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Chalmers Johnson
American political scientist and historian
(1931-2010)



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Instead of demobilizing after the Cold War, the United States imprudently committed itself to maintaining a global empire. This book is an account of the resentments our policies have built up and of the kinds of economic and political retribution that ... may be their harvest in the twenty-first century.
-- Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire (2000)

World politics in the twenty-first century will in all likelihood be driven by blowback from the second half of the twentieth century -- that is, from the unintended consequences of the Cold War and the crucial American decision to maintain a Cold War posture in a post-Cold War world.
-- Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire (2000)

A nation can be one or the other, a democracy or an imperialist, but it can’t be both. If it sticks to imperialism, it will, like the old Roman Republic, on which so much of our system was modeled, lose its democracy to a domestic dictatorship.
-- Democracy Now! television program, 22 November 2010 - transcript

In Blowback, I set out to explain why we are hated around the world. The concept "blowback" does not just mean retaliation for things our government has done to and in foreign countries. It refers to retaliation for the numerous illegal operations we have carried out abroad that were kept totally secret from the American public. This means that when the retaliation comes – as it did so spectacularly on September 11, 2001 – the American public is unable to put the events in context. So they tend to support acts intended to lash out against the perpetrators, thereby most commonly preparing the ground for yet another cycle of blowback. In the first book in this trilogy, I tried to provide some of the historical background for understanding the dilemmas we as a nation confront today, although I focused more on Asia – the area of my academic training – than on the Middle East.
-- Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic (2006)

The Sorrows of Empire was written during the American preparations for and launching of the invasions and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq. I began to study our continuous military buildup since World War II and the 737 military bases we currently maintain in other people's countries. This empire of bases is the concrete manifestation of our global hegemony, and many of the blowback-inducing wars we have conducted had as their true purpose the sustaining and expanding of this network. We do not think of these overseas deployments as a form of empire; in fact, most Americans do not give them any thought at all until something truly shocking, such as the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, brings them to our attention. But the people living next door to these bases and dealing with the swaggering soldiers who brawl andsometimes rape their women certainly think of them as imperial enclaves, just as the people of ancient Iberia or nineteenth-century India knew that they were victims of foreign colonization.
-- Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic (2006)

In Nemesis, I have tried to present historical, political, economic, and philosophical evidence of where our current behavior is likely to lead. Specifically, I believe that to maintain our empire abroad requires resources and commitments that will inevitably undercut our domestic democracy and in the end produce a military dictatorship or its civilian equivalent. The founders of our nation understood this well and tried to create a form of government – a republic – that would prevent this from occurring. But the combination of huge standing armies, almost continuous wars, military Keynesianism, and ruinous military expenses have destroyed our republican structure in favor of an imperial presidency. We are on the cusp of losing our democracy for the sake of keeping our empire. Once a nation is started down that path, the dynamics that apply to all empires come into play – isolation, overstretch, the uniting of forces opposed to imperialism, and bankruptcy. Nemesis stalks our life as a free nation.
-- Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic (2006)

No one has exposed the shortsightedness, hubris, corruption, and instability of our country's imperial overreach with such impassioned incisiveness. Blowback is a wake-up call for America.
-- John W. Downer (author of Embracing Defeat and winner of the Pulitzer Prize) on Chalmers and his book, Blowback

Bllowback
is expansive thinking... a straight-talking analysis of America's global conduct during the Cold War and since, and what we're eventually going to pay for it.
-- Patrick Smith, The Nation


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The selection of the above quotes and the writing of the accompanying notes was performed by the author David Paul Wagner.

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