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Chalmers Johnson wrote this piece for Tom’s Dispatch in 2009.  I think the prescription remains as accurate, perhaps even more so in today, as we witness the untrammelled bellicose behaviour of the US on the international stage.  The interesting part of the current republican administration’s method is that, in fact, the bluntly brutish bulling behaviour of the American empire is not a new feature of the American geopolitical strategy.  Trump knows not of the (small) mailed fist in the velvet glove, as we witness US foreign policy initiatives bash their way across the globe imprudently applying sanctions and threats.  It’s just that this imperial behaviour has almost been cloaked in diplomatic language and carefully scrubbed for domestic consumption in the past.  It is just so much easier to see now.

The Era of the American Empire is coming to a close.  I just hope that they realize they can drawn down voluntarily(ish) as Britain did, and not choose option B – internal dissolution and collapse – which is the route the Soviet Union chose.

Here are what Chalmers Johnson believes to be the way out for the USA.

 

“1. We need to put halt to the serious environmental damage done by our bases planet-wide. We also need to stop writing SOFAs that exempt us from any responsibility for cleaning up after ourselves.a

2. Liquidating the empire will end the burden of carrying our empire of bases and so of the “opportunity costs” that go with them — the things we might otherwise do with our talents and resources but can’t or won’t.

3. As we already know (but often forget), imperialism breeds the use of torture. In the 1960s and 1970s we helped overthrow the elected governments in Brazil and Chile and underwrote regimes of torture that prefigured our own treatment of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan. (See, for instance, A.J. Langguth, Hidden Terrors [Pantheon, 1979], on how the U.S. spread torture methods to Brazil and Uruguay.) Dismantling the empire would potentially mean a real end to the modern American record of using torture abroad.

4. We need to cut the ever-lengthening train of camp followers, dependents, civilian employees of the Department of Defense, and hucksters — along with their expensive medical facilities, housing requirements, swimming pools, clubs, golf courses, and so forth — that follow our military enclaves around the world.

5. We need to discredit the myth promoted by the military-industrial complex that our military establishment is valuable to us in terms of jobs, scientific research, and defense. These alleged advantages have long been discredited by serious economic research. Ending empire would make this happen.

6. As a self-respecting democratic nation, we need to stop being the world’s largest exporter of arms and munitions and quit educating Third World militaries in the techniques of torture, military coups, and service as proxies for our imperialism. A prime candidate for immediate closure is the so-called School of the Americas, the U.S. Army’s infamous military academy at Fort Benning, Georgia, for Latin American military officers. (See Chalmers Johnson, The Sorrows of Empire [Metropolitan Books, 2004], pp. 136-40.)

7. Given the growing constraints on the federal budget, we should abolish the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps and other long-standing programs that promote militarism in our schools.

8. We need to restore discipline and accountability in our armed forces by radically scaling back our reliance on civilian contractors, private military companies, and agents working for the military outside the chain of command and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. (See Jeremy Scahill, Blackwater:The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army [Nation Books, 2007]). Ending empire would make this possible.

9. We need to reduce, not increase, the size of our standing army and deal much more effectively with the wounds our soldiers receive and combat stress they undergo.

10. To repeat the main message of this essay, we must give up our inappropriate reliance on military force as the chief means of attempting to achieve foreign policy objectives.

Unfortunately, few empires of the past voluntarily gave up their dominions in order to remain independent, self-governing polities. The two most important recent examples are the British and Soviet empires. If we do not learn from their examples, our decline and fall is foreordained.”

Tough sell politically speaking, but necessary if the US wishes to be an important power in the world.

 

imperialladderkicking  I’m almost done with Sorrows of Empire so I will stop deluging the blog with quotes, but I cannot forgo Johnson’s explanation of the mutating monster that Neo-liberalism is.  I’d like to reproduce the entire chapter because it is that good, but instead we’ll look at how insidious neo-liberalism is when it comes to being critiqued by the intelligentsia residing in centres of Western power.

   “It is critically important to understand that the doctrine of globalism is a kind of intellectual sedative that lulls and distracts its Third World victims while rich countries cripple them, ensuring that they will never be able to challenge the imperial powers.  It is also designed to persuade the new imperialists that “underdeveloped” countries bring poverty on themselves thanks to “crony capitalism”, corruption, and a failure to take advantage of the splendid opportunities being offered.  The claim that free markets lead to prosperity for anyone other than the transnational corporations that lobbied for them and have the clout and resources to manipulate them is simply not borne out by the historical record.  As even the Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, a former director of research at the World Bank, has come to acknowledge, “It is now a commonplace that the international trade agreements about which the United States spoke so proudly only a few years ago were grossly unfair to countries in the Third World… The problem [with globalists is] … their fundamentalist market ideology, a faith in free, unfettered markets that is supported by neither modern theory not historical experience.

