Ten Steps Toward Liquidating the U.S. Empire

The ten steps toward empire liquidation were authored by Chalmers Johnson and first appeared in the Huffington Post. They were  circulated in “The Mobilizer,” the monthly newsletter of Peace Action Wisconsin, in January 2011. Most recently, the ten steps appeared in the newsletter of Peace Action Michigan.

Dismantling the American empire would, of course, involve many steps. Here are ten key places to begin:

1) We need to put a halt to the serious environmental damage done by our military bases planet-wide. We also need to stop writing SOFAs (Status of Forces Agreements) that exempt the United States from any responsibility for cleaning up after itself.

2) Liquidating the empire will end the burden of carrying our empire of overseas bases and the “opportunity costs” that go with them — the things that we might otherwise do with our talents and resources but can’t or won’t.

3) As we otherwise know (but often forget), imperialism breeds the use of torture. In the 1960s and 1970s, the United States helped overthrown the elected governments in Brazil and Chile, and underwrote regimes of torture that prefigured our own treatment of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan. Dismantling the empire would potentially mean a real end to the modern U.S. record of using torture abroad.

4) We need to cut the ever-lengthening train of camp followers, dependents, civilian employees of the Department of Defense and hucksters — along with their expensive medical facilities, housing requirements, swimmming pools, clubs, golf courses, and so forth — that follow our military enclaves around the world.

5) We need to discredit the myth promoted by the military-industrial complex that our military establishment is valuable to the nation in terms of jobs, scientific research and defense. Those alleged advantages have long been discredited by serious economic research. Ending the empire would help make this happen.

6) As a self-respecting democratic nation, we need to stop being the world’s largest exporter of arms and munitions, and quit educating Third World militaries in the techniques of torture, military coups and service as proxies for our imperialism. A prime candidate for immediate closure is the so-called School of the Americas, the U.S. Army’s infamous military academy at Fort Benning, Georgia, for  Latin American military officers (renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation).

7) Given the growing constraints on the federal budget, we should abolish the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps and other long-standing programs that promote militarism in the nation’s schools.

8) We need to restore discipline and accountability in our armed forces by radically scaling back our reliance on civilian contractors, private military companies and agents working for the military outside the chain of command and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Ending the empire would make this possible.

9) We need to reduce, not increase, the size of our standing army and deal much more effectively with the wounds our soldiers receive and combat stress they endure.

10) Unfortunately, few empires of the past voluntarily gave up their dominations in order to remain independent, self-governing entities. The two most recent examples are the British and Soviet empires. If we do not learn from their examples, our decline and fall is preordained.

To repeat the main message of these ten steps, the United States must give up its inappropriate reliance on military force as the chief means of attempting to achieve foreign policy objectives.


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