Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire (American Empire In this incisive and controversial book, Chalmers Johnson lays out in vivid detail the . Get your Kindle here, or download a FREE Kindle Reading App. Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire (American Empire Project) Now available in paperback, Chalmers Johnson's take-no-prisoners account of the Get your Kindle here, or download a FREE Kindle Reading App. In this incisive and controversial book, Chalmers Johnson lays out in vivid detail the dangers faced by our overextended empire, which insists.
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The term "blowback," invented by the CIA, refers to the unintended results of American actions abroad. In this incisive and controversial book, Chalmers Johnson. Johnson was an early revisionist who called attention to the special Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire. by Chalmers Johnson. Chalmers Ashby Johnson (August 6, – November 20, ) was an American author and . three are referred to as The Blowback Trilogy. Johnson summarized the intent of the Blowback series in the final chapter of Nemesis. . Print/export. Create a book · Download as PDF · Download as PDF · Printable version.
E-mail us: talk npr. The title, it is a character from Greek mythology. Nemesis was the Greek goddess of revenge, of retaliation for hubris, for people who - through their arrogance and loss of understanding of the way the world works - commit crimes that are unforgivable. She was a very important figure - the sister of Erato, the goddess of love poetry. She's the one who led Narcissus to the pond, and he looked in and saw his face, fell in love with it, fell into the pond and drowned.
She's a rather fierce figure. I believe, I contend in the book, that she is already present in our country, just biding her time before she carries out her divine mission. Maureen calls us. Maureen's calling from Corvallis in Oregon. I am just fascinated by this because I read "The Sorrows of Empire", and I'm also a retired military intelligence officer who was station in Okinawa My question is this - and I'll take it off air - what key indicators should we be looking for?
Because I think a lot of people are suspicious right now that, you know, we're close to our demise as an American republic.
What would Mr. Johnson say we should be looking for to really see that it is, perhaps, imminent? Probably the surest sign that we were - that the United States as a world power had come to an end would be if the oil-producing states started demanded that they be paid in Euros - in anything other than dollars. Or that the ministers of finance of China and Japan, who are our creditors - we live well, well beyond our means, more than any other nation - if they began to do everything - and they're already trying it - but to get rid of dollars, to dump them as fast they could.
This would mean the bankruptcy of the United States. It would not be the literal end of the United States any more than bankruptcy meant the end of Germany in or China in or Argentina just a few years ago in and 2.
But it would mean a catastrophic loss of our level of living. Now there's a lot of other things worse that could happen, but I - my wife keeps saying to me, come up with something optimistic, will you? Soundbite of laughter Dr. It's bankruptcy. JOHNSON: I think that's true, that there's no doubt that an American college student taking Econ would be instructed as the hardest theory we've got, that the United States should have collapsed some time ago with current account deficits of six percent of GDP, indebted hugely to China.
That's referring to the leading character in Tennessee Williams' "Streetcar Named Desire" in which - as you'll remember Blanche Dubois lived on the kindness of strangers Would it not be bankruptcy for China and Japan, too?
Who would buy their products? That is to say it would be a howling global recession.
My contention is, though, they would start coming out of it very fast because they have worked - they are economic powerhouses. We don't manufacturer that much in this country anymore except weapons and munitions. They've been absorbing the costs of American profligacy by using it to build up their industrial strength. Japan is an economic powerhouse. China - clearly by , barring unforeseen events - will be the world's largest and the world's richest country.
It is by now virtually unavoidable.
We have to start learning to adjust to it. We should have - for a long time ago. But the problems as I see it - if we just do it also on this subject - it's insidious the way in which we are becoming dependent on the military industrial complex in exactly the way we were warned against it by our first president, George Washington, in his farewell address, in which he said the greatest enemy of liberty is standing armies, and it's a particular enemy of republican liberty.
And then, of course, Dwight Eisenhower in , when he invented the phrase military industrial complex and warned us of the dangers of becoming dependent on a huge weapons industry with vested interests in regular wars and things of this sort.
