THE SORROWS OF EMPIRE by Chalmers Johnson


Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic
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A Ciceronian indictment of our nation’s transformation from lone superpower to imperial bully.

“Like other empires of the past century,” writes Japan Research Policy Institute president Johnson (Blowback, 2000, etc.), “the United States has chosen to live not prudently, in peace and prosperity, but as a massive military power athwart an angry, resistant globe.” In the absence of rivals such as the Soviet Union and with the ascendance of an administration driven by crony capitalism, which spells an end to the cherished ideals of free enterprise and the leveling influence of the free market, the American state has become an analogue to ancient Rome. It employs, Chalmers writes, “well over half a million soldiers, spies, technicians, teachers, dependents, and civilian contractors in other nations,” extending Fortress America’s reach to every corner of the globe and, not coincidentally, enriching civilian enterprises that have been favored by insider trading within the Pentagon and State Department (think Halliburton) with fabulously lucrative contracts. Indeed, writes Johnson, there are something like 725 American bases abroad—probably many more, for that number is only what the Department of Defense acknowledges—with more added as client states in Central Asia and Eastern Europe join the American fold. What does this all mean? Perhaps a permanent military dictatorship one day, to extend the Roman model even farther. Certainly increased alienation between the US and the rest of the world, which is unlikely to shed tears when future iterations of 9/11 occur. What can be done? “There is one development that could conceivably stop this process of overreaching: the people could retake control of the Congress, reform it along with the corrupted elections laws that have made it into a forum for special interests, turn it into a genuine assembly of democratic representatives, and cut off the supply of money to the Pentagon and the secret intelligence agencies.”

Fat chance. And so, Johnson concludes this deeply unsettling essay, “the United States is probably lost to militarism.”

Pub Date: Jan. 13th, 2004
ISBN: 0-8050-7004-4
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Henry Holt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 2003


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