665 of 695 people found the following review helpful
on April 1, 2004
Am I the only one who thinks the the rest of his countryman are nuts? For the past 60 years and three generations, Americans have been led to believe that that spending billions for the Defense of the country is not only necessary but patriotic.
Forget conspiracy theories and ideological agendas, just contemplate one fact: The USA spends more on military and intelligence funding in 2004 than it has spent at any one time in history. Fourteen carrier groups to defeat the two remaining countries of the axis of evil, N. Korea and Iran? 750 and counting military bases outside the USA? However, the government tells us it is powerless to defend the country against an attack from a terrorist group with WMD??? So, the next time you watch television and the commentator tells you why we need another aircraft carrier, more tanks, more F-16's, etc., ask yourself: Who are we defending ourselves against? And, as Chalmers Johnson points out, follow the money!
This book is an excellent primer on how our beloved country is being led down the road to ruin by a group of people who are lining the pockets of themeselves and their friends and supporters. All of this is being done in the name of Democracy, Freedom and Globalization. But, why do we want to liberate people who sit on oil while those countries being ruthlessly exploited and practcially enslaved are ignored since they can contribute little or nothing to the "world economy" (pick any poor third world country)?
This review is written by a conservative American, cold war supporter and US Navy veteran (like Chalmers Johnson)who believes in the old Republic (when is the last time you heard that word mentioned in the era of the imperial presidency). Forget whether you are democrat or republican, take the blinders off and seek the truth, excellently told by Chalmers Johnson.
150 of 156 people found the following review helpful
This double-spaced book is an indictment of American militarism and unilateralism, and it merits reading by every citizen. It loses one star to a lack of structure and sufficient references to a broader range of supporting literature, and to the author's tendency to go "a bridge too far" in blaming the CIA for everything and in assuming that our troops and their families are somehow enjoying their "luxurious" overseas deployments.
It may be best to begin the review where the author ends, by agreeing with the case he makes for the potential collapse of America if the people fail to take back the power and restore integrity and participatory democracy to the Congress. Absent a radical reverse, four really bad things will happen to America: 1) it will be in a state of perpetual war, inspiring more terrorism than it can defeat in passing; 2) there will be a loss of democracy and constitutional rights; 3) truthfulness in public discourse will be replaced by propaganda and disinformation; and 4) we will be bankrupt.
It merits comment that today, as I read and reviewed the book, which documents over 725 US bases around the world, many of them secret, there is a public discussion in which the Pentagon is acknowledging only 400 or so bases to exist.
There is a considerable amount of short-hand history in the book that can be skimmed rapidly--from the roots of American militarism in the Spanish-American war, to the non-partisan efforts of both Clinton and Bush fils to establish a military base structure in Arabia and in Central Asia.
The author provides a number of worth-while commentaries on war crimes and associations with genocidal acts and repressive dictators on the part of Henry Kissinger, Wes Clark, James Baker, Dick Cheney, and other mostly Republican "wise men" associated with the oil companies of America.
On pages 100-101 he draws on a number of authoritative sources to note that the casualty rate for the first Gulf War was close to 31% (THIRTY-ONE PERCENT) due to the exposure of the 696,778 veterans serving there being exposed to depleted uranium rounds and other toxic conditions *of our own making*, with 262,586 of these consequently falling ill and being *officially* declared to be disabled by the Veteran's Administration. I have no doubt that there will be an additional 100,000 or more disabled veteran's coming out of Gulf War II. These disabilities are multi-generational. Veterans disabled in the Gulf have higher possibilities of spawning children with deformities "including missing eyes, blood infections, respiratory problems, and fused fingers."
The author excels, I believe, in bringing together in one book the combined costs and threats to the American Republic of a military that on the one hand is creating a global empire that is very costly to the US taxpayer and very threatening to everyone else; and on the other hand, is creating anti-democratic conditions within the United States, to include frequent and expensive preparations for dealing with "civilian disorder conditions" here at home.
