The Roots of American Militarism

The American Empire has been on my mind.

Just yesterday, I was rereading some of my old books which helped shaped my views on the subject when the news broke about how Gen. Mark Milley launched a coup against President Donald Trump. Chalmers Johnson wrote a trilogy of books warning about something like this in the early 2000s.

The following excerpt comes from Chalmers Johnson’s book The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy and the End of the Republic.

“The Spanish-American War not only inaugurated an era of American imperialism but also set the United States on the path toward militarism. In traditional American political thought, large standing armies had been viewed as both unnecessary, since the United States was determined to avoid foreign wars, and a threat to liberty, because military discipline and military values were seen as incompatible with the openness of civilian life. In his famous Farewell Address of September 17, 1796, George Washington told his fellow Americans, “The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is – in extending our commercial relations – to have with them as little political connection as possible.” To twenty-first-century ears, this pronouncement seems highly idealistic and, if perhaps appropriate to a new and powerless nation, certainly not feasible for the world’s only “superpower.” Washington’s name is still sacrosanct in the United States, but the content of his advice is routinely dismissed as “isolationism.”

If you have traditional American views on race and culture and especially antiquated views (non-progressive views) on ideology and foreign policy, you are a “domestic extremist.” This is the jargon that the national security state now uses to demonize Americans who have the genetics of the Founders.

“Nonetheless, Washington had something quite specific in mind. He feared that the United States might develop a state apparatus, comparable to those of the autocratic states of Europe, that could displace the constitutional order. This would inevitably involve a growth in federal taxes to pay for the armies and bureaucracies of the state, a shift in political power from the constituent states of the union to the federal government, and a shift within the federal government from the preeminence of the Congress to that of the president, resulting in what we have come to call the “imperial presidency.” The surest route to these unwanted outcomes, in Washington’s mind, was foreign wars. As James Madison, the primary author of the Constitution, wrote: “Of all enemies to public liberty, war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few.” The Declaration of Independence accused the English king of having “affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power,” and the First Continental Congress condemned the use of the army to enforce the collection of taxes. These attitudes lasted about a century. With the Spanish-American War, the government began to build a military machine – and to tolerate the accompanying militarism – that by the end of the twentieth century had come to seem invincible.”

Ultimately, it wasn’t a foreign war that gave us this. It was the War Between the States. The Confederate side fought against the consolidation of the states and the centralization of power in Washington. Whether it was Jefferson Davis or Alexander Stephens or Robert Barnwell Rhett or John C. Calhoun or Robert E. Lee, the loss of state sovereignty was the central issue for all of them.

“The onset of militarism is commonly marked by three broad indicators. The first is the emergence of a professional military class and the subsequent glorification of its ideals. Professionalism became an issue during the Korean War (1950-53). The goal of professionalism is to produce soldiers who will fight solely and simply because they have been ordered to do so and not because they necessarily identify with, or have any interest in, the political goals of a war …

The second political hallmark of militarism is the preponderance of military officers or representatives of the arms industry in high government positions …

The third hallmark of militarism is a devotion to policies in which military preparedness becomes the highest priority of the state. In his inaugural address, President George W. Bush said, “We will build our defenses beyond challenge, lest weakness invite challenge. We will confront weapons of mass destruction, so that a new century is spared new horrors.”

I always hated this about Donald Trump.

Trump was a militarist. He surrounded himself with these generals and repeatedly took their awful advice. He always had delusions about the generals. He boasted about “rebuilding our military.” He held a huge military parade to show off the military like Emmanuel Macron in France.

Trump’s idea was that he could continue to feed this monster and that somehow he would have the power to rein it in and that it wouldn’t turn on him. “Mad Dog” Mattis exposed this delusion. When Trump attempted to withdraw from Syria, he resigned and had a meltdown. The withdrawal from Syria was walked back. The Pentagon strongarmed Trump and got its way. We are still in Syria today.

Note: As subsequent events would show, the Pentagon and “intelligence community” are a far greater threat to us than anyone in Syria.

