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Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire (2000)

by Chalmers Johnson

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'Blowback' is a book written roughly two years prior to the September 11th attacks. Before this devastating episode in American history, the book gained very little attention, but after the attacks many people began to take notice as they asked the reasonable question: “Why did they attack us?” In this prophetic book, Chalmers Johnson discusses what the CIA calls “blowback,” which refers to the “unintended consequences” of various U.S. policies and actions around the globe that cause economic and other forms of chaos and harm in other countries. The outrage that results in attacks of some sort against the U.S. homeland, the U.S. military's bases and soldiers who are stationed on nearly every continent around the globe, and other acts of revenge.

In this book the author sets out his case that the U.S. has for years embarked on wildly dangerous foreign policy objectives that very well could result in blowback from a number of countries, such as China, Japan, and the Middle East to name only a few.

This book still serves as a chilling reminder that actions often have consequences and if the U.S. government decides to stay on the path of imperialism, we can expect more blowback at some future date from disgruntled peoples from across the globe. ( )
  PrimeTruth | Jun 20, 2013 |
This is a book about the unintended consequences of American actions in other countries. If you're interested in international politics, then this is a grain of salt you should definitely take.

Critics will label it as being hyped, but I think it's actually a window into worlds we seldom or never hear about in America. As someone who believes that you should "sweep your own porch before cleaning other people's porches," I've long believed that we should stop meddling in other people's affairs and feed our own hungry people, pull back our manufacturing into America and kill this ridiculous unemployment rate, and secure our own borders against terrorists rather than chasing them through the sand hills for a decade, wasting billions of tax dollars getting no where (do we really need to WONDER why our deficit is so large??).

This book was a great book to read, having read Confessions of an Economic Hitman years ago. I would have loved to see where we are NOW, years after this has been published. But, everything in this book still applies today. Most of it is history, and I for one am constantly learning for our mistakes. If only I had a true influence in military politics!!

If you've ever wondered why America has military bases in other countries, yet doesn't allow other countries to set up military bases here.... if you've ever wondered why we're so insistent on pushing our version of democracy and economics on other countries... if you've ever wondered about the countries we attempt to use as puppets, particularly in East Asia... and if you've ever wondered how any country could hate us since we're such triumphant heroes who continually aid countries who "give us nothing in return," then read this book. If nothing else, it's a balancing view of how other countries regard us.
  Aerow | Aug 15, 2011 |
A repetitive, dogmatic book filled with biased historical interpretations. Good points about the extent of American military presence around the world, but his main point is essentially about karma. I don't disagree that America has become excessively dependent on the military-industrial complex or that America is very clumsy at foreign policy, but the book itself suggests very little in the way of practical solutions. ( )
  robertmorrow | Mar 14, 2011 |
This was not an easy read and started to seem repetitive after awhile. But the message hit home in many respects, reinforcing the uneasiness I've had for a while. The unintended consequences of our foreign policies and covert actions against various regimes around the world are apparent today. Even if you don't agree, this book will definitely make you question decisions our government has made over the last 75 years, and continuing today. This book was written before 9-11 essentially predicting the "blowback" for our aggressive actions in the Middle East. ( )
  shequiltz | Feb 16, 2011 |
This book is pretty damned prescient. It’s all about the bad and mostly unintended consequences that have arisen due to American military interference around the world in the past thirty years. Think of it as a rational, national-interest-based argument against American expansionism and empire. It’ll also teach you a few things about Korea and our other activities in Asia over the last fifty years, and about the mostly unintentional, but still very important effects that the behavior of our forces stationed all over the world, and the message that the very presence of these forces sends, tend to have on world public opinion of us as a nation. ( )
  jddunn | Nov 21, 2010 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0805075593, Paperback)

If the 20th century was the American century, the 21st century may be a time of reckoning for the United States. Chalmers Johnson, an authority on Japan and its economy, offers a troubling prognosis of what's to come. Blowback--the title refers to a CIA neologism describing the unintended consequences of American activity--is a call for the United States to rethink its position in the world. "The evidence is building up that in the decade following the end of the Cold War, the United States largely abandoned a reliance on diplomacy, economic aid, international law, and multilateral institutions in carrying out its foreign policies and resorted much of the time to bluster, military force, and financial manipulation," writes Johnson. "The world is not a safer place as a result." Individual chapters focus on Okinawa (where American servicemen were accused of raping a 12-year-old girl in "Asia's last colony"), the two Koreas, China, and Japan. The result is a liberal-leaning (and Asia-centric) call for the United States to disengage from many of its global commitments. Critics will call Johnson an isolationist, but friends (perhaps admirers of Patrick Buchanan's A Republic, Not an Empire) will say he simply speaks good sense. All will agree he is an earnest voice: "I believe our very hubris ensures our undoing." --John J. Miller

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:28:47 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

The term "blowback," invented by the CIA, refers to the unintended consequences of American actions abroad. In this incisive and controversial book, Chalmers Johnson lays out in vivid detail the dangers faced by our overextended empire and reveals the ways in which our misguided policies are planting the seeds of future disaster.… (more)

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