Sunday, November 28, 2010

Chalmers Johnson (1931-2010)

Historian and analyst Chalmers Johnson died November 20. He was an astute and informed critic of American imperial power. Dr. Johnson came by his knowledge first hand, as an analyst for the CIA and supporter of the Vietnam War. Unlike many of his colleagues, he learned from his experience and turned his talents to understanding and exposing the impact of America's national security state. His 2000 book, Blowback: the Costs and Consequences of American Empire,widely ignored when published, became a best-seller in the wake of September 11, 2001. Johnson was one of the few who could explain the logic and inevitability of the attack.

Much of what I've read of Chalmers Johnson I've read at TomDispatch. TomDispatch published Roberts' last article in August of this year. He was as sharp and incisive three months prior to his death as he was in 2000:
So where are we this August of 2010, with guns blazing in one war in Afghanistan even as we try to extricate ourselves from another in Iraq? Where are we, as we impose sanctions on Iran and North Korea (and threaten worse), while sending our latest wonder weapons, pilotless drones armed with bombs and missiles, into Pakistan's tribal borderlands, Yemen, and who knows where else, tasked with endless "targeted killings" which, in blunter times, used to be called assassinations? Where exactly are we, as we continue to garrison much of the globe even as our country finds itself incapable of paying for basic services?


Let me begin by asking: What harm would befall the United States if we actually decided, against all odds, to close those hundreds and hundreds of bases, large and small, that we garrison around the world? What if we actually dismantled our empire, and came home? Would Genghis Khan-like hordes descend on us? Not likely. Neither a land nor a sea invasion of the U.S. is even conceivable.

Would 9/11-type attacks accelerate? It seems far likelier to me that, as our overseas profile shrank, the possibility of such attacks would shrink with it.


If, however, we were to dismantle our empire of military bases and redirect our economy toward productive, instead of destructive, industries; if we maintained our volunteer armed forces primarily to defend our own shores (and perhaps to be used at the behest of the United Nations); if we began to invest in our infrastructure, education, health care, and savings, then we might have a chance to reinvent ourselves as a productive, normal nation. Unfortunately, I don't see that happening. Peering into that foggy future, I simply can't imagine the U.S. dismantling its empire voluntarily, which doesn't mean that, like all sets of imperial garrisons, our bases won't go someday.


I fear T.S. Eliot had it right when he wrote: "This is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a whimper."

Roberts admits that he is losing interest continuing to analyze and dissect the prospects for the U.S. over the next few years. That task will be ours.

Godspeed, Dr. Johnson . Your legacy is an inspiration.

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Blogger chris said...


10:44 AM  
Blogger Rez Dog said...

Right you are and thank you, Chris.

7:13 PM  
Blogger chris said...

You're welcome.
Looking forward to his new book which will, of course, never be mentioned by the very serious people who run things.

12:01 PM  

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