Chalmers Johnson, anti-imperialist advocate, dies at 79





[John Nichols, a pioneering political blogger, has written the Beat since 1999. His posts have been circulated internationally, quoted in numerous books and mentioned in debates on the floor of Congress.]

With one word, "blowback," Chalmers Johnson explained the folly of empire in the modern age.

In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, true American patriots—as opposed to the jingoists and profiteers whose madness and greed would steer a republic to ruin—needed a new language for a new age.

They got it from Johnson. His 2000 book, Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire (Macmillan), gave currency to the old espionage term—which referred to the violent, unintended consequences of covert (and sometimes not so covert) operations that are suffered even by superpowers such as the United States—and became an essential text for those who sought to explain the attacks and to forge sounder and more responsible foreign policies for the furture.

Johnson, who has died at age 79, was no liberal idealist. He was the an old Asian hand who had chaired the Center for Chinese Studies at the University of California-Berkeley from 1967 to 1972 and then served as president and co-founder of the Japan Policy Research Institute. In other words, he was a man of the world who knew how the world worked. And what he tried to explain, to political leaders and citizens, was that the old ways of empire building (and maintaining) no longer worked in an age of instant communications, jet travel and doomsday weaponry....


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