Monday, February 26, 2007

Chalmers Johnson interview

Chalmers Johnson interviewed on Radio Open Source, with interesting counter commentary by Thomas Barnett. See here for his views on US-China-Japan relations.
Chalmers Johnson’s Nemesis is the third volume in an “inadvertent trilogy” — a sort of retirement gig, part of The American Empire Project, from an eminent UC Berkeley and UC San Diego scholar in Asian (especially Japanese) affairs.

The first volume, Blowback (2000), written just before 9.11, was an account of why something like the World Trade Center attack was bound to happen… an alternative answer to President Bush’s question, “Why do they hate us?” The term “blowback,” as he explained, is a CIA coinage that “does not mean revenge but rather retaliation for covert, illegal violence that our government has carried out abroad that it kept totally secret from the American public (even though such acts are seldom secret among the people on the receiving end).”

His second volume, The Sorrows of Empire, surveyed the vast US military establishment largely hidden from budgetary review or popular conversation: 700-plus US bases in roughly 130 countries abroad, “over two hundred military golf courses around the world, some seventy-one Learjets and other luxury aircraft to fly admirals and generals to such watering holes…” In sum, as he wrote, “As militarism, the arrogance of power, and the euphemisms required to justify imperialism inevitably conflict with America’s democratic structure of government and distort its culture and basic values, I fear that we will lose our country.”

And now, Nemesis announces that we are approaching a destination.

Chalmers Johnson and his book will be mis-classified by some as leftist, even anti-American. To my eyes and ears his Jeremiad has a classic, old-fashioned and middle-American accent. The “empire is the issue” crowd in fact spans right and left — from the late Susan Sontag and Gore Vidal through Norman Mailer to Senator Robert Byrd and Pat Buchanan. I observe that it’s only the mushy middle of the public conversation and the mainstream media that avoid the evidences of empire and the common-sense misgivings about a foreign policy of force and domination, and open contempt for “the opinions of mankind.”

The dire prophecy that Chalmers Johnson is forcing us to confront late in Bush II and the Iraq debacle comes, in fact, from a consensus of the Founding Fathers and from James Madison in particular, quoted by Johnson at some length.

In preparation for a verdict in the Libby perjury trial, let me again display one of my favorite cartoons.


Anonymous said...

Thank you; we are in terrible trouble.


Anonymous said...

I read Chalmers Johnson years ago, Then I grew up and tossed him out.

Anonymous said...

"then I grew up ..."

hmmm, just threatened enough to leave a comment but not quite able to articulate an actual argument against Johnson's thesis. almost a recommendation ...

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buchanan on greecw said...

May. 10, 2010
So long, sweet life

Are Europe and America headed to where Athens is today?
To answer the question, consider what brought Greece to where it is -- running a deficit of 14 percent of gross domestic product with a debt approaching 100 percent, with Portugal, Spain, Ireland and Great Britain not that far behind.

How did this happen?

Protected by the United States through a half-century of Cold War, Europe cut back on defense and ratcheted up spending for La Dolce Vita. All of Europe adopted universal healthcare. All voted in a shorter workweek, a higher minimum wage, greater job security, earlier retirements and munificent pensions.

As the cradle-to-grave welfare states rose, an ever-increasing share of the labor force left the private sector for the security of the public sector.

Tax-consumers, the beneficiaries of the welfare states and the bureaucrats that ran them, grew in number, as taxpayers declined as a share of the labor force. Though Greece was far from the most productive nation in Europe, Athens led the parade.

After the baby boom ended, the pill arrived in the 1960s. Then came abortion on demand in the 1970s.

The fertility rate of Greece and every European nation fell below the 2.1 births per woman needed to replace an existing population. Greece's birth rate has been below zero population growth for three decades.

Result: In 2000, Greece had just under 11 million people and a median age of 38. In 2050, Greece is projected to have just under 11 million people, but the median age will be 50.

Were Greece a company, the solution would be bankruptcy.

But Greece is a country. And a bailout of $141 billion is being put together by the European Union and International Monetary Fund.

Why? Because, should Greece decide not to take a chainsaw to its welfare state, but walk away from her debts and default, she would blow a hole in the balance sheets of the biggest banks in Europe.

Then the banks would have to be bailed out.

Seeing Greece's bondholders being burned, terrified holders of Portuguese and Spanish debt would start dumping their bonds, forcing Madrid and Lisbon to pay a higher interest rate both to sell new bonds and roll over the old ones coming due. Rather than savage their welfare-state programs, and risk riots in the streets and a massacre at the polls, Madrid and Lisbon, too, might look agreeably at default.

Chancellor Angela Merkel, though exasperated with the Greeks, is urging Germans to back the $141 billion bailout: ``Nothing less than the future of Europe . . . is at stake.''

Merkel believes there is no alternative. But there is an alternative -- a restructuring of Greece's debt or a default where the holders of Greek bonds suffer the fate of the holders of bonds from Lehman Brothers and General Motors.

Inevitably, this is what is going to happen.

For how long will Greeks work longer, retire later and live on smaller pensions, so holders of Greek bonds can get their interest payments right on time?

The EU and IMF may, with the bailout of Greece, kick this can up the road. But the crisis will return. For the nations of Europe have made commitments beyond their capacity to keep, given their growing debts and aging populations.

And America is not all that far behind.

While the federal deficit is not 14 percent of GDP, it was 10 percent in 2009 and may reach 11 percent in 2010. Trillion-dollar deficits are projected through the decade, bringing the public debt -- held by citizens, companies, foreign governments and sovereign wealth funds -- close to 100 percent of GDP.

And the unfunded liabilities of Social Security, Medicare and federal pensions rival those of Western Europe.


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