Tuesday, August 23, 2011


The Empire

A book by Chalmers Johnson

Chalmers Johnson is professor emeritus at the University of California, San Diego. Chalmers Johnson minces no words on his concerns with a U.S. overemphasis on the military. "The failure to begin to deal with our bloated military establishment and the profligate use of it in missions for which it is hopelessly inappropriate will . . . condemn the U.S. to . . . imperial overstretch, perpetual war, and insolvency, leading to a likely collapse similar to that of the former Soviet Union."

The 2008 Pentagon inventory includes 190,000 troops in 46 nations and territories, and 865 facilities in more than 40 countries and overseas U.S. territories. In just Japan, we have 99,295 connected to U.S. forces living there. The only purpose is to provide control over as many nations as possible. Britain, Germany, France, The Netherlands, and Japan have given up their empires, and we should too. Per Nick Turse ('The Complex: How the Military Invades our Everyday Lives') we could net $2.6 billion selling our base assets at Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean and another $2.2 billion for Guantanamo Bay - just two of those facilities. The Pentagon also has 234 golf courses around the world, 70 Lear Jet airplanes for generals and admirals, a ski resort in the Bavarian Alps.

Meanwhile, we continue trying to pacify Afghanistan, seemingly oblivious to the fact that Britain and the Soviet Union previously failed. Even Pakistan cannot command the Pashtun tribes in its own area; worse yet, its army trains Taliban fighters in suicide attacks and orders them to fight American and NATO soldiers in Afghanistan, while extorting huge amounts of money from Saudi Arabia, Persian Gulf emirates, and the U.S. to train 'freedom fighters.' Our linkage, however, with anti-Muslim Israel and India makes full Pakistani commitment impossible.

Another problem is that our overseas troops often bring sexual violence against local women and girls, 83% of which were not punished between 2001-08 in Japan. Our uniformed 18-24 year-olds have become 'ugly ambassadors' for the U.S. around the globe. As for U.S. military females, 90% of the rapes are never reported.

Johnson asks "What harm would befall the U.S. if we closed those bases that we garrison around the world?" Our prior predictions of disaster (falling Asian dominoes) proved false after the Vietnam War, and it was Vietnam, not the U.S. that put an end to the murderous reign of Pol Pot in neighboring Cambodia. Imagining that China would want to start a war with the U.S., even over Taiwan, would mean a dramatic change of personality for that country. The author believes that no evidence exists to suggest U.S. efforts advance global peace - in fact, we make it less likely (eg. Iraq), and our weapons and tactics (eg. cluster bombs, 10 million unexploded mines in Afghanistan, and 'surgical strikes') enrage locals. As for why few of the world's billion+ Muslims like the U.S. - estimates range from 500,000 to 1 million Iraqi children were killed as an outgrowth of U.S. sanctions. Johnson also goes on to document U.S. blocking contracts to improve Iraqi water and other utilities just prior to our invasion. Then there are the matters of torture and secret renditions - how did these acts reduce terrorism?

Statistics compiled by the Federation of American Scientists analyzed by Gore Vidal show 201 military operations initiated by the U.S. against others between the end of WWII and 9/11 - none of which directly resulted in the creation of a democracy. These included Iran (1953, 1979), Guatemala (1954), Cuba (1959-present), Congo (1960), Brazil (1964), Indonesia (1965), Vietnam (1961-73), Laos (1961-73), Cambodia (1969-73), Greece (1967-73), Chile (1973), Afghanistan (1979-present), El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua (1980s), Iraq (1991-present), Panama (1989), Grenada (1983). (The Korean War is a notable positive exception.)

Another example - instead of radical demobilization after the Soviet Union's demise, we attempted to shore up Cold War structures in Europe, Asia, and Latin America, and repeatedly irritated both Russia and China. Space has become militarized. Per Johnson, Carter's national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski and former CIA director Gates made it clear that U.S. aid to the mujaheddin began six months prior to the Soviet invasion, and helped provoke it.

The author recommends cutting the number of dependents, mercenaries, and civilians stationed overseas, along with their expensive facilities, stop being the world's largest exporter of arms and munitions and educating Third World militaries in torture and coups, abolish ROTC (militarizes campuses) and the CIA (history of dismal intelligence and operational failures), and bring our troops home.

Though not included in "Dismantling the Empire," a recent 'Newsweek' article also pointed out waste in the Pentagon - Secretary Gates estimates there are 30 levels between himself and line officers, and expects by 2020 for the U.S. to have 'only' 20X China's number of advanced stealth fighters; other researchers recently found 530 deputy assistant secretaries of defense, compared to 78 in 1960.

Bottom-Line: Chalmers Johnson wishes he could be more optimistic about the future; unfortunately, he believes it is time to lower the flag on the 'American Century' (actually only 70 years - 1940-2010). I would also suggest we stop supporting Israel's genocidal colonialism and apparent assist in turning the Meditaranian into an Israeli lake - an enormous burden that has led to the Arab Oil Embargo, 9/11, and our current never-ending War on Terror in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Syria and endless Homeland Security often bufoonish efforts to accomplish the impossible - 'terrorist-proof' America.

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