[…]

   There is no known case in which globalization has led to prosperity in any Third World country, and none of the world’s twenty-four reasonably developed capitalist nations, regardless of their ideological explanations, got where they are by following any of the prescriptions contained in globalization doctrine.  What globalization has produced, in the words of de Rivero, is not NICs (newly industrialized countries) but about 130 NNEs (nonviable national economies) or, even worse, UCEs (ungovernable chaotic entities).  There is occasional evidence that this result is precisely what the authors of globalization intended.

   In 1841, the prominent German political economist Friedrich List (who had immigrated to America) wrote in his masterpiece, The National System of Political Economy, “It is a very common clever device that when anyone has attained the summit of greatness, he kicks away the ladder by which he has climbed up, in order to deprive others of the means of combing up after him.”  Much of modern Anglo-American economics and all of the theory of globalization are attempts to disguise this kicking away of the ladder. 

 

-Chalmers Johnson, Sorrows of Empire. p.262.

So really, colonialism by any other name…  I’m so glad we’ve progressed so far.

We have truly breached new moral ground, made the world a safer place (for oligarchic capitalism), and ensured the continued well being of right class of people.

 

For more on ‘ladder kicking’ see Cambridge’s Ha-Joon Chang and his post on this very topic.

 

 

It seems like so few people understand the context of empire and how it affects American foreign policy.  Let’s take a quick peek at Greece and how we treat fellow democracies when it comes to maintaining ‘interests of state’.

  “In the case of Spain there is some plausibility to the argument that the United States had to deal with the leader that it found there, even if he happened to be a fascist.  But the story was different in Greece.  We helped bring the militarists to power there, and the legacy of our complicity still poisons Greek attitudes toward the United States.  There is probably no democratic public anywhere on earth with more deeply entrenched anti-American views than the Greeks.  The roots of these attitudes go back to the birth of the Cold War itself, to the Greek civil war of 1946 – 49 and the U.S. decision embodied by the Truman Doctrine to intervene on the neofascist side because the wartime Greek partisan forces had been Communist-dominated.  In 1949, the neofascists won and created a brutal right-wing government protected by the Greek secret police, composed of officers trained in the United States by the wartime Office of Strategic Services and its successor, the CIA. 

[…]

LBGgreece

All you need to know from U.S. President Lyndon Baines Johnston about promoting peace and democracy abroad. – “Fuck your parliament and your constitution. We pay a lot of good American dollars to the Greeks. If your prime minister gives me talk about democracy, parliament, and constitution, he, his parliament, and his constitution may not last very long.”

In February of 1964, George Papandreou was elected prime minister by a huge majority.  He tried to remain on friendly terms with the the Americans, but President Lyndon Johnson’s White House was pressuring him to sacrifice Greek interests on the disputed island of Cyprus in favour of Turkey, where the United States was also building military bases.  Both Greece and Turkey had been members of NATO since 1952, but by the mid – 1960’s the United States seemed more interested in cultivating Turkey.  When the Greek ambassador told President Johnson that his proposed solution to the Cyprus dispute was unacceptable to the Greek parliament, Johnson reportedly responded, “Fuck your parliament and your constitution.  We pay a lot of good American dollars to the Greeks.  If your prime minister gives me talk about democracy, parliament, and constitution, he, his parliament, and his constitution may not last very long.”  And they did not.  

The CIA, under its Athens station chief, John Muary, immediately began plotting with Greek military officers they had trained and cultivated for over twenty years.  In order to create a sense of crisis, the Greek intelligence service, the KYP, carried out an extensive program of terrorist attacks and bombings that it blamed on the left.  Constantin Costa-Gavras’s 1969 film, Z, accurately depicts those days.  On April 21, 1967, just before the beginning of an election campaign that would have returned Papandreou as prime minister, the military acted.  Claiming they were protecting the country from a communist coup, a five-man junta, four of whom had close connections with either the CIA or the U.S. military in Greece, established one of the most repressive regimes sponsored by either side during the Cold War. 

   The “Greek colonels”, as they came to be known, opened up the country to American missile launch sites and espionage bases, and they donated some $549,000 to the Nixon-Agnew election campaign.

[…]

  The leader of the junta, Colonel George Papadopoulos, was an avowed fascist and admirer of Adolf Hitler.  He had been trained in the United States during World War II and had been on the CIA payroll for fifteen years preceding the coup.  His regime was noted for it’s brutality.  During the colonel’s first month in power some 8,000 professionals, students, and others disliked by the junta were seized and tortured.  Many were executed.  In 1969, the eighteen member countries of the European Commission of Human Rights threatened to expel Greece – it walked out before the commission could act -but even this had no effect on American policies. “

-The Sorrows of Empire – Chalmers Johnson. pp. 204 – 206

Just in case you were unsure of how realpolitik worked and in need of your levels of depression and ennui topped up.

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