Now we see it's perfectly logical for any secretary of defense to want to close military bases that are no longer needed, that sometimes go back to the Civil War. Save our base. Stop it. We need those jobs. Appreciate it. If you'd like to join us: Or send us e-mail: talk npr.
I'm Neal Conan. We'll be back after the break. Our guest today is Chalmers Johnson. The title of his latest book speaks for itself. You can read the first chapter at our Web page, npr. Chalmers Johnson is our guest this hour. He's president of the Japan Policy Research Institute. If you have questions about why he thinks imperial ambitions will destroy our prosperity and our democracy: , TALK.
E-mail is has changed over the years. Just a little background. At one point, you were an advisor to the Central Intelligence Agency. I've made no secret of the fact that I was a cold warrior.
I regarded the Soviet Union as a menace. In retrospect, I still do. But it was a series of events - John Maynard Keynes, the great English economist, when once accused of being inconsistent, said when I get new information, I alter my position accordingly The new information was the unexpected, unwarned collapse of the Soviet Union in , and then to me the astonishing development that almost instantly our government set out to find a replacement enemy.
Without even catching its breath, it had to keep the military industrial complex working. It went after China, terrorism, drug lords, even instability - anything to keep it going.
It's off the beaten track. In , I was invited to the island by the governor after a terrible incident in in which two Marines and a sailor had abducted, beaten and raped a year-old girl. It produced the worst demonstrations against the United States since we signed the Security Treaty. I was, frankly, shocked by what I saw: 37 American military bases located on an island smaller than Kauai in the Hawaiian Islands. The smell of the Raj was everywhere.
Racism was in the air. It was disgusting. My first reaction to it was that this is exceptional, that the press just doesn't get down here. Nobody pays attention. This is a military paradise much like the Soviet forces have enjoyed all these years in East Germany. As I began then, however, to study the well over American military bases around the world, I discovered, no, Okinawa was not unusual.
It was, unfortunately, typical. I did serve in the armed forces myself.
I know something about it. I believe that we - on the evening news every night, the networks romanticize our soldiers. You've got to understand service in the armed forces today is not an obligation of citizenship as it was when I was in the armed forces. Since , it has been a career choice. The officer corps loves that. It makes it much easier to deal with than with conscripts, because conscripts know why they're there and are forever watching to see how their officers behave, what's going on, whether the strategy makes any sense, or things of that sort.
But I don't see any sense The Army of was rife with drug addiction among other things - indiscipline, and it just was in the process of losing a major war.
With an Army of - expeditionary force of about , troops armed to the teeth, backed up by all the air power and naval power you could ask for, to be fought after five years to a standstill by maybe 20, insurgents armed with improvised devices - I think there's ample reason why, again, we come back to the failure that interests us so much. It is what happened to Congress? What happened to its constitutional obligation to attempt oversight on a military budget that is larger than all other military budgets on earth put together - once you add in everything for nuclear weapons to wounded soldiers and foreign military sales and things of this sort that are not in the Pentagon.
In that respect, I believe it is time to observe that our military is very largely out of control, protected by secrecy. Bear in mind, 40 percent of the defense budget is black. Nobody gets to see it. And it's been that way for a long time, regardless of Article I of the Constitution that guarantees the citizens information on how their tax dollars ultimately were spent.
The only serious - there was no oversight at all until the Church Committees in the s. As we now see regularly, the oversight that we do have is largely farcical.
It is the president's private army, as I try to argue in "Nemesis", and no president since Truman - once they've been told that they have a private army that can do anything they order: overthrow a government, teach terrorism, assassinate somebody - no president has ever yet failed to use it. This is Jason, Jason with us from Tucson, Arizona. JASON: Lots of the things that I see are during the Republic's time, that they usually used excuses to get into the unintelligible of their empire, but they're always justified.
And in the end, you have lots of civil wars, and one man who came out - Augustus, who became the first emperor - and he called himself the first among equals because I think people were trying - were giving up liberties for security. And I just think the question is would that -something like that can happen here, do you think?
Would people give up those liberties for security when there's that kind of chaos? I mean, you're quite right. Washington, D. It's a haunting parallel that we are approaching this direction.
And you may -like Gibbon himself - admire the young Octavian who became the god Augustus Caesar, but it is always worth reminding ourselves what followed.
There was Tiberius, who retreated to Capri with a covey of his small boys for his sexual pleasure, followed by a genuine horror, Caligula, who was then followed by a drooling idiot, Claudius, who was assassinated - poisoned by his wife in order that she could bring to power her son by an earlier marriage, namely Nero.
Now I mention this simply to say whatever you may think of the Roman Empire, this wasn't good government compared with the world of Roman liberty under the Republic, with its elaborate checks and balances, two councils, the ability to veto each other, the - all of the words that come - concepts that are written into our Constitution - fixed term limits, periodic elections, things of this sort.
These were extremely important. And they were all lost as a result of transforming the armies of the Roman Republic from citizen armies, raised to defend the country in a case of a genuine emergency, to standing armies - to the armies that George Washington warned us against - because these large standing armies with long service and then the need to find work or find security for the troopers afterwards, that these were indispensable to establishing the empire, protecting the empire, policing the empire.
There is no way to have an empire without a military industrial complex, a military establishment. Yet it goes on, you suggest, really, from World War II on. And there have been swings of the pendulum one way or another. You recalled the Church Committee earlier, this after a period of A lot of people would say that maybe he's gone too far, but isn't this just the pendulum swinging?
Don't we have tendencies towards presidents arrogating power to themselves, and slowly, Congress will take it back? It's something that I would think any ordinary American historian at an American university peddles all the time, that it's a self-correcting situation. My argument is that this is, in the Eisenhower sense, different. You see, the interesting thing about Eisenhower's warning - it was so strident.
It wasn't diplomatic. He was scared to death about what had been created during his administration, and that it was going to dominate us - that military Keynesianism would come to exercise a powerful influence over our society. I agree with this. Whereas traditional empires maintained control over subject peoples via colonies, since World War II the US has developed a vast system of hundreds of military bases around the world.
There's no doubt about that. I believed the Soviet Union was a genuine menace. I still think so. The result of this militarism as distinct from domestic defense is more terrorism against the US and its allies, the loss of core democratic values at home, and the eventual crumbling of the American economy. Of four books he wrote on this topic, the first three are referred to as The Blowback Trilogy.
Johnson summarized the intent of the Blowback series in the final chapter of Nemesis. The concept " blowback " does not just mean retaliation for things our government has done to and in foreign countries. It refers to retaliation for the numerous illegal operations we have carried out abroad that were kept totally secret from the American public.
This means that when the retaliation comes — as it did so spectacularly on September 11, — the American public is unable to put the events in context. So they tend to support acts intended to lash out against the perpetrators, thereby most commonly preparing the ground for yet another cycle of blowback.
In the first book in this trilogy, I tried to provide some of the historical background for understanding the dilemmas we as a nation confront today, although I focused more on Asia — the area of my academic training — than on the Middle East.
I began to study our continuous military buildup since World War II and the military bases we currently maintain in other people's countries. This empire of bases is the concrete manifestation of our global hegemony , and many of the blowback-inducing wars we have conducted had as their true purpose the sustaining and expanding of this network.
We do not think of these overseas deployments as a form of empire; in fact, most Americans do not give them any thought at all until something truly shocking, such as the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay , brings them to our attention.
But the people living next door to these bases and dealing with the swaggering soldiers who brawl and sometimes rape their women certainly think of them as imperial enclaves, just as the people of ancient Iberia or nineteenth-century India knew that they were victims of foreign colonization. Specifically, I believe that to maintain our empire abroad requires resources and commitments that will inevitably undercut our domestic democracy and in the end produce a military dictatorship or its civilian equivalent.