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Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire (American Empire Project) First Edition Edition

4.1 out of 5 stars 146 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0805075595
ISBN-10: 0805075593
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  • Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire (American Empire Project)
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Editorial Reviews

Review

Blowback is expansive thinking . . . a straight-talking analysis of America's global conduct during the Cold War and since, and what we're going to pay for it.” ―The Nation

“Johnson is on to something . . . It is indeed a new post–Cold War ballgame, and Johnson's warning, if it were heeded in Washington, would help keep America safe from the temptation of untrammeled power.” ―Newsday

About the Author

Chalmers Johnson, president of the Japan Policy Research Institute, is a frequent contributor to the Los Angeles Times and The Nation. Author of the forthcoming The Sorrows of Empire, and numerous books on Japan and Asia, including MITI and the Japanese Miracle and Japan: Who Governs?, he lives in southern California.

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Product Details

  • Series: American Empire Project
  • Paperback: 268 pages
  • Publisher: Holt Paperbacks; First Edition edition (January 4, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805075593
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805075595
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (146 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #349,487 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I'm of two minds about Chalmers Johnson's Blowback. On the one hand, it's probably the best critical introduction to US foreign policy in Asia. On the other hand, Johnson too often chooses polemics over nuance and has a somewhat confused approach to imperialism and what to do about it.
The first thing to know is that both the title and subtitle are misleading. This is a book almost exclusively about US imperialism in East and Southeast Asia. It rarely explores other regions or what's usually termed blowback. What Johnson does do is much more valuable - he explains America's military and economic policies toward Asia without getting stuck in the stultifying prose of security experts or the bewildering technical jargon of economists.
It's not a pretty picture. We see the destructive legacy of American bases in Okinawa and elsewhere, the US complicity in the South Korean military's atrocities on Cheju (after World War II) and Kwangju (1980), the US arming and training of Indonesia's death squad military, the relentless push for a militarized Asia by the American military-industrial complex, and the horrible consequences of American economic priorities. We also learn a good deal about the recent history and politics of the region's major states.
Johnson's strength is in recounting the specificities of US foreign policy; he's much weaker at an overall understanding of imperialism. He seems to think that American policymakers have naively built up the economic strength of their Japanese, Korean, and now Chinese competitors by focusing on maintaining their own military power. This is an old critique, resting on the notion that imperialism hurts the imperialists.
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Format: Paperback
"Blowback" is an important and timely critique of America's over-extended and obsolete empire not from a moral perspective but from practical considerations of the nation's future well being. The term "blowback" is derived from a CIA reference to American foreign policy decisions that generate unforeseeable, negative consequences. For example, following the Gulf War in 1991, the United States stationed more than 35,000 soldiers in Saudi Arabia to deter any further hostility from Iraq. An unexpected consequence of this decision was the sudden fomenting of intense hatred toward America on the part of radical Islamic fundamentalists including Osama Bin Laden.
Johnson argues that while most great powers exploit their empires, America, is actually exploited by its own. During the Cold War the United States justifiably sought to create a buffer of Pacific satellite nations to cope with the threat of Soviet expansion in Asia. While this may have been an effective deterrent, it also came with a price. According to Johnson, the United States effectively bribed Japan with favorable economic conditions that fueled phenomenal growth in that country while largely destroying the manufacturing base in America. Although this may have been a prudent strategy during the Cold War, Johnson asks why the United States continues to sacrifice its productivity and living conditions at home in order to maintain a troop presence in Asia.
Where American troops were once stationed abroad as a buffer against Soviet expansion, they are now used to influence the countries they occupy or to train governments in counter insurgency and political repression. Johnson points out that in several cases American intervention on behalf of a repressive government merely turned American protectorates into implacable enemies.
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Format: Paperback
In this hard-hitting analysis, Chalmers Johnson explains the goals and the hidden (from its inhabitants) functioning of the US hegemon: an empire based on military power and the use of US capital and markets to force global economic integration on US terms at whatever costs to others.

On the military front, the US population forgot G. Washington's warning: `avoid the necessity of those overgrown military establishments, which are to be regarded as particularly hostile to Republican Liberty.'

The US intelligence and military establishment is close to being beyond civilian control and becoming an autonomous system, whose colossal budget with its juicy cost-plus contracts is only controlled by vested ideological and financial interests. This book shows clearly that US presidents, like Carter or Clinton, had not the power to oppose the Pentagon's designs: perpetuate and develop the Cold War structures in order to consolidate its power. The ends justify all means as numerous intelligence or military interventions in the world show, which sponsored dictatorships, genocidal campaigns, war crimes, state terrorism and paramilitary death-squads. 90 % of all US weapons were sold, not to democracies, but to human right abusers.

On the economic front, globalization US style provoked economic disasters in South-Asia and South-America, throwing millions of people into poverty. However the US still urged its `allies' to buy weapons! This kind of globalization, which provoked still more economic inequality, will not be forgotten for a long time (see W. Bello: Dilemmas of Domination.).

By overstretching its financial means (weapon systems are profligate economic waste), the US risks a long lasting downfall of the dollar.
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