About Hunter Wallace 12382 Articles
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  1. “The Confederate side fought against the consolidation of the states and the centralization of power in Washington. Whether it was Jefferson Davis or Alexander Stephens or Robert Barnwell Rhett or John C. Calhoun or Robert E. Lee, the loss of state sovereignty was the central issue for all of them.”

    Well, then, their argument was with George Washington, who was dead long before the emergence of the Confederacy and, in fact, before most of them were born …


    WE have now the honor to submit to the consideration of the United States in Congress assembled, that constitution which has appeared to us the most advisable.

    The friends of our country have long seen and desired, that the power of making war, peace and treaties, that of levying money and regulating commerce, and the correspondent executive and judicial authorities should be fully and effectually vested in the general government of the union; but the impropriety of delegating such extensive trust to one body of men is evident. Hence results the necessity of a different organization.

    IT IS OBVIOUSLY IMPRACTICABLE IN THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT OF THESE STATES; TO SECURE ALL RIGHTS OF INDEPENDENT SOVEREIGNTY TO EACH, and yet provide for the interest and safety of all—Individuals entering into society, must give up a share of liberty to preserve the rest. The magnitude of the sacrifice must depend as well on situation & circumstance as on the object to be obtained. It is at all times difficult to draw with precision the line between those rights which must be surrendered, and those which may be reserved; and on the present occasion this difficulty was encreased by a difference among the several states as to their situation, extent, habits and particular interests.

    In all our deliberations on this subject WE KEPT STEADILY IN OUR VIEW, THAT WHICH APPEARS TO US THE GREATEST INTEREST OF EVERY TRUE AMERICAN, THE CONSOLIDATION OF OUR UNION, in which is involved our prosperity, felicity, safety, perhaps our national existence. This important consideration, seriously and deeply impressed on our minds, led each state in the convention to be less riged [sic] on points of inferior magnitude, than might have been otherwise expected; and thus the constitution, which we now present, is the result of a spirit of amity, and of that mutual deference and concession which the peculiarity of our political situation rendered indispensible.

    That it will meet the full and entire approbation of every state is not perhaps to be expected; but each will doubtless consider, that had her interests been alone consulted, the consequences might have been particularly disagreeable or injurious to others; that it is liable to as few exceptions as could reasonably have been expected, we hope and believe; that it may promote the lasting welfare of THAT COUNTRY SO DEAR TO US ALL, and secure her freedom and happiness, is our most ardent wish.

    With great respect,
    We have the honor to be
    Your Excellency’s most
    Obedient and humble servants.
    By unanimous Order of the Convention.

    His Excellency the President of Congress.
    (Excerpt—George Washington’s letter of transmittal of the US Constitution to Congress, September 17, 1787)

    (Emphases mine)

    PS If you would like to examine the selectiveness, bordering on intent to defraud, with which the letter I’ve just pasted above is treated by the Great Prevaricator, John C. Calhoun, see page “[113]” at the following:

    PPS The term “imperial presidency” is just as much a bit of humbug as “superpower,” “isolationism,” or “domestic extremist,” Mr. W.

    • J.B., P, your comments are always intelligent and worth reading. Good criticism of Calhoun.
      But the struggle between federalism and states’ rights is a distraction from seeing the real problem which is the system itself, that rules on all levels from local to federal – the same system in both a loose confederacy of sovereign states and a more rigid federal union.

      On the topic of imperialism, I discovered this good documentary of the colonization of Cuba from 1898 to 1959, purported to be “the beginning of U.S. imperialism”:

      • Thanks for the YouTube link. I enjoyed the piece.

        Slicing up Cuba, just before the party ended:

  2. “When Trump says ‘We spend way too much on the military’, this is akin to heresy.”

