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Showing 1-10 of 37 reviews(4 star). See all 157 reviews
on June 10, 2015
An excellent primer on the US's Pacific empire. Professor Johnson's arguments are cogent and easily digestible, if not entirely pleasant to the taste. I highly recommend this book! It's a quick, uncomplicated read for a general audience (I only had to look up a handful of words) otherwise unfamiliar with the subterfuge and machinations of empire. The author's focus on the Pacific was both revelatory and embarrassing. The repeated comparisons of the US with the Soviet Union were unsettling. The author's evaluation of, and future predictions for more, blowback are disturbing, especially since it was penned prior to the tragic events of 9/11. The book utterly lacked maps and would've benefited from a couple of clarifying charts and at least one timeline, particularly concerning the recent history of China. I read, underlined, thoroughly annotated in the margins, and passed this book along to expand the thinking of fellow Americans.
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on June 15, 2010
If all you do is read the standard textbooks and listen to the platitudes that come out the mouths of our ruling class, you will never get the complete picture of "why they hate us." Former Cold Warrior Chalmers Johnson details how the national security apparatus set up during that era and the foreign policies implemented has laid the groundwork for most today's international troubles. "Blowback", a CIA term referring to the unintended consequences of polices that were usually kept secret from the American public, is detailed and explained in depth. Despite the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United States has not fully adapted to the post-communist era by rolling back militarism and government secrecy. America continues to maintain a global garrison of bases and relentlessly intervenes in the internal affairs of other countries openly and covertly. In Johnson's words, "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. The world is not a safer place as a result."

The one disappointment I had with this book was the lack of focus in the Middle East. Nevertheless, it is to be expected since the author is an East Asia expert and most of book focuses on American actions there.
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on June 5, 2016
Like everything else of Chalmers Johnson's, this book was full to bursting with information and insight. A very different look at the American Empire's overseas involvement that makes the Brits in India and Africa look like child's play.
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on January 12, 2016
As other reviewers noted, the subtitle of this book is a little misleading. The text is more focused on Asian-related blowback (DEF: the negative and unforeseeable consequences of American foreign policy) rather than all blowback (e.g. Vietnam or Israel). Overall, I found the reading to be really enjoyable and factual. It was for the most part objective. I think that the chapters could have been chopped up more because there were a few and sometimes they dragged on. This issue could have been better ameliorated with subtitles as well.

There is extensive coverage - and whole chapters dedicated to - of blowback in Okinawa Island, South Korea, North Korea, China, and Japan. Much is mentioned of other Asian countries like Taiwan, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, and The Philippines. China was examined at most politically, but also touched upon were it's cultural, moral, and financial tenets. The author warns of the incessant uprising of the post-communist Chinese society. Japan is dissected, primarily American imperialism in the country and it's Americanized economics.

American imperialism by definition(s) encompasses the whole spectrum of ways that the United States overreach their boundaries: U.S-owned Satellite states. American-influenced economics (e.g. The Plaza Accord and Japan). Stealth operations enacted by U.S. leaders that are undertaken by U.S. military. The millions of civilian death because of U.S. foreign policy. Etc.
The author draws many parallels on how American imperialism mirrors that of the Cold War Soviet Union, more specifically, the American imperialism in Southeast Asia compared to Soviet imperialism in Eastern Europe after WW2. Because of the induced imperialism, and the many lies concomitant with it, American distrust becomes prevalent in many other countries and ultimately many enemies are born out of dissent. The time period most covered in the text is the 1990s. The author concludes by warning about the consequences (blowback) of American foreign policy that await us in the 21st century. The author on the rare occasion gives his opinion on what the U.S. should do and how it would prepare for the latent blowback that awaits.

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Updated to correct my error--original words left to make an important point: that even very experienced CIA people are unaware of some of the very bad things that the author obliquely was referring to but did not document appropriately. New material below in brackets.

