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Global Overextension or “Hegemonic Imperialism”? Differing Perspectives on US Political and Military Involvement in Contemporary East Asia

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A Book Essay on Chalmers Johnson’s Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire.

New York: Metropolitan Books, 2000.

North American students of geopolitics and global conflict generally have a much firmer grasp of trouble spots in Europe and the Middle East than of bones of contention in East Asia. Due to both traditional historical ties across the Atlantic Ocean and sheer inertia, protracted conflicts in Northern Ireland, the Balkans,  and the Middle East have garnered much more North American media coverage than long-standing disputes across the Taiwan Straits or on the Korean peninsula. Yet since the end of World War II, the region where North American soldier have tended to get hogged down in long and virtually unwinnable military conflicts has been East and Southeast Asia, not Europe or the Middle East. The United States could only manage lo maintain the political status quo in Korea through a grueling military stalemate in the early 1950s, and departed in defeat from South Vietnam approximately two decades later. Well aware of the dangers of American military intervention on the East Asian mainland. former President Harry Truman wisely fired General Douglas MacArthur when the latter insistently called for widening the war against North Korean aggression toinclude direct allied attacks on military bases in the People’s Republic of China (PRC).