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You! Off the tiger!

By Owen Paine on Monday February 12, 2007 10:36 PM

Why do I keep knocking Chalmers Johnson? I love the man. Deeply. But check this out, from Harper's:


It's a digest of his latest and last volume in the Blowback trilogy, Nemesis, a book of 300-odd pages, which I streaked, standing up at a bookstore last night.

Much of it got my bowels gurgling, but I'm bugged on one point -- enough for this post, anyway -- and this line from the Harper's article gets right onto that bug's back:

"Like the British after World War II, the United States could choose to keep its democracy by giving up its empire."

Giving up its empire? Swearing off it? By choice? Is that what the Brits did? Is that what Chalmers means -- or did Homer just nod?

Beacuse of course the Brits did nothing of the sort. Yes, in one beastly place after another, all across the planet, after '45, they folded up their Victorian charm schools, and like an exposed snake oil salesman, fled for cover. But Chuck, they didn't jump, they were pushed -- and pulled, twisted, and kicked, not just by the lesser breeds, but also by brawny Cousin Jonathan.

And even so, they are hardly in retirement. They may no longer command the major world courts as singles players, but they still play doubles on the imperial circuit, with Uncle Overhead Slam as partner in chief.

Let's agree on one fact here: ever since old Europe's 19th century empires all beat each other senseless between 1914 and 1945, and even before that useful bogey, Russia's Marxoidal figment, disintegrated in '89, we earthlings have been living either under, against, in, or through a unitary global empire doing business as America the Exceptional. My dear, and deeply esteemed, professor Johnson, empires of any sort -- even shabby, crumbling ones like the Brits ran prior to '45, and let alone unitary ones like Uncle Hedge runs today -- just can't take honorable leave of their global obligations, depredations and gainful exactions. The very idea is pure Disneyesque Tinkerbell hallucineering. Shame on you, dearest Chuck. You know better, and say as much in your trilogy, over and over. Doom is the beat of your narrative's drum throughout -- and rightly so.

Yeah, it's tempting to think that Uncle Sam might join some nonexistent little Britain in imperial rehab -- that the American titan might morph into some kinda of hulking Tom Jefferson in spurs. But Chucky, you must know that that was out of the question probably 30 years before 1896.

Headline impossible:

Weebles to Wall Street:
Okay, fine. For the sake of the story line, let's say somehow we're scaling back the state to de Tocqueville dimensions. So tell me -- where do you suggest we put all those transnational corporations?

Comments (5)


Most of them will sell themselves off to the Chinese and Indians. Why do our CEOs delude themselves that they can compete with Chinese and Indian companies with direct links to the manufacturing and engineering and, increasingly, the markets? Sorry, the CEOs will find themselves just as obsolete as a U.S. Autoworker. Probably not during my lifetime, of course.

owen paine:

ahhh brian

there's more magic
in that ole wall street silk hat
then can be found
in most "philosophy "

never turn your back on an old metropole

Just to play devil's advocate: my reading of Johnson is that rather than continue trying to hang onto the world the Brits chose to give up the imperial fight. He would probably agree that they were compelled to do so, but there was a fork in the road and they made a choice. If they had continued on they would have destroyed themselves.

Just to be clear, I mostly agree with you that they really didn't have a choice in the matter.


FYI, interesting audio account of how the sun set on the British Empire (just the emblematic case of India and how willingly the English packed up is between minutes 5-9).

owen paine:

i suspect we're crossing each other here

but my point
the stately trans nats of britain
are still active components of the amerikan borderless ransack

the english empire got "moiged"
bronx style
into cuz jonathan's bigger circus

if chalmers is claiming as a result of
the brits no longer face
national bankrupcy
only we yanks do

don't bet on it

b4 he goes under
uncle will try to sink his partners first believe me

if he entertains the notion
that the british people
retained or regained
of their national helm
as we yanks haven'tand won't so long as we are earth's mister hedge

i submit the bottled for export
and shipped outto the last carton
blair government
puts the stinkerooo
under that fantasy

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