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Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire
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Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire

4.05 of 5 stars 4.05  ·  rating details  ·  1,611 ratings  ·  139 reviews
Now available in paperback, Chalmers Johnson's take-no-prisoners account of the consequences of American global policies, hailed as "brilliant and iconoclastic" (Los Angeles Times)The term "blowback," invented by the CIA, refers to the uninted consequences of American policies. In this incisive and controversial book, Chalmers Johnson lays out in vivid detail the dangers f ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published January 23rd 2001 by Holt Paperbacks (first published March 14th 2000)
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This book is remarkable. The guy is one of the United State’s foremost experts on China and Japan. The main thesis of the book is that because the US has not really adjusted its foreign policy to account for the collapse of the Soviet Union it is still essentially fighting the cold war. But fighting the cold war isn’t really a good idea, particularly for the US, as it effectively gives an unfair economic advantage to East Asia. He claims that the US needs to better integrate both its foreign pol ...more
Matt Shake
This is another book I read in college. In political science there are two basic philosophies: "realism" and "idealism." When I was young I used to lean more towards political idealism. This philosophy encourages people to do things out of ideological principle. But Johnson wrote this book from a realist perspective, and I liked it enough that it ignited a slow conversion for me. Realists basically encourage people to act out of self-interest. But I've noticed two shades of realism: cold, hard, ...more
Aaron Minks
May 30, 2008 Aaron Minks rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Any American with a grain of salt
Recommended to Aaron by: Michael Laney
Shelves: non-fiction
Chalmers book was more than thought provoking but maybe not quite live changing. The entire point of the book was convered early on and and Chalmers seemed to belabor it. It was a good point but hammered so hard and repeatedly that I did not finish. I got the point, appreciated it, learned from it, and set the book aside. Warning: Chalmers has a distinctly Anti-American bias. I'm not sure how he got it but it's fills the pages. To say that American involvement in foreign affairs more often leads ...more
The first thing to know is that both the title and subtitle are misleading. This is a book almost exclusively about US imperialism in East and Southeast Asia. It rarely explores other regions or what's usually termed blowback. However, it's probably one of the best critical introductions to US foreign policy in Asia. Johnson's strength is in recounting the specificities of US foreign policy. It's not a pretty picture.

In case after case, Johnson demonstrates the negative impact of American milita
Satyaki Mitra
This book provides an insightful analysis of the flaws and ineptitude of American Foreign policy, principally with focus on the East Asian region. The author being one of the foremost scholars on East Asia, attempts to make his readers understand the dual and hypocritical role the US has been playing in East Asia, encouraging and even directly aiding dictatorships and inflicting unimaginable brutalities that are not much dissimilar from the policies the former USSR used on it's satellite states. ...more
G. Branden
As I recall, this is the first book I read after the September 11th attacks.

It was a good choice. Originally published in 2000, it saw a reprinting not long after I bought my copy--evidently I wasn't the only person impressed with Johnson's appearances on NPR at the time.

Essential reading for anyone who doubts that the United States constitutes an imperial power in the world (whether for good, ill, or both).

Johnson also makes the strongest case I've yet read for a civilian peacetime draft. The
Kamil Salamah
An amazing history of America's involvement in Southeast Asia with all its associated consequences from social, culutral, political, military, economical, financial and human rights aspects.

Again, it is another piece of outstanding written material that tragically paints a trajectory for the Empire of the age that is most unfortunate due to the loss of the Dream of the Founding fathers of America. Once again the power of the military-industrial complex( warned against by many including Presiden
Shea Mastison
This guy fundamentally misunderstands the nature of fiat currency and the essentially destabilizing effect that it has on the global economy. Contrary to what he may think, the boom and bust cycle will always be made worse by having a centrally planned economy. In the face of his passion, it's clear he doesn't want to understand this as why Japan has been stagnant for the last ten years or more; however, the problem is not cultural--it's endemic.
It's an okay read if you're a foreign policy/poli
Read the original 2000 version (pre-9/11). Chalmers made very good points on how the US seemed to still be fighting the Cold War against... everybody... during the 90s. The military did draw down to some degree but US spending still dwarfed the rest of the world (even when taking into account the obviously fabricated low official Chinese military budget). The result seemed to be meddling for meddling's sake all over the world, the book concentrated on Asia. During the Cold War there actually wer ...more
Well, pretty obviously the CIA is unlikely to take credit for all the missteps that Chalmers Johnson attributes to them. There is plenty of evidence that they SHOULD take credit for more, but Johnson has, I think, gone somewhat over the top. My single biggest objection would have to be that he makes vigorous argument against the USA's having, in several cases, exercised its sovereignty by protecting its overseas military, and civilians, from falling under the auspices of international (and sever ...more
Sean Rosenthal
Interesting Quote:

"Military might does not equate with 'leadership of the free world'...An excessive reliance on a militarized foreign policy and an indifference to the distinction between national interests and national values in deciding where the United States should intervene abroad have actually made the country less secure in ways that will become only more apparent in the years to come."