    No it’s not; rather, it’s akin to a con man who is trying to defraud voters with a bit and switch scam. Trump is a liar in the service of the “deep state.” Anyone paying attention should realize that by now

    Trump is, was, and always will be a bloviating buffoon and a sleazy con man desperately in need of a thesaurus. Trump lacks the character to save anything but his own interests, and even then he is lacking. Never forget Trump’s sniveling pandering to the Jews. Never forget Trump fell right in line with the covid-1984 crime against humanity and starting touting the vaxxecution toxic sludge clot shot.

    Trump still beats Biden & Harris though….but we are truly trawling through the bottom of the cesspool if that’s what we have for a choice. Time to start hanging bankers, bosses of political parties, and owners of mainstream media corporations.

    Revolution NOW

    • But what blood is acceptable? Many Whites in the South have mixed blood of English, Irish, Scottish, German, etc.

      Even the poet Robert Browning’s grandmother was of mixed race and Browning himself was dark-complexioned.

      Margaret Tittle was said to have had a mixed race ancestry. Both her son Robert Sr. and Robert the poet were dark-complexioned, which raised eyebrows. According to one account, Robert Sr. – on visiting the family plantation in St. Kitts – was made by the church beadle to sit with the “colored” people rather than with the white. The two poets Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning were married in secret in 1846.
      — “Browning Surname Meaning, History & Origin”

      • THEY don’t hunt, the don’t fish, and they don’t farm. But there is one field that the Irish do gravitate too, pointing a gun at us and others, either as police or as military, in the name of the law.

        THEY, the Irish want power over us and are willing to sell their souls to get it. That is the difference between us and them. WE just want to live our lives in peace and be left alone. THEY want to us force to compel us to do as they say.

        Got it professor?

          • ….as a free man my enemies are those to seek to exert their will over me for their own self aggrandizement. The Jews seek power over the free by the lie and the Irish seek power over the free by force. It is the blood that compels these enemies of freedom to act as they do.

            And I will repeat what I have foretold, it will not be the blacks or the Latinos who wage war against peace loving, freedom loving whites, it will be the Irish. They want the yolk around our necks and are not content to let us be.

            “I have been patient with, but my patience is wearing thin….”.

            Is that a threat of force against those who do not obey? Who made Biden and Milley king?

          • “I am with the South in life or death, in victory or defeat. I believe the North is about to wage a brutal and unholy war on a people who have done them no wrong, in violation of the constitution and the fundamental principles of government. They no longer acknowledge that all government derives its validity from the consent of the governed. They are about to invade our peaceful homes, destroy our property, and murder our men and dishonor our women. We propose no invasion of the North, no attack on them, and only ask to be left alone.”
            — General Patrick Cleburne, CSA.

            “Every man should endeavor to understand the meaning of subjugation before it is too late… It means the history of this heroic struggle will be written by the enemy; that our youth will be trained by Northern schoolteachers; will learn from Northern school books their version of the war; will be impressed by the influences of history and education to regard our gallant dead as traitors, and our maimed veterans as fit objects for derision… It is said slavery is all we are fighting for, and if we give it up we give up all. Even if this were true, which we deny, slavery is not all our enemies are fighting for. It is merely the pretense to establish sectional superiority and a more centralized form of government, and to deprive us of our rights and liberties.”
            — General Patrick Cleburne, CSA, January 1864.

      • “Throughout all this time, from the years after Waterloo to the years immediately succeeding the defeat of the French in 1870-71, the weight and position of the Jew in Western civilization increased out of all knowledge and yet without shock, and almost without attracting attention. They entered the Parliaments everywhere, the English peerage as well, and the Universities in very large numbers. A Jew became Prime Minister of Great Britain, another a principal leader of the Italian resurrection; another led the opposition to Napoleon III. They were present in increasing numbers in the chief institutions of every country. They began to take positions as fellows of every important Oxford and Cambridge college; they counted heavily in the national literatures; Browning and Arnold families, for instance, in England …”

        —Hilaire Belloc, The Jews, Houghton Mifflin, 1922, page 47,+for+instance,+in+England%22&pg=PA47&printsec=frontcover

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