When I was a senior at Hamden High School I was lucky enough to attend a talk by Paul Kennedy, distinguished historian at Yale University, and author of The Rise and Fall of Great Powers. Then aged 17, I understood the import of what Dr. Kennedy was sharing. But I was overwhelmed, for in the closing moments of the Cold War I simply could not accept that America, the country of my Top Gun, Red Storm Rising, Red Dawn, Desert Storm first round knockout dreams, would one day not be top dog. Impossible I thought. And most certainly an event that would not occur in my lifetime.
Chalmers Johnson, one of the great teachers and students of global politics, has left us at age 79. Like so few who saw the wicked temptations of American Empire, and how it would one day be undone by virtue of its grand successes, Johnson stated the painfully obvious: Imperial hubris would bring the temple down upon us all.
I do so wish that Chalmers Johnson would have lived a few more years to write the epithet of American empire. To clarify, I do not want to see America's empire collapse for while the little guy did not benefit grandly from the escapades of financiers, global markets, and the military industrial complex (an intentionally provocative point of debate and tete-a-tete for those willing to take the bait), like many, I too remain a bit drunk on our myths of exceptionalism and national triumph where we Americans (with only the most noble of intentions) saved the world for democracy.
Rather, I think we Americans would be well served by the wisdom of the elder gods in this, our moment of seemingly inevitable decline. Chalmers Johnson could hold the collective hand as we Americans walked down our new path together. I do hope the patient has been pronounced prematurely slouching towards her end, that our ingenuity, drive, and spirit will overcome the weight of our ledger. But as a realist, I remain open to any and all possibilities...even the most dire.
Travel well Mr. Johnson. You will be missed.