a notable positive exception.)
Another example - instead of radical demobilization after the Soviet Union's demise, we attempted to shore up Cold War structures in Europe, Asia, and Latin America, and repeatedly irritated both Russia and China. Space has become militarized. Per Johnson, Carter's national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski and former CIA director Gates made it clear that U.S. aid to the mujaheddin began six months prior to the Soviet invasion, and helped provoke it.
The author recommends cutting the number of dependents, mercenaries, and civilians stationed overseas, along with their expensive facilities, stop being the world's largest exporter of arms and munitions and educating Third World militaries in torture and coups, abolish ROTC (militarizes campuses) and the CIA (history of dismal intelligence and operational failures), and bring our troops home.
Though not included in "Dismantling the Empire," a recent 'Newsweek' article also pointed out waste in the Pentagon - Secretary Gates estimates there are 30 levels between himself and line officers, and expects by 2020 for the U.S. to have 'only' 20X China's number of advanced stealth fighters; other researchers recently found 530 deputy assistant secretaries of defense, compared to 78 in 1960.
Bottom-Line: Chalmers Johnson wishes he could be more optimistic about the future; unfortunately, he believes it is time to lower the flag on the 'American Century' (actually only 70 years - 1940-2010). I would also suggest we stop supporting Israel - an enormous burden that has led to the Arab Oil Embargo, 9/11, and our current never-ending War on Terror in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and endless Homeland Security often bufoonish efforts to accomplish the impossible - 'terrorist-proof' America.
72 of 79 people found the following review helpful
Format: Audio CDVerified Purchase
Professor Chalmers Johnson, a Korean War veteran and former CIA consultant, obviously is well-informed. This review is based on the unabridged audio CD.
Chalmers has the catchiest book titles: Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire; The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic; Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic; and now Dismantling the Empire: America's Last Best Hope. His stature as an author, critic of U.S. foreign policy and declinist has grown with his audience.
In summary, Chalmers presents a well-researched and well-reasoned argument that the U.S. has to urgently scale back its commitments around the world, including withdrawal from military bases abroad, to save its democracy. The alternative appears to be bankruptcy and some form of dictatorship. It's not difficult to imagine either when listening to Chalmers' calm presentation of the facts.
Retreat from any type of venture is never easy. Yet Chalmers is calling on the U.S. to retreat from Empire. The listener would have benefited from examples of empires that deliberately and methodically scaled down - if for no other reason than to be assured it is possible. Observance of current events does not provide encouragement that any of Chalmers' recommendations will be followed.
I recommend this book not because there is any likelihood that policy will be informed by it, but because it may help prepare the listener/reader for what lies ahead. The arguments presented herein can't hurt you.
54 of 61 people found the following review helpful
on October 16, 2010
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
I have read, reviewed, and urged Johnson's work on others for years, going back to his work on peasant nationalism vs communism. This time, however, I am saddened to make a case that this book can be skipped. Of course, any critic of Johnson stands on a land mine of his prescience but in this case, I feel quite safe. Why does one read him? In the first place, to learn from his incredibly skillful research methods which are, sad to say, absent here. No footnotes. Check for yourself before you buy, on p197. The footnotes are online only and may have disappeared. Secondly, we read Johnson for his wit and razor like critique, which is here, but for the most part, it has been elsewhere, online at TomDispatch. That is doubly no fair when he criticizes others for the same thing in his Dismantling text. Moreover, Johnson softens in this book his sharp analysis of fascism in the US, which appears all the time elsewhere. Next, we read Johnson for his insider knowledge, perhaps most of it drawn from his days as a CIA asset. This is here too. But it's just not as keen. Dismantle the Empire? Like the British? Probably not. The US does not have the Brits to hide behind. But Johnson, a die-hard anti-Marxist and something of a patriot (maybe he picked that up from mentor Hannah Arendt who could well have recruited him to the CIA and bear in mind that his Marxism is always conflated with Sovietism or Maoism)still insists that imperialism is hubris mixed with militarism. It is far more than that. It is the birth twin of capital. It is necessary to the socio-economic system as it searches for cheap labor, raw material, markets and regional control. Anti-Marxism seems to be the reason that Johnson winds up with two suggestions on what to do, equally untenable for most people: leave the US and take your cat, or, Dismantle the empire. Every other book Johnson has written is much better and I urge you to buy and learn from every one of them. That's a demonstration of my respect as well as my hope that this review does not cost him or his wife a dime.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on September 14, 2010
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This author, Chalmers Johnson, has a long history of being right about how US foreign policies have been badly flawed for decades. He broght up to date the term Blowback which was first mentioned in a CIA report in 1953, but most certainly was symbolized by 911.
This book recaps the record and suggests it is vital that we review the history of flawed outcomes from our imperial war-making and our world wide web of military bases that constitute an empire.
Ever since the American Presidency became truly imperial under LBJ, we have been treated to an endless parade of majestic media images--meetings, speeches and other events which likely would have made Mark Twain cringe. We increasingly kowtow to the office as if its occupant were somehow operating under the Divine Right of Kings.
But how have our Imperial Presidents performed on national security?
Truly badly. Pushed by the fear of not appearing strong on national defense, one by one they felt into the arms of the arms manufacturers who were the darlings of our military.
A number of other writers have eloquently echoed Johnson's perspicacious prognostications about building our empire. For example, Andrew Bacevich in his book, Washington Rules: America's Path To Permanent War, describes the role of two key architects of that empire: Allen Dulles, who planned the Bay of Pigs disaster (which cost him his job), and General Curtis LeMay who drove the Strategic Air Command to obtain nuclear weapons could have blown the planet to smithereens many times over.
Bacevich's book by a 20-year military officer, now a professor at Boston University, ranges over the decades since WWII to describe the process whereby America became an Empire, developing what Bacevich calls the "sacred trinity"--global military presence, global power projection and global intervention as exemplified by Korea, Vietnam and finally the Bush-contrived "preventive war" in Iraq.
Another author who dedicates the book to Johnson, The American Way of War: How Bush's Wars Became Obama's, by Tom Engelhardt, offers a little-heralded paperback masterpiece of only 216 pages which should enlighten anyone who has not already come to the sad conclusion that the US has turned into a dangerous empire.
From its first line, author Engelhardt sets the tragic scene: ''War is Peace' was one of the memorable slogans on the facade of the Ministry of Truth or Minitrue in 'Newspeak' the language invented by George Orwell in 1948 for his dystopian novel, 1984". [America's Tragic Descent into Empire, July 9, 2010]
From there Engelhardt's readers are tutored in how our fear of attack was obsessively co-opted by our government and its willing military suppliers.
All these authors plausibly describe the spread, like an octopus. of America's presence around the world, in the form of over 700 military bases--most in places where our security clearly wasn't then and/or is not now at stake.
In retrospect our forays into Korea, Vietnam and now in the Middle East, proved that war was not the answer. The cost in human lives and treasure and the escalating threat of terrorism cry out for a new evaluation of our present imperial policies, But they have been embraced by all Presidents since WWII--including Obama, who has now bought into Bush's ultimate folly, continuing that "preventive war" in Iraq with no real end to our occupancy there and around the world in sight. For example, we have built our largest overseas embassy in Bagdad and have other large permanent military facilities in Iraq.
As in Vietnam, these authors predict the US will eventually come to the point of withdrawal, after the loss of hundreds of lost lives on both sides later and trillions in wasted money. Johnson predicts bankruptcy if we do not. In fairness, all Obama's predecessors since WWII have folded to the wishes of the powerful military-industrial complex, about which President Eisenhower warned us in 1961.
Of these three, it is my view that Chalmers Johnson's Dismantling The Empire: America's Last Best Hope represents the best overview of how we got where we are.
