Most Americans would very likely deny that their government is a global empire, horribly destructive to national security, liberty, and wealth. But whatever we call this U.S. system of ubiquitous military bases, satellite regimes throughout the world, ever-growing “defense” budgets, and an ever-expansive international presence in military hardware and personnel, it is probably even more controversial to say that the whole apparatus cannot be sustained forever and that the pressing question is not whether it will be dismantled but whether its dismantling will happen disastrously and violently or deliberately and peacefully.
One of the greatest critics of U.S. empire in our time was Chalmers Johnson (d. November 20, 2010), whose entire Blowback trilogy — comprising Blowback (2000), The Sorrows of Empire (2004), and Nemesis (2007) — is must-read material for all students of American foreign policy. The first title in the series, published well before 9/11, introduced the public to the concept of foreign retaliation in response to U.S. intervention abroad. The term was coined by the CIA to describe such events as the Iran hostage crisis, a response to the 1953 CIA coup that ousted Mohammad Mosaddegh and put the shah back in power in Iran. The book seemed all the more relevant in the wake of the September 11 attacks, as its ominously prophetic warnings had gone tragically unheeded prior to those attacks. But to this day, most Americans ignore the lessons of blowback to the peril of American liberty and world peace.
Johnson’s latest book is Dismantling the Empire: America’s Last Best Hope, a collection of his post–9/11 essays taking on the empire, the history of U.S. interventionism, and the military-industrial complex, and pleading with his fellow Americans to recognize that the whole system must come to an end.