Blowback, a term invented by the CIA, refers to the uninted consequences of American policies. In this sure-to-be-controversial book, Chalmers Johnson lays out in vivid detail the dangers faced by our overextended empire, which insists on projecting its military power to every corner of the earth and using American capital and markets to force global economic integration on its own terms. From a case of rape by U.S. servicemen in Okinawa to our role in Asia's financial crisis, from our early support for Saddam Hussein to our actions in the Balkans, Johnson reveals the ways in which our misguided policies are planting the seeds of future disaster.
In the wake of the Cold War, the United States has imprudently expanded the commitments it made over the previous forty years, argues Johnson. In Blowback, he issues a warning we would do well to consider: it is time for our empire to demobilize before our bills come due.
Nonsense, says Niall Ferguson. In Colossus he argues that in both military and economic terms America is nothing less than the most powerful empire the world has ever seen. Just like the British Empire a century ago, the United States aspires to globalize free markets, the rule of law, and representative government. In theory it’s a good project, says Ferguson. Yet Americans shy away from the long-term commitments of manpower and money that are indispensable if rogue regimes and failed states really are to be changed for the better. Ours, he argues, is an empire with an attention deficit disorder, imposing ever more unrealistic timescales on its overseas interventions. Worse, it’s an empire in denial—a hyperpower that simply refuses to admit the scale of its global responsibilities. And the negative consequences will be felt at home as well as abroad. In an alarmingly persuasive final chapter Ferguson warns that this chronic myopia also applies to our domestic responsibilities. When overstretch comes, he warns, it will come from within—and it will reveal that more than just the feet of the American colossus is made of clay.