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A vast network of American military bases on every continent except Antarctica actually constitutes a new form of empire not likely to be taught in any high school geography class. Without grasping the dimensions of this globe-girdling Baseworld, one can't begin to understand the size and nature of our imperial aspirations or the degree to which a new kind of militarism is undermining our constitutional order.

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The failure to begin to deal with our bloated military establishment and the profligate use of it in missions for which it is hopelessly inappropriate will, sooner rather than later, condemn the United States to a devastating trio of consequences: imperial overstretch, perpetual war, and insolvency, leading to a likely collapse similar to that of the former Soviet Union.

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With "Blowback," Chalmers Johnson aimed to paint a portrait of how America's informal empire and its historically unprecedented garrisoning of the world looked to others, and so explain why animosity and blowback were building globally. Now we have a secret history of 21st-century American war in Jeremy Scahill’s latest book, "Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield."

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There has been much moaning, air-sucking and outrage about the U.S. government's $700-billion bailout deal, but in fact we dole out similar amounts of money every year in the form of payoffs to the armed services, the military-industrial complex, and powerful senators and representatives allied with the Pentagon.

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Since 1961, there has been too little serious study of, or discussion of, the origins of the military-industrial complex, how it has changed over time, how governmental secrecy has hidden it from oversight by members of Congress or attentive citizens, and how it degrades our constitutional structure of checks and balances.

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