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The US as an empire of bases « Previous | |Next »
March 23, 2006

Chalmers Johnson says that as an academic subject, the American Empire is largely taboo in the US. But in actual fact the US is an empire:

Empires are defined so often as holders of colonies, but analytically, by empire we simply mean the projection of hegemony outward, over other people, using them to serve our interests, regardless of how their interests may be affected. So what kind of empire is ours? The unit is not the colony, it's the military base. An Empire of bases---- that's the concept that best explains the logic of the 700 or more military bases around the world acknowledged by the Department of Defense. Now, we're just kidding ourselves that this is to provide security for Americans.

That means the imperial budget is the defense budget.

Johnson considesr the most insidious aspect of US militarism and its military empire is the economic dependence on the military budget, which supports four huge manufacturers with only one major customer.

This is state socialism and it's keeping the economy running not in the way it's taught in any economics course in any American university. It's closer to what John Maynard Keynes advocated for getting out of the Great Depression -- counter-cyclical governmental expenditures to keep people employed. We can't get off it any more. It's not that we're hooked in a narcotic sense. It's just that we'd collapse as an economy if we let it go and we know it. That's the terrifying thing.

It's a military Keynesianism, which has resulted in the military, as part of the executive branch, expanding under cover of the national security state to the point where it's out of control.

Johnson argues that one implication of the huge expansion of executive branch powers since the neoconservatives and George Bush came to power is the failure of Congress:

From George Bush's point of view, his administration has achieved everything ideologically that he wanted to achieve. Militarism has been advanced powerfully. In the minds of a great many people, the military is now the only American institution that appears to work. He's enriched the ruling classes. He's destroyed the separation of powers as thoroughly as was possible. These are the problems that face us right now. The only way you could begin to rebuild the separation of powers would be to reinvigorate the Congress and I don't know what could shock the American public into doing that. They're the only ones who could do it. The courts can't. The President obviously won't.

The republic has become empire with a contradictory logic between its politics and economics. He observes that:
it's extremely unwise for the world's largest debtor to go around insulting his bankers. We're going to send four aircraft-carrier task forces to the Pacific this summer to intimidate the Chinese, sail around, fly our airplanes, shoot off a few cruise missiles. Why shouldn't the Chinese say, let's get out of dollars.

Swapping the Democrats for the Republicans won't do much because:
The political system has failed. You could elect the opposition party, but it can't bring the CIA under control; it can't bring the military-industrial complex under control; it can't reinvigorate the Congress. It would be just another holding operation as conditions got worse.

Conditions getting worse means bankruptcy. There's a thought: the empire becomes bankrupt.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 1:01 PM | | Comments (2)
Comments

Comments

His book Blowback was written during the Clinton era and contains quotes from the likes of Al Gore saying that the US military serves to preserve stability around the world and in the North Pacific. So the idea that global hegemony and projection serves "freedom/security/stability" is not new.

I thought the most interesting aspect of Blowback was how he described the Japanese economic interests and US military interests entwining to create a system that is out of kilter.

Japan pays for Okinawa. So when the US State department says to Japan open your markets, Japan tells the Pentagon that dont want to pay for Okinawa anymore and the Pentagon tells the State department to drop it.

siento reviewed Blowback on SSR a while ago. I covered it on k5 too (prior to SSR).

Cameron,
I love the idea of blowback. Johnson says
"Blowback" is a CIA term first used in March 1954 in a recently declassified report on ~~ the 1953 operation to overthrow the government of Mohammed Mossadegh in Iran. It is a metaphor for the unintended consequences of the US government's international activities that have been kept secret from the American people. The CIA's fears that there might ultimately be some blowback from its egregious interference in the affairs of Iran were well founded. Installing the Shah in power brought twenty-five years of tyranny and repression to the Iranian people and elicited the Ayatollah Khomeini's revolution. The staff of the American embassy in Teheran was held hostage for more than a year. This misguided "covert operation" of the US government helped convince many capable people throughout the Islamic world that the United States was an implacable enemy.
Blowback is happening again with Iraq.