His most dramatic recommendation--do away with the CIA--may never get traction, but his section on "The Legacy of the OSS" (the OSS was shut down in September 1945 and the Central Intelligence Agency started in 1947) should be enough to persuade most readers that our government should hasten to shut down this incompetent agency, which has been allowed total secrecy on how it has wasted our tax dollars (between $44 and $48 billion a year) and covered up dangerous and outrageous initiatives after they have failed. (Johnson's analysis of "Charley Wilson's War" should be mandatory reading for all Americans.)
Yes, we lost 3000 lives on 9/11, plus over 4,000 men and women in the current wars. But we killed three million in Vietnam, then hundreds of thousands in Cambodia and now hundreds of thousands in the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars, including many women and children.
Our Cold War motivations may have had some validity at an earlier time. But the alleged threats that prompted our military escalations clearly need reassessment now.
Looking back on the recent dreary ninth Anniversary of 9/11, and at the decades of bad policies which preceded that "blowback" (a term from a 1953 CIA report updated by Chalmers Johnson), we are reminded of what Pogo said long ago: "We have met the enemy and he is us."
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on September 23, 2010
I would have given this 5/5 for the timeliness and importance of the authors' message, and the data he marshalls to make his case, but Johnson has a proclivity for digressions (what the Japanese call "snakes' legs"--unnecessary appendages) which distract the reader and do not benefit his exposition. But perhaps that's to be expected, as this book actually consists of a collection of articles, all from the last decade.
In a nutshell: America must emulate the British, lose its empire and shed its enormous military systems, or equivalently, find a way to overpower and discard the military-industrial complex. The chapters serving to make this case are all must-reads.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on November 13, 2010
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
This is my first Chalmers Johnson book. While I thoroughly enjoyed and would award 5 stars for his cogent, well supported arguments and observations, I did not enjoy the format.
Johnson deconstructs our military bureaucracy to reveal self defeating imperialism, profiteering, and profligate spending, among other trends he identifies as threatening to the well being of the US. He argues eloquently that no country in history has been able to remain democratic and economically provide for its civil society, while simultaneously maintaining a military empire abroad. He analyzes in depth the fiscal consequences of the US attempt to do so, and the resulting financial catastrophe that we are just beginning to see unravel. He demonstrated irrefutably how self defeating and unsustainable our present course is, and argues that we take the gentler path of voluntarily scaling back our empire rather than waiting for it to collapse under financial implosion and/or military defeat.
These are the common threads that run through the book, however, they are presented in a series of essays that originally appeared on a news/commentary website to which he contributes. While the essays are, in and of themselves, generally fantastic, they don't work cohesively very well as a book beyond the fact that the same basic themes are repeated. The repetition in numerous essays of the same statistics can get old. Also, despite the common themes, the topics do sometimes jump around abruptly, though the editors did try to arrange them in a logical way. I must not have read the description well enough to realize this was the case, so my expectations were colored by the fact that I thought I was buying an actual book, rather than a collection of short pieces.
In summary: 5 stars for content, 1 star for selling a bunch of essays I could have read online as a book =)
31 of 37 people found the following review helpful
on August 23, 2010
With style and insight Chal Johnson lights up the policy atmosphere in Washington, DC. This is a great collection of essays, some repetition with Blowback, but not so much that it doesn't warrant reading. Johnson's disquiet and dismay at the stupidity of American policy is not borne from 'anti-American sentiments', or a man living on the left. Johnson, a former Nixon Republican, officer serving in Korea and intellectual comes to his views from experience, reflection and clear analysis. Read this book, you wont' be disappointed.
