A paean—perhaps premature, perhaps overdue—for a republic-turned-empire.
For those of a blue-state bent, the midterm election of 2006 may seem to have changed things for the better. But political scientist and liberal commentator Johnson (Blowback, 2000, etc.) isn’t biting. “I believe,” he writes, “that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney have led the country into a perilous cul-de-sac, but they did not do it alone and removing them from office will not necessarily solve the problem.” The problem, writ large, is the post–World War II transformation of America into a super-state served by client governments around the world whose citizens, for various reasons, may not be happy about the association. (Hence the “blowback” of which Johnson has written at length elsewhere.) Secretively seeking to further America’s unacknowledged imperial aims, government officials authorize actions that do not befit a republic supposedly ruled by checks and balances. Take former CIA head William Casey, for instance, who “saw political Islam and the Catholic Church as natural allies in covert actions against Soviet imperialism.” It was Casey, in Johnson’s assessment, who was responsible for the United States’ strange-bedfellows alliance with the Islamic fundamentalists who morphed into the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Talk about blowback—but there’s more, the author shows, as he examines imperious American “status of forces agreements” here; the Bush administration’s mishandling of international events there; and the eerie resemblances between our time and that of Augustus Caesar.
A sobering read, though Johnson offers a solution to America’s imperial woes: Follow Britain’s lead and jettison both empire and the world-policeman role. Given the alternatives, it seems an idea worth exploring.