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Three Good Reasons to Liquidate Our Empire | The Nation

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Three Good Reasons to Liquidate Our Empire

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Ten Steps Toward Liquidating the Empire

About the Author

Chalmers Johnson
Chalmers Johnson is the author of more than a dozen books, including Revolutionary Change (Stanford), Blowback: The...

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As Congress and Obama wrangle over the cost of much-needed domestic expenditures, no one suggests that closing some of these unpopular, expensive imperial enclaves might be a good way to save some money.

This can be a transformative election. Will economic meltdown, race or regional loyalty be the trump card?

Dismantling the American empire would, of course, involve many steps. Here are ten key places to begin:

1.

We need to put a halt to the serious environmental damage done by our bases planet-wide. We also need to stop writing SOFAs that exempt us from any responsibility for cleaning up after ourselves.

2.

Liquidating the empire will end the burden of carrying our empire of bases and so of the "opportunity costs" that go with them--the things we might otherwise do with our talents and resources but can't or won't.

3.

As we already know (but often forget), imperialism breeds the use of torture. In the 1960s and 1970s we helped overthrow the elected governments in Brazil and Chile and underwrote regimes of torture that prefigured our own treatment of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan. (See, for instance, A.J. Langguth, Hidden Terrors [Pantheon, 1979], on how the US spread torture methods to Brazil and Uruguay.) Dismantling the empire would potentially mean a real end to the modern American record of using torture abroad.

4.

We need to cut the ever-lengthening train of camp followers, dependents, civilian employees of the Department of Defense and hucksters--along with their expensive medical facilities, housing requirements, swimming pools, clubs, golf courses and so forth--that follow our military enclaves around the world.

5.

We need to discredit the myth promoted by the military-industrial complex that our military establishment is valuable to us in terms of jobs, scientific research, and defense. These alleged advantages have long been discredited by serious economic research. Ending empire would make this happen.

6.

As a self-respecting democratic nation, we need to stop being the world's largest exporter of arms and munitions and quit educating Third World militaries in the techniques of torture, military coups, and service as proxies for our imperialism. A prime candidate for immediate closure is the so-called School of the Americas, the US Army's infamous military academy at Fort Benning, Georgia, for Latin American military officers. (See Chalmers Johnson, The Sorrows of Empire [Metropolitan Books, 2004], pp. 136-40.)

7.

Given the growing constraints on the federal budget, we should abolish the Reserve Officers' Training Corps and other long-standing programs that promote militarism in our schools.

8.

We need to restore discipline and accountability in our armed forces by radically scaling back our reliance on civilian contractors, private military companies and agents working for the military outside the chain of command and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. (See Jeremy Scahill, Blackwater:The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army [Nation Books, 2007]). Ending empire would make this possible.

9.

We need to reduce, not increase, the size of our standing army and deal much more effectively with the wounds our soldiers receive and combat stress they undergo.

10.

To repeat the main message of this essay, we must give up our inappropriate reliance on military force as the chief means of attempting to achieve foreign policy objectives.

Unfortunately, few empires of the past voluntarily gave up their dominions in order to remain independent, self-governing polities. The two most important recent examples are the British and Soviet empires. If we do not learn from their examples, our decline and fall is foreordained.

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