16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Five ENGROSSING Stars! In this series of up-to-date essays, author, historian, and political commentator Chalmers Johnson (Blowback, Second Edition: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire (American Empire Project) gives an up-to-date extensive investigative assessment of our American imperialistic tendencies and realities. In a very frank manner, he looks at recent American presidential administrations and their policies which have resulted in our far-flung empire of over 700 military bases consuming billions of dollars spent on personnel and equipment to sustain those bases and presumably our national interests and security. He also looks at how the military-industrial complex and Congress promote these activities in a form of false "military Keynesianism" that produces just the opposite effect of the overall success it promises the country and the economy, as our power and effectiveness actually wanes. At a time when the author says we have a smaller number of combat brigades, ships, and aircraft, the military budget is spiraling upwards, putting us in a position of "losing our democracy for the sake of keeping our empire" based on four dynamics: "isolation, overstretch, the uniting of local and global forces opposing imperialism, and in the end bankruptcy."
Beginning with the Clinton Administration and going through Obama's "war presidency", author Johnson takes stock of how we got into the current situation thru our hubristic idealism, our "imperial presidency", and the current, ultimate failure of constitutional checks and balances in reining in our expanding military budget. Beyond this we are facing "blowback" for our military adventurism from local and global forces opposing imperialism who have been directly and negatively impacted by the actions of the USA. The history lesson giving the run up from "Charlie Wilson's War" to the rise of Osama bin Laden to the 9-11 attacks to the current messy wars we face in Afghanistan and Iraq is particularly informative, but he goes far past this giving an arresting look at how our general and specific international policies have negatively affected individual countries, leaders, and the world in general over a substantial period of time. Particular emphasis is placed on CIA blunders around the world and over the decades while the agency promotes an aura of success for itself. Then he gives 10 recommendations on "Dismantling The Empire", some of which I believe are laudable but difficult to achieve in "liquidating" our imperial assets. HIs recommendation with regard to the CIA is not realistic. The book ends with a chilling warning: I hope our leaders get the messages from this extensive missive and act on it as "our last best hope". This fascinating book from the American Empire Project is highly-informative, very opinionated, frankly stated, deeply researched, and "Highly Recommended". Five INFORMATIVE Stars! (This review is based on a Kindle download in Mac, IPhone, and "text-to-speech" modes.) (The other books in the Chalmers Johnson Blowback trilogy, besides the aforementioned Blowback second edition book itself, are: Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic (American Empire Project) and The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic (The American Empire Project)
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on September 22, 2010
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Chalmers Johnson has developed an ever more freewheeling style that is now far removed from the sort of academic history he began his career writing. In any case, he was "deeply bored" (1) by his academic specialty.
No historical determinist, Johnson sees nothing inevitable in the direction taken by the U.S. since 9/11. He is firmly in the mainstream, paying no heed to the 9/11 Truth movement or more radical critiques of American politics (Sheldon Wolin's Democracy Incorporated is cited respectfully, but these essays do not incorporate that book's insights).
Johnson succeeds in stringing together these disparate essays, written over a period of six years, into a coherent argument. But he gives short shrift to the hopes raised by his title, contenting himself with a bare-bones list of ten ways to begin dismantling the empire tacked onto the final chapter. Congress is never mentioned in the list, yet in previous books Johnson identifies Congress as the only institution that could effectively accomplish changes he desires, admitting such a development was "difficult to imagine" (The Sorrows of Empire, p. 312). Here, in a book published less than three months before important midterm elections, he never addresses the problem of reforming Congress. Thus while Dismantling the Empire is an effective critique of U.S. imperialism and militarism, it is of little value as a guide of how to oppose it, and its title is so misleading as to constitute deceptive advertising.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on February 3, 2011
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
I agree with almost everything Chalmers Johnson believes but I felt duped when I discovered that this book is nothing but a compilation of articles he wrote over the past 7 years! I actually went back and re-read the reviews I'd read prior to purchasing the book to see if that fact was revealed anywhere and it wasn't. All but the introduction and a few articles are available online for your reading pleasure. This was the second book (the other was Noam Chomsky's latest) I've purchased in which a well-known and beloved writer has abused his followers to earn a buck.