NPR's "Talk of the Nation" had Chalmers Johnson on Wednesday talking about his new book, "Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic." Johnson is a harsh critic of the way our military has come to dominate at least the foreign policy agenda of our government, and he offers no comfort for those (like me most of the time, to be honest) who believe we'll just find a way to muddle through:
"One of the oddest features of political life in the United States in the years since the terrorist attacks is how few people have thought or acted like Barbara Lee. The public expresses itself in opinion polls, which some students of politics scrutinize intently, but there is little passion in the society, certainly none proportionate to the threats facing our democratic republic. The United States today is like a cruise ship on the Niagara River upstream of the most spectacular falls in North America. A few people on board have begun to pick up a slight hiss in the background, to observe a faint haze of mist in the air or on their glasses, to note that the river current seems to be running slightly faster. But no one yet seems to have realized that it is almost too late to head for shore.
"Like the Chinese, Ottoman, Hapsburg, imperial German, Nazi, imperial Japanese, British, French, Dutch, Portuguese, and Soviet empires in the last century, we are approaching the edge of a huge waterfall and are about to plunge over it."
And he also points out what's obvious now that we've gotten to watch Congress's first impotent response to Bush's Iraq policy:
"I believe that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney have led the 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. The crisis of government in the United States has been building at least since World War II. The emergence of the imperial presidency and the atrophying of the legislative and judicial branches have deep roots in the postwar military-industrial complex, in the way broad sectors of the public have accepted the military as our most effective public institution, and in aberrations in our electoral system. The interesting issue is not the damage done by Bush, Cheney, and their followers but how they were able to get away with it, given the barriers that exist in the Constitution to prevent just the sorts of misuses of power for which they have become notorious."