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Jul 31 2007

The dangerous consequences of a militarized foreign policy

Chalmers Johnson is a former CIA consultant and a professor of Asian studies at Berkeley, and was an avowed cold-war warrior during the Vietnam war era. He has written a very interesting article titled Evil Empire: Is Imperial Liquidation Possible for America? He points out the Iraq war as an unmitigated disaster on many levels and the failure of the media as culpable.

The people of the United States became mere spectators as an array of ideological extremists, vested interests, and foreign operatives — including domestic neoconservatives, Ahmed Chalabi and his Iraqi exiles, the Israeli Lobby, the petroleum and automobile industries, warmongers and profiteers allied with the military-industrial complex, and the entrenched interests of the professional military establishment — essentially hijacked the government.
. . .
One subject that the government, the military, and the news media try to avoid like the plague is the racist and murderous culture of rank-and-file American troops when operating abroad. Partly as a result of the background racism that is embedded in many Americans’ mental make-up and the propaganda of American imperialism that is drummed into recruits during military training, they do not see assaults on unarmed “rag heads” or “hajis” as murder. . . Some militarists will reply that such inhumanity to the defenseless is always inculcated into the properly trained soldier.
. . .
Imperialism and militarism have thus begun to imperil both the financial and social well-being of our republic. What the country desperately needs is a popular movement to rebuild the Constitutional system and subject the government once again to the discipline of checks and balances. Neither the replacement of one political party by the other, nor protectionist economic policies aimed at rescuing what’s left of our manufacturing economy will correct what has gone wrong. Both of these solutions fail to address the root cause of our national decline.

I believe that there is only one solution to the crisis we face. The American people must make the decision to dismantle both the empire that has been created in their name and the huge (still growing) military establishment that undergirds it.

He points to the hidden and bloated budget of the defense department and calls for a dismantling of the vast network of foreign military bases stretched over the globe. Many people are unaware of the vastness of the network of military bases that the US maintains around the world, emblematic of a nation that sees itself as an empire. Johnson sees this notion of empire as having disastrous long-term consequences and calls for a scaling back.

As part of the process of de-garrisoning the planet and liquidating our empire, we would have to launch an orderly closing-up process for at least 700 of the 737 military bases we maintain (by official Pentagon count) in over 130 foreign countries on every continent except Antarctica.
. . .
Equally important, we should rewrite all our Status of Forces Agreements — those American-dictated “agreements” that exempt our troops based in foreign countries from local criminal laws, taxes, immigration controls, anti-pollution legislation, and anything else the American military can think of. It must be established as a matter of principle and law that American forces stationed outside the U.S. will deal with their host nations on a basis of equality, not of extraterritorial privilege.
. . .
As part of an attempt to right the diplomatic balance, we should take some obvious steps like recognizing Cuba and ending our blockade of that island and, in the Middle East, working to equalize aid to Israel and Palestine, while attempting to broker a real solution to that disastrous situation. Our goal should be a return to leading by example — and by sound arguments — rather than by continual resort to unilateral armed force and repeated foreign military interventions.
. . .
Normally, a proposed list of reforms like this would simply be rejected as utopian. I understand this reaction. I do want to stress, however, that failure to undertake such reforms would mean condemning the United States to the fate that befell the Roman Republic and all other empires since then. That is why I gave my book Nemesis the subtitle “The Last Days of the American Republic.”

The whole article is well worth reading.

POST SCRIPT: Tom Friedman’s moustache of understanding

Tom Tomorrow’s cartoon describes the ‘thinking’ of one of the most over-rated pundits, the originator of an endless stream of banalities and the famous Friedman Unit, in which one always waits for another six months to get enough information to make a decision.

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