Chalmers Johnson

Things That Can’t Go On Forever Don’t


Chalmers Johnson discusses his recent article, “How To Sink America,” how U.S. politicians and candidates refuse to discuss the looming economic collapse, the staggering amount we spend on our military, how the “defense” industry is our only prosperous sector, the failure of our educational system, America’s pipe dream of global domination, the similarity between America and the Roman Empire in structure, overextended militarism, and inevitable collapse, the impossibility of maintaining a republican form of government and an empire, and, of course, the principle of blowback.

MP3 here. (30:15)

Chalmers Johnson is president of the Japan Policy Research Institute, a non-profit research and public affairs organization devoted to public education concerning Japan and international relations in the Pacific. He taught for thirty years, 1962-1992, at the Berkeley and San Diego campuses of the University of California and held endowed chairs in Asian politics at both of them. At Berkeley he served as chairman of the Center for Chinese Studies and as chairman of the Department of Political Science. His B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. degrees in economics and political science are all from the University of California, Berkeley. He first visited Japan in 1953 as a U.S. Navy officer and has lived and worked there with his wife, the anthropologist Sheila K. Johnson, every year between 1961 and 1998. Johnson has been honored with fellowships from the Ford Foundation, the Social Science Research Council, and the Guggenheim Foundation; and in 1976 he was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has written numerous articles and reviews and some sixteen books, including Peasant Nationalism and Communist Power on the Chinese revolution, An Instance of Treason on Japan’s most famous spy, Revolutionary Change on the theory of violent protest movements, and MITI and the Japanese Miracle on Japanese economic development. This last-named book laid the foundation for the “revisionist” school of writers on Japan, and because of it the Japanese press dubbed him the “Godfather of revisionism.”

He was chairman of the academic advisory committee for the PBS television series “The Pacific Century,” and he played a prominent role in the PBS “Frontline” documentary “Losing the War with Japan.” Both won Emmy awards. His most recent books are Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2000) and The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic, which was published by Metropolitan in January 2004. Blowback won the 2001 American Book Award of the Before Columbus Foundation.

13 thoughts on “Chalmers Johnson”

  1. Johnson documents his argument to the point where it is hard to rebut. Add in the financial schemes of the Wall Street crowd and we have some serious problems to deal with. America will soon be bankrupt if we keep it up… and as the line from the old song “Let it Snow” says: “it shows no sign of stopping”. I find that most so-called “smart people” that I know either refuse to comment on these matters or are in complete denial. I think that they have a hard time coming to grips with the fact that delusional dimwits & crooks are running the country and that they keep giving them their $ and electing new ones to replace them. So the the cycle feeds upon itself… people want to pretend that everything is O.K. and the dimwits & crooks continue on with business as usual. Hard to say how we might break the cycle but this gal has a suggestion for a good place to start.

  2. Great, just freakin great, we have a bunch of politicians and corporate ninnies who cant understand why empires fail but keep trying over and over to create them.

    The best and brightest my ass.

  3. I’m a great CJ admirer, but I wish he’d answer this: Why do Germany and Japan and Korea keep our troops there? It takes two to tango. It would be great if Scott or somebody could post an answer to this from him here.

  4. Benjamin, it seems simple to me, if your competitor is busy chasing the matador’s cape, then no matter how strong he/she is they will eventually become exhausted. At such a point, it is easy to plunge a sword through it’s heart as it can no longer move…checkmate.
    This was gleaned from an article by Patrick Buchanan, and repeated here by a social Libertarian.
    Look at Ireland, commerce equals sustenance, for all of the tribe as opposed to a few.

  5. Benjamin,
    Germany, Korea or Japan do not keep American forces there.
    It it American forces who keep themselves there.
    The political spheres are permeated with American behind-the-scenes influence, not to be talked about. Like about the N word. The N word does “not” exsist and American presence in Iraq depends from “the Iraqis”!

    The Russians, even if they liberated Poland (and were kept themselves there by force rather than calm “diplomacy”) finally decided to leave. They didn’t have to – as Patrick Buchanan prominently wrote not that long time ago. Same happened for Austria, Czechoslovakia…the Russians left, and this is going to start the cycle of remembering Russians for some good things, after the bad ones.

    Korans, as population – want Americans out. Alas, USA is dealing always with the goverments, autocrats etc. – disregarding the democratic wishes of the lowly masses. How ironic, for the “beacon of World Democracy”!


  6. In the case of Japan the vast majority of troops are based in Okinawa in an island chain to the south of mainland Japan where they just annoy the Okinawans.

  7. This astute piece may be right about the decline of the country as a
    whole. But we should not despair. For if we properly position
    ourselves in line with what America has become these days, those of us
    who are wise may be able to prosper during the inevitable decline.

    What I’m getting at is that last March Hoover Institute scholar Robert
    Higgs wrote a piece entitled, “The Trillion-Dollar Defense Budget Is
    Already Here.”

    His point is that the public is continually deceived about how much
    the govt really spends on defense. It’s much, much more than we’re
    told. Apart from what we spend on Afghanistan and Iraq, and “Homeland
    Security,” last year the total was about $1 Trillion. Add in the wars
    and the costs for the “Department of Homeland Security,” and “The
    Surge,” and it’s not unreasonable to believe that we’re spending about
    $1.5 Trillion, total. That’s about $10,000 for every working man in
    the USA, and ~11% of the GDP. And why not?

    While we may cut Medicare and Social Security, and throwing out the
    weak and poor I believe is a idea whose time is coming, we sure as
    hell won’t be cutting defense outlays. [Who would survive politically
    if known for cutting the defense of our fatherland?]

    There are, by some estimates, 4,000 military bases in the USA and 740
    military bases in foreign countries. Oodles of money is being made to
    arm, equip, staff and run them. Every call to close them is met by an
    angry claque of both libs and conservatives pols whose oxen would be
    gored if the useless bases were shut. And so we still have “forts” to
    defend the Oklahoma territories from possible attacks by indians!

    Relatedly, defense contractors have facilities in all congressional
    districts. Any attempt to cut defense outlays similarly threatens
    “patriotic workers,” and so faces a similar claque.

    It’s a perfect recipe for those of us who invest in death, I mean,
    invest in the “military industrial complex.” The poor will be thrown
    overboard way before we seriously challenge our policy of bankrupting
    the country by overspending on warring.

    America no longer makes much of anything anyone actually wants to buy
    – except for one thing: armaments. Since it’s arguably the only
    preeminent industry we still have, and since it’s so lavishly funded
    by the public, it makes perfect sense to invest “patriotically.” For
    that way, we can profit as America goes bankrupt while continuing its
    endless search of enemies to destroy.

    And the best part of all is that you can say that you remained true to
    the defense of your threatened country throughout its demise!

    Looked at this way, even “bad” news can actually turn out to be good.
    For example, today’s NY Times headline, “Pakistanis Deal Severe Defeat
    to Musharraf in Election,” can only mean one thing: We’re gonna have
    to spend more on defense if our pivotal ally in the pivotal state of
    Pakistan is rejected. While “America” as a whole may lose here, smart
    investors may still come out victorious.

    I should think Lockheed Martin (LMT), Boing (BA), General Dynamics
    (GD), General Electric (GE- I know: it’s been a slow grind; but it’s
    got a decent dividend, it’s well connected politically, and so it may
    have legs), and a few others are worth taking a peek at. That is, if
    you *really* love America.

  8. Saw Mr.Johnson on Free Speech TV the other night. One of the few articulate truth-tellers in this country!
    For inspiration check out the artist Carole Estrup and her anti-war paintings at the above website.

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