The late Chalmers Johnson was a “historian of American militarism,” and an author of several books that sought to shed much needed light on the expanding American Empire. A few months ago I began reading what have become known as the “Blowback Trilogy,” a series of books by Johnson detailing the rise of the American Empire, it's expansion, and its consequences, both at home and abroad. These unintended consequences are often called “blowback,” a term originally coined by the CIA. Below are my three reviews of each book in the series.
The Blowback Trilogy is an excellent series and I recommend they be read by everyone.
Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire (2000)
Blowback is a book written roughly two years prior to the September 11th attacks. Before this devastating episode in American history, the book gained very little attention, but after the attacks many people began to take notice as they asked the reasonable question: “Why did they attack us?” In this prophetic book, Chalmers Johnson discusses what the CIA calls “blowback,” which refers to the “unintended consequences” of various U.S. policies and actions around the globe that cause economic and other forms of chaos and harm in other countries. The outrage that results in attacks of some sort against the U.S. homeland, the U.S. military's bases and soldiers who are stationed on nearly every continent around the globe, and other acts of revenge.
In this book the author sets out his case that the U.S. has for years embarked on wildly dangerous foreign policy objectives that very well could result in blowback from a number of countries, such as China, Japan, and the Middle East to name only a few.
This book still serves as a chilling reminder that actions often have consequences and if the U.S. government decides to stay on the path of imperialism, we can expect more blowback at some future date from disgruntled peoples from across the globe. (4 Stars)
The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic (2004)
In The Sorrows of Empire, the second book of what has become known as the 'Blowback trilogy,' Chalmers Johnson explores the history of American militarism, with the main focus being the events after the September 11th attacks. It was this time when the American military machine truly became a monster, as it descended upon country after country, using their vast array of advanced weaponry to blast several defenseless nations into near oblivion, such as in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Johnson educates the reader with many surprising facts about what the true motives behind these most recent wars in the Middle East were about: oil. He makes a good case and it seems convincing.
Johnson's main thesis is that, like Rome, the U.S. has become an empire, but it hides this fact from the American people by masking its true intentions behind claims of “humanitarian intervention” or “globalization.” He continues to argue how, unlike Rome, however, the U.S. does not have colonies, per se, but instead of colonies the U.S. has over 700 of military bases in nearly every country in the world. Johnson writes, “America's foreign military enclaves, though structurally, legally, and conceptually different from colonies, are themselves something like micro-colonies in that they are completely beyond the jurisdiction of the occupied nation.”
Johnson further continues to argue how this trend towards militarism will harm eventually cause great harm to the U.S., its citizens, and the whole world. This book was written in 2004 but as I read it in 2013 I am stunned by the accuracy of Johnson's predictions. Nearly everything he said in 2004 has come to pass. A global war, the disrespect of international and humanitarian law, and the erosion of American civil liberties.
Truly an eye-opening book. (5 Stars)
Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic (2006)
'Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic' is the final book in what has become known as the “blowback trilogy.” It it, Johnson outlines the abuses and breakdown of democracy within the United States, its causes, and speculates on the economic and political disasters that might befall the U.S. should these trends continue.
This is a very good book, but having read the two previous books in the series I found that there was quite a bit of repetitiveness. Despite this one drawback the book is filled with fascinating insights and information about the U.S.'s declining democratic values and how militarism is the cause of this decline.
Probably one of my favorite chapters was the second, describing the comparisons between Rome and the United States and the several similarities and how the U.S. is on the path, much like Rome, to economic and political destruction.
'Nemesis' is not my favorite book in the series but it was still a decent ending to an excellent trilogy. (3 ½ Stars)
In case I did not do him and his books justice with my reviews, here is Mr. Johnson in his own words: