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The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic First Edition Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 133 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0805070040
ISBN-10: 0805070044
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Since September 2001, the United States has "undergone a transformation from republic to empire that may well prove irreversible," writes Chalmers Johnson. Unlike past global powers, however, America has built an empire of bases rather than colonies, creating in the process a government that is obsessed with maintaining absolute military dominance over the world, Johnson claims. The Department of Defense currently lists 725 official U.S. military bases outside of the country and 969 within the 50 states (not to mention numerous secret bases). According to the author, these bases are proof that the "United States prefers to deal with other nations through the use or threat of force rather than negotiations, commerce, or cultural interaction." This rise of American militarism, along with the corresponding layers of bureaucracy and secrecy that are created to circumvent scrutiny, signals a shift in power from the populace to the Pentagon: "A revolution would be required to bring the Pentagon back under democratic control," he writes.

In Sorrows of Empire, Johnson discusses the roots of American militarism, the rise and extent of the military-industrial complex, and the close ties between arms industry executives and high-level politicians. He also looks closely at how the military has extended the boundaries of what constitutes national security in order to centralize intelligence agencies under their control and how statesmen have been replaced by career soldiers on the front lines of foreign policy--a shift that naturally increases the frequency with which we go to war.

Though his conclusions are sure to be controversial, Johnson is a skilled and experienced historian who backs up his claims with copious research and persuasive arguments. His important book adds much to a debate about the realities and direction of U.S. influence in the world. --Shawn Carkonen

From Publishers Weekly

In his prescient 2000 bestseller, Blowback, East Asia scholar Johnson predicted dire consequences for a U.S. foreign policy that had run roughshod over Asia. Now he joins a chorus of Bush critics in this provocative, detailed tour of what he sees as America's entrenched culture of militarism, its "private army" of special forces and its worldwide archipelago of military "colonies." According to Johnson, before a mute public and Congress, oil and arms barons have displaced the State Department, secretly creating "a military juggernaut intent on world domination" and are exercising "preemptive intervention" for "oil, Israel, and... to fulfill our self-perceived destiny as a New Rome." Johnson admits that Bill Clinton, who disguised his policies as globalization, was a "much more effective imperialist," but most of the book assails "the boy emperor" Bush and his cronies with one of the most startling and engrossing accounts of exotic defense capabilities, operations and spending in print, though these assertions are not new and not always assiduously sourced. Fans of Blowback will be pleased despite Johnson's lack of remedies other than "a revolution" in which "the people could retake control of Congress... and cut off the supply of money to the Pentagon."
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Metropolitan Books; First Edition edition (January 13, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805070044
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805070040
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.4 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (133 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #898,068 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
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.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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.
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Format: Hardcover
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'.
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