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Implications of A Colonial Enterprise


P.R. Chari

THE SORROWS OF EMPIRE: MILITARISM, SECRECY AND THE END OF THE REPUBLIC
By Chalmers Johnson
Verso, London , New York, 2004, pp. 389, £19.99

VOLUME XXVIII NUMBER 12 December 2004

The author enjoys a formidable reputation as a left liberal historian, and a severe critic of American foreign policy. His last book Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire had examined the implications of its colonial enterprise for the United States and predicted the events of September 11 before they occurred. This book continues with his exploration of American imperialism and further delineates its contours, drawing attention again to the dangers of its headlong empire-building project for the United States and the world.   The author frankly confesses that, “The subject matter of this book is American militarism, its physical presence in the world, the growth of the “special forces” as a private army of the President, and the secrecy that allows even more militarized and secret institutions to live and thrive.” An impression of the American military juggernaut can be gained from knowing that it has a huge number of military bases (725 acknowledged, but several camouflaged) that are scattered across the globe. In reality they are American enclaves enjoying the rights of extraterritoriality. He also draws attention to the growing dominance of the Pentagon over the State Department in the conduct of U.S. foreign policy, and the burgeoning U.S. defence budgets required for meeting expenses on a new genre of nuclear weapons, missile defences and homeland security, all at the expense of outlays on social services. This had promoted the establishment of a militarist state: the author indicates its three broad parameters to comprise the emergence of a professional military class and glorification of its ideals; dominance of military officers and representatives of the arms industry in high government positions; and giving military preparedness the highest priority in the state. Unhappily, all these trends have been more marked in the United States over the last few years, especially during the current Bush administration.   It would be unfair, however, to denigrate the Bush-led adventurous foreign policy, since it embodies a long tradition of U.S. colonial activism, apparent from U.S. efforts to convert Latin America into its backyard with the Monroe doctrine, invasions of Cuba in the early twentieth century (Guantanomo base was acquired at this time), acquisition of Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines by the Treaty of Paris (1898), annexing Hawaii by stage-managing a coup d’etat over 1894-98 and fomenting a revolution to detach Panama ( for constructing the Panama Canal) from Colombia. The last century is ...


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