Chalmers Johnson: the “Blowback” man

He was an Asian scholar, the most pre-eminent of his time, a true blue cold warrior who broke ranks with his country when it failed to change after the Fall of the Wall and the Russian empire. His three latest books have become dispassionate classics on the subject of Amertican hubris, exceptionalism This trilogy described in detail the pathologies of a democratic country caught in an imperialist trap. The three books are “Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire” (2000), “The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic” (2004) and “Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic” (2006).

The first of these three books Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire deaot with the American failure to adjust its thinking and ec onomy after the Russian empire dismantled itself under Gorbachev. Why, he asked, are we paying for 700 strategic bases around the world if we no longer have an “evil empire” to confront? The answer for Johnson was starightforward—and the reason why the US still has the largest embassy in the world in Baghdad—global hegemony; strategic bases to control the global fuel supply and allow Americans to consume in unsustainable ways.

The constant meddling in other countries affairs created “blowback”—unintended consequences—like 9/11. Chalmers pointed out that the self-styled leader of the democartaic world had in recent decades abndoned its reliance on international institutions, diplomacy and international law. It had in effect, to the hidden surprise and ignorance of most of its citizens, become a bully relying on military power and unsavory alliances with local thugs. This created “Blowback.” and part of the answer to “Why do they hates us” cthe common plaint after 9/11.


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