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Dismantling the Empire: America's Last Best Hope (American Empire Project) Hardcover – Bargain Price, August 17, 2010
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—Jonathan Freedland, The New York Review of Books
“The role of the prophet is an honorable one. In Chalmers Johnson the American empire has found its Jeremiah. He deserves to be heard.”
—Andrew J. Bacevich, The Washington Post Book World
—The Los Angeles Times (on Nemesis)
—The Boston Globe (on The Sorrows of Empire)
“Stunning and shocking. . . Blowback is a wake-up call for America.”
—John Dower, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Embracing Defeat
About the Author
Chalmers Johnson, president of the Japan Policy Research Institute, is the author of the bestselling books Blowback, The Sorrows of Empire, and Nemesis, which make up his Blowback Trilogy. He has written for the Los Angeles Times, the London Review of Books, Harper's Magazine, The Nation, and TomDispatch.com.
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Top Customer Reviews
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."
While Johnson makes it clear that the U.S. has been on a course of self destruction, he is too optimistic that the American people and its leaders will ever eventually change their ways.
Johnson gives away his unfounded optimism in the wisdom of the American people in his introduction when he states that President George W. Bush will "go down in history as the worst American president ever".
Johnson overestimates the intelligence of the American people and the honesty of future historians, especially those that write history for school children.
All one needs to do to disprove Johnson's over-optimism about President Bush's future legacy is to look at the high esteem to which the American people, and history, now hold President Ronald Reagan and President Harry Truman.
If history and historians repeat them self, and I am betting they will, then President George W. Bush will be written about and remembered by future genenerations as one of the "greatest presidents in American history" that kept the U.S. safe during one of the "most dangerous times in the history of the World".
President Bush's legend will be that he "Kept Us Safe" for eight years from the evils of terrorism.
Buy the book anyway and enjoy.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Essays range from 2004 to 2009. Thoroughly researched. Polemical, but not in a way that makes for bloated prose.Read more