The author of the best-selling Blowback Trilogy reflects on America's waning power in a masterful collection of essays.
In his prophetic book Blowback, published before 9/11, Chalmers Johnson warned that our secret operations in Iraq and elsewhere around the globe would exact a price at home. Now, in a brilliant series of essays written over the last three years, Johnson measures that price and the resulting dangers America faces. Our reliance on Pentagon economics, a global empire of bases, and war without end is, he declares, nothing short of "a suicide option".
Dismantling the Empire explores the subjects for which Johnson is now famous, from the origins of blowback to Barack Obama’s Afghanistan conundrum, including our inept spies, our bad behavior in other countries, our ill-fought wars, and our capitulation to a military that has taken ever more control of the federal budget. There is, he proposes, only one way out: President Obama must begin to dismantle the empire before the Pentagon dismantles the American Dream. If we do not learn from the fates of past empires, he suggests, our decline and fall are foreordained. This is Johnson at his best, delivering both a warning and an urgent prescription for a remedy.
©2010 Chalmers Johnson (P)2010 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
“This timely book from accomplished historian Johnson (Blowback) collects previously published articles that make succinct, hard-hitting attacks on what the author perceives as America's ruinous imperial follies. Johnson is especially critical of the U.S. penchant for covert operations run by the CIA—‘the president's private army’—and its enthrallment to what Eisenhower called the military-industrial complex…. compellingly presented.” (Publishers Weekly)
Irrational, but True
Rarely do I listen to a book where I agree with everything the author is saying for the most part, but find myself annoyed to the point where I didn't want to finish. I made it through the whole book, but only out of tenacity.
I love Chalmers Johnson, and I was a big fan of Blow Back several years back. I'm politically much in line with Johnson's conclusions, but his approach here is disappointing for several reasons.
First, the book takes the form of several essays rather than a single coherent and comprehensive volume. There's a lack of flow from chapter to chapter. There's no sense of Johnson starting the reader out at the bottom of the argument, and building up the argument with facts, examples, and analysis to a climax. Here, one would expect the center of the book to be several clear, concise recommendations, along with a plan for just how "dismantling the empire" might play out on the world stage and in the American political arena. But I didn't get that. There are a bunch of conclusions such as America should disband the CIA and replace it with the State Department's intelligence apparatus, but these aren't well connected enough to feel like a prescription for action and he often repeats them. Lots of information in chapters is redundant and tiresome. "You already said that..."
Second, I'm annoyed by the need to constantly rehash the first 3 books. They felt like shameless plugs and much of the information is duplicated from those earlier works.
Third, the tone is that of a diatribe. Johnson seems more interested in engaging in polemics that making an academic argument. Lots of loaded language and declarative statements. Some of it understandable. But not a book that is likely to convince the unconvinced. So, then what's the point? Preaching to the quire might feel satisfying, but in the end it's just masturbation. The people who need convincing will not be swayed by prose that comes off as pompous, preachy, and self-righteous.
Fourth, Johnson makes many conclusions that are not well supported and which rest of grand assumptions about historical inevitability and causal relationships that should hardly be taken for granted. For example, a neo-realist would tear Johnson's argument apart, even the argument is in essence perfectly compatible with a realist interpretation and even though Johnson himself often professes that his advice is mere prudence.
All in all, not the book I was hoping for.
It is an ok read but unlike other books in it's class discussing ALL the steps that America is taking to fall away from greatness, this is an obvious hit piece against the military plain and simple, should be titled I don't like the military and here is why.
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