Blowback and PNAC

As I read the “Blowback” piece by Chalmers Johnson, I repeatedly thought of it in relation to the PNAC report entitled “Rebuilding America’s Defenses.” Several points seemed to respond directly to one another. This got me thinking: Are these pieces speaking from the same vantage point? Are they both pre- or post-9/11? Before looking at the published dates of these two pieces, it seemed likely to me that they could both be alternate responses to the 9/11 attacks.

“Blowback” for me seemed to be speaking about American imperialism and defense strategy by referencing the 9/11 tragedy with a healthy sense of perspective, not one still ringing of initial shock and sorrow. The article quickly acknowledged the suffering of victims and families affected, but moved on to the real business at hand – the discussion of what America has done to bring these types of events upon itself. I was expecting the article to be written at least a year, maybe even five or more, after 9/11, certainly not at the end of the very same month. I think it would be almost impossible for the majority of Americans at that time to step back far enough to say not “Why is this happening to us?” but “Of course – this is because of our past actions.” I found that the article did an excellent job of not ending the conversation there, but detailing the specific, repeated, and often covert actions of our government over the past 100 years that have led us to this very moment of terrorism, leaving aside the question of “Did we deserve it?”

I think that the PNAC report’s opinion of prudent defense strategy would have been more accepted by a post-9/11 audience, one who was angered and retaliative. Yet it is interesting that this piece represents the policies which “Blowback” is directly attacking from its position after the tragedy with terrorism directly in mind. While PNAC desires greater overall prioritization of American military, “Blowback” explicitly calls certain so-called preventive measures against terrorism through global domination (i.e. American bases all over the world) to be useless. Instead of heightening security at airports, it asks why we don’t decrease our reliance on air travel in the first place. It doesn’t claim that we should do nothing to protect ourselves, but that throwing money in a certain direction isn’t going to magically solve the problem that the government has, over time, created. I had honestly never even considered the remedies presented in “Blowback,” maybe because the debate often seems to be one of “should we or shouldn’t we” (heighten security measures at airports) instead of begging the question “What else could we do that would actually produce desirable results? I found this article to be especially valuable in our discussion of American imperialism on its own and in debate against other pieces we have read.

– Megan S.

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