The author also excels in discussing both the collapse of US diplomacy (today the Pentagon manages 93% of the international relations budget, the Department of State just 7%), and the rise of private military companies that he carefully lists on page 140--Halliburton, Kellogg Brown and Root, Vinnell, Military Professional Resources, DynCorp, Science Applications Corporation, BDM (now TRW), Armor Holdings, Cubic, DFI, International Charter. There are more--they are all "out of control" in terms of not being subject to Congressional oversight, military justice and discipline, or taxpayer loyalty.
In the middle of the book the author examines the change in the roles of the military from its World War II and post-Cold War missions to five new missions that have not been cleared with the American people: 1) imperial policing; 2) global eavesdropping; 3) control of petroleum fields and channels; 4) enrichment of the military-industrial complex; and 5) comfortable maintenance of the legionnaires in subsidized compounds around the world, such that numbers could be justified that could never be maintained in garrison within the USA.
On page 164 the author notes most interestingly that China is among the greatest purchasers of fiber-optic cable in the world (thus negating much of NSA's 1970's capabilities), and on page 165 he discusses, with appropriate footnotes, how the US, UK, Canada, and Australia are circumventing the prohibitions against monitoring their own people by trading off--the Canadians monitoring British politicians for the British, the British monitoring US politicians, etcetera.
Among the strongest sections of the book is the detailed discussion of America's love affair with ruthless dictators (and Muslim dictators at that) in Central Asia, all in pursuit of cheap oil our privilege elite think they can control. Of special interest to me is the author's delicate dissection of the vulnerability of any Central Asian energy strategy, and his enumeration of all the vulnerabilities that our elite are glossing over or ignoring.
Summing it all up, the author attributes US militarism and the Bush fils "doctrine" to "oil, Israel, and domestic politics", and he bluntly condemns it all as "irrational in terms of any cost-benefit analysis." Quoting Stanley Hoffmann, an acclaimed international relations theorist, he condemns Bush's "strategy" (as do I) as "breathtakingly unrealistic", as "morally reckless", and as "eerily reminiscent of the disastrously wishful thinking of the Vietnam War."
This is a fine book. Read widely enough, it has the potential for constructively informing the popular debate that is emerging despite all efforts by the Administration and its corporate cronies to suppress discussion [e.g. MoveOn.org's $2M in cash for a Superbowl ad has been rejected by CBS on the grounds of being too controversial]. Despite a few rough edges, I believe the author represents a body of informed scholarly and practical opinion such as I have tried to honor with my many non-fiction reviews, and I hope that everyone who reads this review decides to buy the book.
54 of 55 people found the following review helpful
on August 28, 2004
C. Johnson wrote a dark and very revealing book.
He shows forcefully that the US became a militarist empire, which eroded the democratic underpinnings of the constitutional empire and transfered power tot the Pentagon and the intelligence agencies. His thesis is profusely illustrated: US military and intelligence interventions worldwide, the enormous defense budget and hundreds of US bases all over the planet.
This imperialistic behaviour has also an economic veil (neo-liberalism), which the author castigates as 'rich countries kicking the ladder to keep poor nations from catching up' via the WTO and the IMF.
But this brutal behaviour brings with it inhuman sorrows.
First, a state of perpetual war leading to more terrorism. For the author, the war on terrorism is only a cover-up for imperialist expansion. Further, in order to maintain its empire, the US pays off client regimes, uses state terrorism, forces 'regime changes' via coups, assassinations, economic destabilizations and invasions, with millions of civilian casualties. As an example, his analysis of the Iraq war is brilliant. Its ultimate goal is imperialistic: the creation of permanent military bases in this country in order to dominate the Middle East.
Secondly, a loss of democracy and constitutional rights. The 'echelon' system dwarfs George Orwell's Big Brother. After September 11, the US acts as if it is no longer bound by international laws.
Thirdly, information becomes disinformation, mere propaganda and glorification of war and power. Orwell's newspeak 'war is peace' became a reality with the notion of 'preventive war'. In the Iraq war, the US troops allegedly bombed deliberately the offices of international journalists (the trial is still going on) showing clearly that it is not interested in free speech (objective reporting).