I found this book very much on target with its principal thesis, to wit, that the United States is too quick to take pre-emptory and often covert or illicit action against short-term threats, and that we pay a very heavy price over the long run for doing things like reinforcing despotic regimes, overturning anti-American regimes, and so on.
However--and I am one of those who first learned to admire the author when he was an authority, in the 1970's, on the causes of revolution--I found the presentation spotty, with errors of fact and perception in those areas where I have a solid background, specifically the U.S. Marine Corps on Okinawa, and the clandestine service of the Central Intelligence Agency. Neither of those two organizations is as evil or disorganized as the author seems to believe, and frankly, I found his bibliography with respect to both domains to be mediocre.
[Since reading this book I have been absorbed in a book not yet available in the US, Gold Warriors, by the Seagraves, and have been stunned by the crimes they document--to wit, the theft by the US, secretly and without the taxpayer finding out, of all the gold and other treasures looted by the Nazis and the Japanese during WWII, subsequently using this "black money" to fund global political corruption on a grand scale--all on the part of the U.S. Government, with specific assistance from the CIA, Treasury, and others. Their book comes with two CD-ROMS containing 60,000 documents in support. I am persuaded, and this book, among others I had forgotten on CIA money laundering and occasional drug running, causes me to credit Chalmers Johnson with more accuracy on his accusations than I in my naivete first appreciated. His documentation still leaves much to be desired, but I perceive that he is more on the mark than off.]
This is a helpful book. If it were the only one it would be important in its own right, but in the light of books such as Daniel Ellsberg's "SECRETS: A Memoire of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers," or Derek Leebaert's much more profoundly researched and documented "The Fifty-Year Wound: The True Price of America's Cold War Victory," it falls from the front rank to the second shelf.
Among the critical points where the author is original and heed must be paid, is in his evalution of competing forms of economic management, and his very strong condemnation of the manner in which the US tries to impose a specific form of capitalism on the Asian economies, to their great detriment.
His book reinforces concerns others have articulated with respect to administrative secrecy enabling terrible policies to be enacted in the name of the people; to the military-industrial complex and its negative roles in arming and inciting to repression selected military around the world; to US guilt in human rights violations, to include the provision of encouragement for repression in both Indonesia and South Korea; and with respect to the value of North Korea to those in the US who want to fabricate a case for an anti-missile defense that most informed people agree is absurd in its concepts and extortionary in its pricing.
I am quite glad I read this book, quite glad to be reminded of the brilliant long-term contributions of the author to the field of Asian studies and the causes of revolution, and certain that those who specialize in studies the pathology of power--especially of imperial power such as is now enjoyed by the United States, will find much food for thought in this book.
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on November 28, 2012
Well documented readale history of American arrogance and misconduct in the military industrial complex. Though dated at this point having been written prior to 9-11 it accurately predicted that the US was setting itself up for a terror attack by our exploits around the world.
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on October 27, 2000
Some people may rant and rave about this and that aspect of this book, but it is really a fine piece of scholarship. The whole point of this book is East Asia and America practice capitalism very differently. America has, due to the Cold War, persued a military course of action. Now that the Cold War has ended, America is having a difficult time shifting. During the Cold War America bullied, cajolled, pushed, and manouvered Asian countries to follow a certain course. With the fall of the Berlin Wall, America is now trying to shove its version of Capitalism down the throats of various Asian nations and in the process causing tremendous financial strains in Asia and fostering deep resentment there. This anger by many Asian nations could develop into some kind of revolt against America in the future. Hence America's short term policy of today may cause a "blowback" that will come back to bite America in the future.
Mr. Johnson challenges conventional thinking. He calls America an empire and after reading his well reasoned book, I agree. America is having a hard time shifting from its last 50 year role as the chief Cold Warrior to a more equal partner with Asia. It has difficulty in understanding that different peoples and cultures do business differently. America sometimes behaves like a bull in a china shop.
My only critism of BLOWBACK is his conclusion early on in the book of who caused the Pan Am flight to be blown up over Scotland. Ignoring that, the book gets better and better the further you read. If you want a quick education about Asia and how it operates in business and how the U.S. responds, read this book.
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on July 19, 2005
Johnson's book is an interesting reading for whoever is interested in international affairs. The title is too catchy for the content of the book. Blowback is the word used within the CIA to mean that something is having the wrong result. The subtitle alludes to the costs of American Empire. However, this book is not about CIA or espionage, and it does not blame Imperialism, either. The main thesis of the book is that military or economic powers have an international policy (of course, they have one), but that parts of that broad international policy, when not thoroughly studied, can have unintended consequences, and the people most affected can retaliate. The book goes on with many examples to refresh our memory. It is interesting that the book was first published in year 2000. A very interesting reading, highly recommended to all.
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VINE VOICEon September 26, 2010
Pretty terrifying insights into the CIA (who knew *NOT*), the United State's Imperialistic leanings and the flawed logic that drives them. I especially appreciated the author admiting the 1960s Hippies had more insight into Kissinger's true intentions than he did at the time. Not great bedtime reading but essential to figuring out how to shape our future foreign policies.
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on June 8, 2010
Blowback is a good starting point for being made aware of the costs & consequences of America's "empire-building" strategy. It might seem a bit dated but if the other books of Johnson's triology are read in sequence, Blowback is essential to the progression of the other two books. I enjoyed reading it & certainly recommend it.
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