The Impact Today and Tomorrow of Chalmers Johnson

by Steve Clemons

chal johnson.jpgNext week, Foreign Policy magazine and its editor-in-chief Susan Glasser will be releasing its 2nd annual roster of the world’s greatest thinkers and doers in foreign policy. I have seen the list — and it’s impressively creative and eclectic.

There is one name that is not on the FP100 who should be — and that is Chalmers Johnson, who from my perspective rivals Henry Kissinger as the most significant intellectual force who has shaped and defined the fundamental boundaries and goal posts of US foreign policy in the modern era.

Johnson, who passed away Saturday afternoon at 79 years, invented and was the acknowledged godfather of the conceptualization of the “developmental state“. For the uninitiated, this means that Chalmers Johnson led the way in understanding the dynamics of how states manipulated their policy conditions and environments to speed up economic growth. In the neoliberal hive at the University of Chicago, Chalmers Johnson was an apostate and heretic in the field of political economy. Johnson challenged conventional wisdom with he and his many star students — including E.B. Keehn, David Arase, Marie Anchordoguy, Mark Tilton and others — writing the significant treatises documenting the growing prevalence of state-led industrial and trade and finance policy abroad, particularly in Asia.

Today, the notion of “State Capitalism” has become practically commonplace in discussing the newest and most significant features of the global economy. Chalmers Johnson invented this field and planted the intellectual roots of understanding that other nation states were not trying to converge with and follow the so-called American model.

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From Beirut to Kabul: War, Occupation, Resistance

One of the world’s best frontline reporters, Nir Rosen recently returned from a six week trip to seven of Iraq’s provinces. He discussed post civil war Iraq and also his experiences reporting on Sunni-Shiite strife in Lebanon and on the situation in Afghanistan at The University of Texas at Austin on November 17, 2010.


Nato: Going Global

From Al Jazeera’s excellent Empire with Marwan Bishara.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation is the largest military force ever assembled, with a potential armed force of more than seven million. But as its original enemies, communism and the Soviet Union, were defeated two decades ago, what is the alliance’s new identity or new role?

Israel demolishes mosque

Israeli forces have demolished a mosque and several other buildings in the northern Jordan valley. They say the structure was built without a permit but residents say the mosque was built before 1967 and was recently renovated. The Palestinian government has condemned the action as state destruction, while Israel continues to fight for Israeli settlers.

Al Jazeera’s Nour Odeh reports from the Jordan Valley.

Amira Hass Eqbal Ahmad Memorial Lecture

The brave and gifted Israeli journalist Amira Hass, daughter of Nazi Holocaust survivors and a past resident of Gaza (she authored a book about Gaza in 2000), was a featured lecturer at this year’s Eqbal Ahmad Memorial hosted by Hampshire College.

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A musical blast from the past

H/t to The Nation’s Greg Mitchell for finding this rare gem and posting it on Twitter.

This is from John Lennon’s documentary “Gimme Some Truth.”  It features a young Tariq Ali, Robin Blackburn, Regis Debray, and the legendary Miles Davis … shooting hoops with Lennon. Classic.


On Songs of Blood and Sword

by Saffi Ullah Ahmad

In her latest book, Songs of Blood and Sword: A Daughter’s Memoir, journalist Fatima Bhutto — better known as the niece of the late Benazir Bhutto — takes us through the dark history of one of the world’s best known political dynasties.

Fatima’s grandfather, founder of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Pakistan’s first democratically elected Prime Minister, Zuliqar Ali Bhutto, was sent to the gallows (1979) following a military coup orchestrated by General Zia Ul-Haq based on what were concocted charges, despite appeals for mercy from across the diplomatic world. As Henry Kissinger had ominously threatened some years earlier, a ‘horrible example’ was made of Mr. Bhutto. As the book’s cover informs us, in the years since Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s execution, all but one of his children have died; in circumstances mired in mystery, Shahnawaz Bhutto was poisoned in his flat in France (1985), Mir Murtaza Bhutto – Fatima’s father – was gunned down outside his home in Karachi (1996) and Benazir Bhutto was killed following a suicide attack in the garrison city, Rawalpindi (2007).

Above all, Songs of Blood and Sword is the tale of a grieving daughter’s frantic six year search for the truth surrounding her father’s life and death. Fatima describes a kind spirited and idealistic Murtaza, a man of the people, who had idolised Che Guevara in his youth, fittingly having adorned his bedroom walls with posters of the Cuban revolutionary. After completing studies at Harvard and an unsuccessful diplomatic battle to save his father’s life, Murtaza’s formation of a leftist guerrilla outfit bent on ousting General Zia earned him the title of a terrorist. Following the General’s own mysterious death (1988) and Benazir’s rise to power, Murtaza grew increasingly critical of his sister, who he felt had betrayed the socialist ideals upon which the PPP was founded. He eventually returned to Pakistan with political aspirations – having won a seat in a provincial assembly – only to face an uphill struggle against a hostile PPP government.

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Chalmers Johnson, RIP

Chalmers Johnson

The great Chalmers Johnson is no more. An examplary scholar, Johnson metamorphosed from a hardline Cold Warrior into one of the most formidable critics of the American Empire, mapping its ever expanding imperium of bases. His 2000 book Blowback was prophetic, and his subsequent books The Sorrows of Empire and Nemesis have been equally prescient. Each one is a must read.

Here is (to the best of my knowledge) the last recorded interview with Johnson in which he discusses his latest book, Dismantling the Empire, which I haven’t had the pleasure of reading yet:

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