November 23, 2010
Chalmers Johnson, foreign policy expert and life-long intellectual, died on Saturday November 20th at the age of 79. He is survived by his wife Sheila. Johnson was a veteran of the Korean war, a consultant to the CIA from 1967–1973, and an academic. He chaired the Center for Chinese Studies at the University of California, Berkeley from 1967 to 1972, and left the University after 26 years in 1988. That year he moved to UC San Diego to join the newly opened School of International Relations and Pacific Studies. He retired from academia in 1992 and founded the Japan Policy Research Institute. Chalmers was considered a vanguard intellectual in the development of nations, especially in Asia. Steve Clemons, a student and long time friend of Johnson, said of his impact, “From my perspective [he] 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 was an apostate and heretic in the field of political economy. [He] challenged conventional wisdom … writing the significant treatises documenting the growing prevalence of state-led industrial and trade and finance policy abroad, particularly in Asia.” In 1995 the brutal rape of a 12 year old Japanese girl by two US soldiers stationed in Okinawa, Japan, spurred a fundamental shift in Johnson’s view toward American foreign policy. He argued against the presence of US military bases around the world, viewing them as unnecessary and destructive. He wrote and lectured frequently about the United States slide toward Imperialism and the embrace of a perpetual war state. Johnson was perhaps best known for his 2000 book, Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire. The book did not receive wide attention until after the events of 9/11, when it was instantly seen as prophetic, and became a best seller. Following Blowback, Chalmers Johnson wrote the books, “The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic,” “Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic,” and his last book just released in August, “Dismantling the Empire: America’s Last Best Hope.”
Today we’ll pay tribute to Chalmers Johnson by playing clips from a speech and an interview:
Chalmers Johnson spoke on March 18th 2007 at the San Diego 1st Unitarian Universalist Church about his book Nemesis. Special thanks to Global Voices for Justice.
On January 8th, 2008 Sonali Kolhatkar interviewed Chalmers Johnson after the film Charlie Wilson’s War was released.