Chalmers Johnson on *Republic or Empire* in Harper's Magazine of January 2007


Chalmers Johnson on *Republic or Empire* in Harper's Magazine of January 2007

15 December 2006 at 2:33:02 PM

Extremely interesting article that has, at its core, Military Keynesianism, which Johnson defines as "in which the domestic economy requires sustained military ambition in order to avoid recession or collapse". Recently, I saw the documentary "Why we Fight" which began with a clip of President Eisenhower warning against the dangers of the military-industrial complex, and considered the question of how much the United States is tied to its military economics. I have read recently that Bush, who desperately wants to be seen as the Decider and hopes to have a legacy that will shine instead of appearing as the worst president in history, is planning to send more troops to Iraq. In one scenario that he apparently has rejected, probably because it makes him look like his Daddy's little clueless boy, the troops, at least some number of them, would be removed from Iraq... but put elsewhere, perhaps Afganistan. That is not draining the swamp, that's just moving around the alligators. In other words, sometimes I think I would like to see us move away from militarism, but the ending of the Iraq conflict would not cause that effect.

Johnson has some numbers in this article, which I highly recommend reading, as he talks about what would happen to cause a fall of the Roman American Empire.

Between 1940 and 1996, for instance, the United States spent nearly $4.5 trillion on the development, testing and construction of nuclear weapons alone. By 1967, the peak year of its nuclear stockpile, the United States possessed some 32,000 deliverable bombs. None of them was ever used, which illustrates perfectly Keynes's observation that, in order to create jobs, the government might as well decide to bury money in old mines and "leave them to private enterprise on the well-tried principles of laissez faire to dig them up again". Nuclear bombs were not just America's secret weapon; they were also a secret economic weapon....

To understand the real weight of military of the United States-that is, the reported budget of the Department of Defense- does not include: The Department of Energy's spending on nuclear weapons ($16.4 billion slated for fiscal 2006), the Department of Homeland Security's outlays for the actual *defense* of the United States ($41 billion) or the Department of Veteran's Affairs responsibilities for the lifetime care of the seriously wounded ($68 billion). Nor does it include the billions of dollars the Department of State spends each year to finance foreign arms sales and militarily related development or the Treasury Department's payments of pensions to military retirees and widows and their families (an amount not fully disclosed by official statistics). Still to be added are interest payments by the Treasury to cover past debt-financed defense outlays. The economist Robert Higgs estimates that in 2002 such interest payments amounted to $138.7 billion.

Johnson has a section, among others that include Unitary Presidency, on Bankruptcy and Collapse. Look on p 68 for figures about how Operation Enduring Freedom, etc cost about $10 billion per month, or an extra $120.3 BILLION FOR THE YEAR.  After going through some more astounding figures, he turns to the deficit. In 2005, the US trade deficit stood at $782.7 billion dollars, and, I hadn't realized this, Bush, since he took office, has raised the national debt limit... FOUR times.

Had Congress not raised it, the US government would not have been able to borrow more money and would have had to default on its massive debts.

The question, overall, is, MUST we be a militaristic society, in which our economy is tied closely to waging war? And what happens when the bottom drops out, as it inevitably will?

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1 - hughster   28 Dec 2006 @ 9:04:56 PM 

2 - salon   28 Dec 2006 @ 10:09:03 PM 

The question also is, as you pointed out, does the American public prefer *empire* to democracy? Good comments on your site.

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