Fourth, perhaps ultimately bankruptcy by financing an overstretched unproductive army and colossal military investments. The author quotes judiciously Robert Higgs who characterizes this military-industrial complex as 'a vast cesspool of mismanagement, waste and criminal conduct.'
On top of the tremendous margins on military contracts, he quotes the deputy inspector general saying 'that adjustments of 4,4 trillion dollars in the Pentagon books were needed, and that 1,1 trillion dollars were simply gone.' Mind-boggling.
The author also torpedoes the fable that the US caused the collapse of the Soviet Union and that it won the Cold War.
Ultimately the author is very pessimistic about the state of the Union and believes that the actual situation is irreversible!
This is a brutal but necessary book. A must read for all those interested in the future of mankind.
251 of 276 people found the following review helpful
on January 16, 2004
Essential truths are discomforting but critically important while there may still be time to save the United States from its worst enemies - antidemocratic ruling cliques that are part of the military industrial-complex (now oil and communications industries included) at its worst. This is not the pabulum and propaganda of most of the press and right wing think tanks or corporate media but rather a tough minded well documented and truly scary reality that most would prefer to ignore -- at their own risk. The American Empire of Bases, hidden expenses and private corporate military contracts, together with a plethora of lies make for mass hallucination that has but an inkling of truth. One chapter could stand on its own as a great description of recent economic and military history "What Happened to Globalization?". The chapter also effectively highlights how mythological is the "free market capitalism" that is ideology and far from reality. It is clear that the problem is not new - but also that is far worse than ever with the megalomaniac boy emperor and his irresponsible quest that is destroying everything from the Constitution to the economy. The practical first step - not mentioned directly by Johnson - is to get Bush out of office and work for major restoration of the promise of America for the people and the world rather than a few oil and war profiteers. Wake up! Pray there is still time to restore our country! Johnson does not say it in so many words but it becomes clear that no one has done more to make enemies and reduce our security than this President and his administration. After reading this one is not likely to be a total 'sucker' like Goering's public that could be manipulated by freaking people out about their enemies abroad and calling anyone who disagrees unpatriotic or traitorous.
48 of 49 people found the following review helpful
on March 29, 2006
In The Sorrows of Empire Chalmers Johnson has compiled and constructed a brilliant analysis of United States military policy and its history, as well as evolution, of imperialistic tendencies. The book presents an overwhelming amount of superbly done research as well as an incredible array of statistical information to buttress the arguments that Johnson wishes to promulgate. Most importantly, Johnson is providing an increasingly unaware world population, especially and most-importantly that of the American contingent, with information and analysis that is being progressively more and more silenced by mass media conglomerations and the U.S. Government's Orwellian methods of knowledge distribution and censorship.
Johnson starts his book off with a very thorough examination of the history of U.S. foreign policy, roots of imperialism, and an illumination behind much of the motivation for classic shifts in the direction of the U.S. methods of international engagement. I found this section of the book to be one of the more interesting, because it provided me with some foundational understanding for some of the current direction of U.S. policy. Because most American students and laypeople's understanding of U.S. history regarding the military and foreign policy is antiseptically produced by major U.S. publishing companies, information that Johnson elucidates in The Sorrows of Empire is as vitally important to an educated public as it is unsettling to the average persons' consciousness.
Branching out from his discussion of history, Johnson moves on to discuss the sheer numbers involved regarding the U.S. military hegemony. Unfortunately, as much as these chapters of the book are extremely important to a full understanding of U.S. militarism, I found that the sections are so full of facts and statistical information that they began to read like VCR manuals. However, in wading through the numbers, estimates, pricings, and projections, I've found that not only did I not know how pervasive the military establishment was, but that the world is essentially dotted and monitored by an unfortunate web of U.S. military concrete and steel.
I was perhaps most impressed by the fact that Johnson did not stop at the exposing of the military establishment at home and abroad, but rather he continues to discuss the terrible inequality and hardship that has come as a result of current neoliberal tendencies in the form of domestic and international economic free-market fundamentalist policy design. Johnson goes on to discuss how the U.S.' hypocritical non-market funding and deployment of the military regime cooperates with the self-benefiting establishment and execution of institutions such as the World Trade Organization, World Bank, and International Monetary Fund to provide for world-wide economic hegemony of the ruling Capitalist economic states. While, this may not be the way he describes it, at its fundamental level this is the contradictory relationship the U.S. and its "allies" in exploitation have chosen as the most effective route to strip-mining the Third World.
