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Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic (American Empire Project)

1 rating: 3.0
A book by Chalmers Johnson

Like ancient Rome, America is saddled with an empire that is fatally undermining its republican government, argues Johnson (The Sorrows of Empire), in this bleak jeremiad. He surveys the trappings of empire: the brutal war of choice in Iraq and other … see full wiki

Author: Chalmers Johnson
Publisher: Metropolitan Books
1 review about Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic...

One of the most important books since "Sorrows of Empire"

  • Mar 26, 2007
Amid the vast flood of ink and pixels decrying the direction George W. Bush and the neocons are taking this country, the work of Chalmers Johnson stands out. His ability to pull together disparate facts into one big, intelligible picture is a key part of that, of course. But more fundamental still, I think, is the understanding that crystallizes, this time, on page 15 of "Nemesis": "I believe that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney have led this country into a perilous cul-de-sac, but they did not do it alone and removing them from office will not necessarily solve the problem."

That's what made Johnson's last book, "The Sorrows of Empire," so important in my opinion -- his well-marshaled argument that the rise of American Empire predated the Iraq War and even 9/11, and that the fight against Empire is about so much more than what individual, or even which party, occupies the White House. Indeed, so long as America's imperial apparatus remains in place, it hardly matters who is occupying the White House.

Johnson continues this analysis in "Nemesis," focusing on several key indicators of the breakdown of American liberty, including the militarization of government, the decline of the CIA as a fact-gathering agency and its rise as the president's private army, and our high-handed dealings with the Japanese over US bases in Okinawa. I found this analysis somewhat less compelling that in "Sorrows of Empire," and so I gave this book four stars instead of five, but it is still important reading.

The best chapter, I thought, was the one in which Johnson compares the Roman and British Empires. Many conservatives seem to get a Churchillian buzz at the thought of America becoming the 21st-century successor to the British Empire, and so Johnson does some very important analysis here. All rising empires ultimately have to decide between democracy and imperial power, he argues. Rome chose empire, while Britain chose democracy and so backed away from empire in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s (though not without some major missteps, like Suez or Kenya). America seems to be rocketing toward that fork in the road more quickly than either of those empires did.

The author marshals his facts and presents his argument in great depth, and so I admit that sometimes, especially in the chapters about Okinawa and space-warfare, I found myself skimming some. That was a change from the intensity with which I devoured "Sorrows of Empire." I wish he had spent more time tying it all together the way he did in his final chapter, "The Crisis of the American Republic." Johnson begins his Prologue describing "Nemesis" as "the last volume of an inadvertent trilogy" about "arrogant and misguided American policies [heading] us for a series of catastrophes." But trilogies have been known to become four-part series before, and I for one would more than welcome further work from Chalmers Johnson on this most important topic.

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