-Chalmers Johnson, Blowback, 2000
Lots to recommend in this book: great perspective on America's economic and military bullying (though, largely focused on east Asia). Connects the dots between American policy abroad and the collapse of manufacturing and the middle class at home.

One thing I hate about books like this is confronting the depth of my own ignorance.
Wray Finks
The author's expertise lies in Asian culture and that is definitely the focus of the book. It's unfortunate, because our nation's imperial over-reach extends far beyond our meddling in the Pacific Rim. When you buy a book about our "empire" it must include our worldwide ambition. Since the collapse of the other superpower, the USSR, instead of relaxing and cutting back on our military, those in power have seen this as an opportunity to essentially police the entire planet, draining even more of ...more
The premise of Blowback is very interesting. It aims to examine the role of shortsighted policy decisions made by the U.S. and the long-term, unintended consequences they created.

This is another book I chose to read, rather listen to, after discovering it on the Army Chief of Staff's recommended reading list for 2013. The book was listed of the CoS' list under the section for broadening leaders. The list is intended to "complement materials currently used in the Army educational system and can h
Steven Peterson
Blowback, according to author Chalmers Johnson, is a term invented by the CIA to (page ix) ". . .describe the likelihood that our covert operations in other people's countries could result in retaliation against Americans, civilian and military, at home and abroad." At another point, he notes that (page xi) ". . .blowback is another way of saying that a nation sows what it reaps." It results in unintended consequences of actions.

This is an angry book, with Johnson not pretending to take an acad
This is a book I'd long known of but had little inclination to read. I'm glad I finally took the time to read it. It's somewhat disturbing - the thesis is that the U.S. has lost all moral legitimacy in the post-Cold War era (the book was published in 2000) and that it is already on a steady glide-plane to its demise, a la the "imperial overstretch" that historian Paul Kennedy popularized. I think he's overstating his argument a bit, particularly in light of events that took place not long after ...more
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
It is apparent that although this book was written and published in 2000,PRE 9-11, it is obvious to even the most anesthetized and clueless American, obsessing on celebrity and shopping that what has happened in those eleven years is part-and-parcel what Mr. Johnson defines as blowback - the unintended consequences of our pursuit of global hegemony. Here is the first paragraphs from the final chapter, The Consequences of Empire.

"American officials and the media talk a great deal about "rogue sta
Blowback: the Costs and Consequences of American Empire by Chalmers Johnson. Johnson, author of over a dozen books, is a retired Professor of Asian Studies at UC Berkeley and UC San Diego, as well as a former consultant to the CIA. While at times I felt like I was drowning in information--I would get halfway down a page and have to start over, gasping for air after each sentence---the picture he portrays of America’s presence and policies in Asia after WWII is frightening. The continuing presenc ...more
Marissa Ovick
Another book I reread once every couple of years. Always relevant.....
From Booklist
A veteran, and veteran academic on China and Japan, offers a serious indictment of the security system the U.S. organized in East Asia circa 1950 to contain the communists. Convinced the time has arrived to close down bases, bring troops home, and renegotiate extant security treaties, Johnson examines, from a highly critical, almost excoriating viewpoint, the American presence in Japan, Korea, Okinawa, Taiwan, the
Reading about the revolution under way in Egypt, my mind immediately turns to "Blowback," an exceptionally helpful tour through America's foreign policy and actions abroad, their negative impacts and how they've colored how others see us.

When author Chalmers Johnson writes of "Blowback" he's using a term coined by the CIA. It's the definition of what happens when American interests are plied secretively abroad, and how the chickens come home to roost in the form of blowback, everything from terr
Brilliant! Blowback=unintended consequences of secret policies of the US Government. The American people have given uncritical support to an array of operative including presidents in US Empire building.