The Sorrows of Empire in its final pages appeals to the American people to attempt to at the very least be mindful of the reality with which it has presented throughout the previous analyses. Unfortunately, Johnson does not provide much in the way of useful suggestion to create positive global social change and eradicate the massive military establishment, but he does warn that it may soon be too late, if it is not already, to redirect the course of the United States away from that of all previous empires. Johnson warns the American public against the possibilities of casting the die and crossing the Rubicon, and we should all be listening.
47 of 48 people found the following review helpful
on February 20, 2004
After 9/11, I found myself more inclined to feel traditionally patriotic, maybe nostalgic: I've had flags pasted on my car windows since that day, and I smile and nod affirmatively at people in the Service when I pass them in the airport. I felt safe that my govt. was globally righteous.
After reading this book, I'm a skeptic again. I want to learn more. I can't watch Fox news and feel innocent and self-satisfied anymore. I'm mad because I can't support politics-as-usual as a reflex. I worry about Republocrats and Demopublicans being part of a staged act, a little like professional wrestling.
Where's the Press been for the last 20 years? Where are they today? Today, they spend their time reporting on Michael Jackson and Scott Peterson. With politics, they talk only about candidate debating performance and past blemishes. The only story they report is the one about the requisite poise for winning the grand Beauty Contest. No education, debate or catharsis here for us groundlings at all.
Maybe we're all just being fed rations from the elite, like we're their sheep. Then the Tax Man shorns us sheep: He takes our treasure to build bases and pursue economic policies that ultimately export jobs, so those left with jobs can buy $40 DVD players (that break) from people who make $400 a year. We grow it all back. We don't make too much trouble. We get more DVDs, and we can afford a trip for Mouse Ears every few years: Life is not that bad. The USA is the greatest country in the World.
Maybe it's really as bad as a bad B-Movie script: It's all about keeping the world safe for CEO pay raises, a return of profitable stock options and the preservation of the world view and tenure of a cadre of career bureaucrats whose intellectual incest allows them to avoid the truths of our day because society's herd behavior and a mute Fourth Estate provide them no stimulus to do otherwise.
This book paints a portrait that inspires skepticism and curiosity. You can tell the writer has an opinion, but who cares: I know my opinions are going to be reformed as they become more informed. The book is a public service.
"And though your very flesh and blood
Be what your eagle eats and drinks,
You'll praise him for the best of birds,
Not knowing what the eagle thinks."
- Edwin Arlington Robinson
35 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on October 14, 2004
This book, in many ways, was an unwelcome but eye opening slap in the face. Just weigh these facts for a minute, the second largest military budget in the world, Russia's, is 14 % ...FOURTEEN PERCENT.. of the U.S military budget. The U S military budget is equal to the next 28 ...TWENTY EIGHT countries. And those figures do no include Intelligence budgets or in fact the ongoing cost of Iraqi wars at all.
U S bases abroad, it easier to list the countries that do not have a U S 'Military Presence' than the ever lengthening list that are strong armed into providing them. Think Japan, Okinawa, South Korea, Germany etc., they simply don't want us there. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, the bases there are virtual fortresses to protect the U S soldiers from the population they are theoretically there to "protect".
This book pulls no punches, the U S is generally perceived abroad now as an economic and military bully, an Imperialistic Power that no longer obeys any rules of international or national law in the pursuit of its own agendas. To quote Pogo, "We have met the enemy and he is us."
There is a conscious parallel drawn to the decline of the Roman Republic and the founding of the Roman Empire. History does have a way of repeating itself.
It is very disquieting what a slippery slope we now find ourselves on, the irony of the subjugation of the basic civil liberties at home - the Patriot Act makes a travesty of the Bill of Rights, to bring "Democracy" to the people of Iraq and Afghanistan.
