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"A Military Moloch": Book Review of Chalmer Johnson's "The Suicide of American Democracy"

Militarism and arrogance of power threaten to undermine American culture and basic democratic values. "The American people willlose their country.".. For Johnson, September 11 marked a dangerous change in the thinking of some American leaders. These leaders or neoconservative triumphalists see the American republic as a genuine empire. Professor Johnson's previous book was "Blowback" (2000).
"A Military Moloch"

Book Review of Chalmers Johnson' "The Suicide of American Democracy"

The American political scientist Chalmers Johnson sees US culture and democracy increasingly undermined by the arrogance of power bristling with weapons.

By Olaf Ihlau

[This artidcdle orginally published in: Spiegel special 3/ October 1, 2003 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web,
 http://www.spiegel.de/spiegelspecial/0,1518,druck-268737,00.html.]

In the establishment of the Bush administration, they hate Chalmers Johnson, the most caustic American critic of American superpower conduct. Chalmers Johnson, California political scientist in a state of alarm cannot be dismissed as a leftwing crackpot or a weakling from Old Europe. Johnson himself was part of the establishment and one of its spearheads when he served as advisor to the CIA and almost became its director.

That was long ago. As a professor of political science at the University of California for 30 years, Johnson warned his country of the dangers of hegemonial policy at the beginning of 2000. "Blowback" was the title of this exhortation, referring to an internal CIA term for annoying consequences of unsuccessful foreign operations. As Johnson's core thesis, countries and groups were made victims and regularly provoked to retaliatory strikes against the US because of many aspects and actions of US imperial dominance. A year later the California prophet of doom could have felt horribly confirmed by the terrorist attacks of September 11.

Now Johnson, 72, brutally holds a mirror to his compartriots once again with the book "The Suicide of American Democracy". What they see there can be painful to them. Unmasking, oppressive and alarming, this book should also be recommended reading for Europe's political elite if they want to understand the driving forces of this new America that hardly had any more regard for the interests of others, even old allies.

Like other empires in the past, the political scientist and merciless polemicist thunders, the US decided not to act prudently and live in peace and prosperity. The US presents itself as a military superpower "facing an angry world united in resistance".

For Johnson "a revolution" has occurred in America's relations to the rest of the world in the 14 years since the fall of the Berlin wall. If US foreign policy was initially the affair of civilians who relied for years on the foundations of international law and alliances with other democratic states, all this has completely changed today under the "neoconservative triumphalists". The United States is not what it pretends: the obliging hegemon anxious about the export of democracy and human rights. The United States is "in truth a military Moloch that wants to subjugate the world".
Johnson describes an empire of permanent military bases, military airports, army garrisons, espionage posts and strategic enclaves on every continent of the earth. At least 725 military bases exist outside the US, a military presence in 153 of the 191 UN-member states... "Members of the American military need not answer for crimes against natives."

Meanwhile more uniformed American officers are stationed abroad than development workers and environmental experts. Day after day the global net of US garrisons reinforce the message "that the United States prefers to deal with other nations with weapons in hand rather than in negotiations or commercial or cultural relations".

This US is no longer interested in observing norms of international law or understanding itself as part of the community of nations. For the political scientist, the Iraq war illustrated this. "High government officials created falsified reasons" to justify that war. The wool was pulled over the eyes of the American people and the world public.

Imperialists, according to British economist John Hobson's definition, are "parasites of patriotism". The shock of September 11 gave the Bush crew the needed patriotic thrust. Johnson identified Woodrow Wilson as the intellectual father of those Washington ideologists who justify American imperial power today. At the beginning of the last century, Wilson believed in the commission of the US to bring "peace to the world". Wilson set American imperialism on an idealistic base that encounters us today in the form of a "global mission" to "democratize the world".

In America's political tradition, the Californian political scientist argues, the term "empire" was negatively disparaged from time immemorial. Ronald Reagan demonized the Soviet Union as an "evil empire". However the idea of empire gained adherents in the US since the terrorist attacks of September 11 although Washington's present regents don't know much Roman history. Paul Wolofowitz, Bush's assistant secretary of defense and hardest hardliner in his team, may now almost feel in the mainstream with his canvassing for a "Pax americana". The "Pax americana" was derided and laughed at in the past.

For Johnson, September 11 marked "a dangerous change in the thinking of some American leaders". These leaders now "see the American republic as a genuine empire, as a new Rome, as the most powerful empire in humanity's history that no longer feels bound to international law, the interests of irts allies or any restrictions on the use of weapons".

As the historian Arthur Schlessinger noted, an empire tries to make preventive wars into a legitimate and morally harmless instrument of American foreign policy. This "preventive self-defense" is the axiom of the "National Security Strategy" of September 2002. Months before, George W. Bush revealed its interventionist core in an address at the West Point military academy. He announced interventions in up to 60 countries if necessary "in the war against terror". "We must bring the battle to the enemy."
Like Woodrow Wilson, Bush also appealed to universal values. "We will secure peace by promoting free and open societies on all continents." For Chalmers Johnson , that sounded like the announcement of a crusade.

A regime change occurred in favor of the militarists under the "Clique of 01", as Johnson characterizes the administration around the "boy-emperor" Bush. In the meantime there is a predominance of officers and representatives of the arms industry in high government offices. Many militarists deceive civilians. Most neoconservatives who plead for the expansion of democracy with force of arms and for preventive strikes had their roots in the left, not in the right. "They derived from the influential American-Jewish sector of the Trotskyist movement in the America of the thirties and forties."

According to Johnson, two main actors now promote the militarization of outer space in the vanguard of the US imperialists of the 21st cenrtury: Defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Vice-president Dick Cheney. The California professor sees a "very alarming sign" for the accentuated military unilateralism of the US in the attempt to prohibit all other states including allies from using outer spaced for secret service objectives. From 2004, the US will begin to disable or destroy communication- and espionage satellites of other states to make these countries dependent.

Militarism and arrogance of power, Johnson fears, threaten to undermine American culture and basic democratic values. "The American people will lose their country." He sees the only remaining superpower on a similar path that led to the insiduous collapse of the Soviet Union in the eighties. Three factors were responsible for the Soviet collapse: the internal economic contradictions caused by ideological stubbornness, its imperial over-reach and its incompetence in reforms.

The present course of the Bush-clique will not bring the world more security but more dangers and instability. This is Johnson's summary: "New versions of the Bay of Pigs invasion and accelerated repetition of the Vietnam war scenario will be presented".

The predictions of the California prophet of doom are depressing. Four main problems face the American empire: a permanent state of war with more terrorist attacks on Americans, far-reaching restrictions on democracy and constitutional rights of citizens in the US, a system of propaganda, disinformation and the glorification of war, power and the military and finally the economic ruin of the land since more and more resources may disappear in increasingly ambitious military projects.

Only one development can halt this fatal process: "The people must recapture the Congress, change the corrupted election laws and stop the money flow to the Pentagon." America has a strong civil society fhat at least theoretically could act against the powerful interests of the armed forces and the military-industrial complex. However Chalmer Johnson allows this glimmer of hope to instantly vanish. The lessons of history teach that "Great empires do not last for ever. They usually end in a catastrophe."

homepage: homepage: http://www.commoncause.org
address: address: http://www.zmag.org