Chalmers Johnson has somehow managed to avoid inclusion in the Horowitz hate monger list.
An incredibly thorough analysis of the foreign policy mess that is USA. The list is long.
Iran (1953)
Guatemala (1954)
Cuba (1959-present)
Congo (1960)
Brazil (1964)
Indonesia (1965)
Vietnam (1961-73)
Laos (1961-73)
Adam Sprague
First off let me say that every person in high school from the day this was printed on should be required to read the introduction.

Actually, every person should be required by law to read the introduction. (it's that good and spot on)

The problem with political books is people like to read what matches their taste. So in other words, the people that need to read this book are not going to.

I found the first half of the book very enjoyable and quick moving. I def. loved the parts about Okinawa and
Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire was written by Chalmers Johnson an American author and professor emeritus of the University of California, San Diego. He served in the Korean War, was a consultant for the CIA from 1967 to 1973, and chaired the Center for Chinese Studies at the University of California, Berkeley from 1967 to 1972.

Blowback a term initially used in classified CIA documents, referred to the unintended consequences of covert action. "In a broader sense, blowba
I decided to pick up this book after seeing the author, Chalmers Johnson, on "Speaking Freely" & doing some research on him. This book has helped me understand much more about the political climate, the wars this country are in, why we are in them, foreign policy & the decisions made by the people who run this country & who they defer to or at least turn a blind eye to in regards to their actions. A real eye opener, it explains how much of what goes on today or what has happened in t ...more
Jerry Smith
I have been meaning to read this book for some years and since I first considered it, this edition came out which provides a forward that is probably necessary post 9-11. Much of the subsequent text ends around the end of the century (the original book published in 2000 I think) which gives us the advantage of another 13 years from which the reader can observe what has happened subsequent to Johnson's treatise.

There is a lot to think about here. The issue of "Blowback" as such is not covered in
Greg Daly
The book is a bit dated and primarily focuses on Asia and how the U.S. foreign policy and covert actions will have unintended consequences. In the book, the author reviews the scenario of events in Okinawa, North and South Korea and China, and the fundamental principles underlying each covert adventure which leads people's rights being violated, a nation's sovereignty being overrun in favor of some advantage for the U.S. While the author is critical of the U.S. it is disconcerting to know that t ...more
This book opens pretty powerfully with a description of the US military's accident in Italy, where jet pilots flying below 300 feet cut the cable of a ski gondola and killed 20 people. The pilots who were clearly flying lower and faster than regulations allowed, were tried in the US and not even really reprimanded. And, as the book points out, how many Italian jet pilots are training in US bases? Why are we even in Italy, a friendly country that has almost zero possibility ever being invaded by ...more
I picked this book from a library sale quite interested in reading Johnson's work on where our foreign policy has gotten us in trouble which I agree with somewhat. Within the first 10 pages I new exactly where his opinions lay on the political spectrum. No big deal I read books all the time by people that I disagree with. It was when he started manipulating facts to fit his point that I put the book down.

Pg 8 in the paperback copy, Johnson blames the Pan Am 103 bombing on the US because of the 1
We often wonder why there is anger against the USA around the world. We are prevented from accurate analysis of our status and stature globally because the media filters out the truth of our actions and their effects on other nations. This leaves us clueless to the reality that we press upon other nations calling it benevolence at home, but serving up crushing hegemony overseas. Thisbook explains how this process has worked against our nation and created the insecurity we now face as we become a ...more
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Chalmers Ashby Johnson was an American author and professor emeritus of the University of California, San Diego. He fought in the Korean war, from 1967-1973 was a consultant for the CIA, and ran the Center for Chinese Studies at the University of California, Berkeley for years. He was also president and co-founder of the Japan Policy Research Institute, an organization promoting public education a ...more
More about Chalmers Johnson...
The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic Dismantling the Empire: America's Last Best Hope MITI and the Japanese Miracle: The Growth of Industrial Policy, 1925-1975 Peasant Nationalism and Communist Power: The Emergence of Revolutionary China, 1937-1945

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“It is time to realize, however, that the real dangers to America today come not from the newly rich people of East Asia but from our own ideological rigidity, our deep-seated belief in our own propaganda.” 1 likes
“The Nature of Political Terrorism The suicidal assassins of September 11, 2001, did not “attack America,” as political leaders and news media in the United States have tried to maintain; they attacked American foreign policy. Employing the strategy of the weak, they killed innocent bystanders, whose innocence is, of course, no different from that of the civilians killed by American bombs in Iraq, Serbia, Afghanistan, and elsewhere.” 1 likes
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