While the still ongoing 'hunt' for Osama Bin Laden has managed to create a network of bases that also just happens to encircle most of the world's proven oil supplies seems almost cynical beyond comprehension.
Chalmers Johnson clearly fears the power of the Military Industrial complex that, in his opinion, permeates the very fabric of the American government. Both this book and his earlier one 'Blowback' takes a harsh view of the unholy partnership (revolving door, basically) between the military and the industries that support and supply them - Dick Cheney is just the most notable (or the most flagrant).
So the fact that this book is a bitter pill to swallow for most readers is not surprising. That we have seemingly sown the seeds of our own distruction leaves a sour tang when the book is finished. Hubris is not pretty.
41 of 42 people found the following review helpful
on February 17, 2005
Author Chalmers Johnson became an intellectual superstar after his last book, Blowback (2000), predicted the horrors of 9-11. With this book, Johnson traces the origins of the US Empire, first as a by-and-large economic empire (via the World Bank and WTO), and now as a military empire, under neoconservative leadership. Scarier than the neoconservative agenda, though, has been the bipartisan acceptance of a growing, secretive military-industrial complex (MIC), with it's "black budgets" and lack of accountability and public oversight. Johnson traces the history of the MIC all the way to the present, showing how it expanded in the post-cold-war era to become a de facto "empire of bases", ruling the world through unilateral gunboat diplomacy. For those Americans who have enjoyed the benefits of global economic and military hegemony, life seemed good until 9-11. Now, it seems rather insecure, to say the least. And, according to Johnson, the road ahead is only going to get bumpier, as our foreign policy increases global insecurity, both social and economic, as well as the threat of terrorism. The argument Johnson weaves together is highly cogent and well-researched. Most remarkable for a book of such leaning, he only utilizes the most rigorously conservative sources. A powerful, necessary read for anyone concerned about the fate of the nation. For further reading, I suggest A People's History of the U.S., by Howard Zinn.
33 of 33 people found the following review helpful
I'm worried about my ability to do this important book justice. It's at various time enraging, astonishing, and depressing ... and always enlightening. It makes connections and draws together pieces I had never seen as a whole before. It's probably one of the most significant books I've read in several years.
Chalmers Johnson is relentless in describing the rise of characteristic aspects of militarism in the United States and showing how the rise of an American Empire is undermining what remains of our Constitutional republic. And while many writers are employing the word "empire" these days, Johnson builds a solid case, with historical parallels, for the precise application of the term to the situation we face today.
Far more than the old Eisenhower definition of "the military-industrial complex," the American Empire is a web of military power, industrial and trade dominance, media influence, domestic pork-barrel politics, international arm-twisting, and more. And while the Bush Administration has made the military unilateralism more evident than before, Johnson shows how its roots thread solidly through the Clinton years as well, and back several generations. His chronicle of America's increasing military presence in bases across the globe, and the arrogance with which we built this imperial archipelago, is itself very disturbing.
Some may criticize Johnson for his book's gloomy outlook and its substantive lack of a "what can we do about it?" element. But at the risk of sounding self-righteous, there are still so very many people who need to wake up and see the picture Johnson is painting. So long as Americans remain kirbywildered (to coin a term perhaps understandable by Seattle talk-radio listeners) by avowals of American exceptionalism and military triumphalism, it's enough to do all we can to help Johnson's message, and that of others like him, be heard and understood.
Read this book. You may not like it. You may not agree with it. But you need to see how he's put the pieces together and decide how you're going to respond.
55 of 58 people found the following review helpful
on October 25, 2004
It's obvious that Gabriel Jones, whose "review" is below, has not read the book. The book has nothing to do with embracing socialism or leftist thought. Johnson criticizes Democratic and Republican administrations and attributes the fall of the USSR to the inherent weaknesses of its socialist system.
This is a valuable book about reality and its consequences. It is about how a corrupt and rigged political system has abandoned America's founding principles and has subjected the country to needless wars and terrorism. The result could be the destruction of the good life we've enjoyed.
The citizenry had better wake up fast or else it will soon be too late. Ignoring the truth won't change it.