News+and+politics religion philosophy the cynic librarian: The E Word

Friday, July 01, 2005

The E Word

A recent lecture makes a strong case for building and maintaining an American empire. This lecture is a sober assessment of the historical situation as it now stands, and as it appears to be on the verge of unfolding.

The lecturer questions, however, whether Americans have faced up to the fact of its imperial potential. As far as he is concerned, the historical factors are a "done deal": America is already the de facto empire, and its leaders and citizens just need to take control of the reins and ride the stagecoach to glory.

I do not agree with many of this lecturer's conclusions; specifically, I think that if America is going to rule the world it must clarify the moral principles that will determine the nature of this rule. This author makes it clear that these principles should be based on evolutionary psychological principles.

What would be wrong if America simply turned its back on imperial pretensions? Why would that be immoral, as this author asserts? Where does it say that a country must conform to some supposed historical inevitability? I disagree with this whole idea that America must, to be moral, take on the responsibility of imperial design.

I could see this country maintaining such a presence in the world as did pre-imperialistic Sparta: refuse to engage in any military actions unless it is attacked--and then only in defense and so far as the attacker is repelled.

Such a military isolationism does not preclude, of course, global economic activity nor cultural influence. (It is my contention that American culture is more destructive of traditional values than any economic or military activities.)

But the question remains: are Americans ready to take on the reins of empire? I think that Americans are not ready yet for this undertaking--and hopefully they never will be. But I think that the current political regime in power will try to accomplish this surreptitiously, and are doing so already (consider the numbers of "bases" being built around the world by the Army.)

In lieu of the average American supporting or denying the trend towards empire, I believe that there will arise something similar to what one might call "don't ask, don't tell" colonization. That is, the American public will not ask whether it is an empire or what it means to maintain such an entity, even though they "know" that this is occurring; and the power brokers simply will work this way, taking no questions as quiet assent. This form of silent assent will begin to burrow into everyday conscience. People don't want to know what has to be done to maintain the status quo.

Something like this is already in place--consider the lack of discussion, interest, or debate concerning the war in Iraq--the media simply have given Bush et al. a free ride and the citizens have simply been too lazy or preoccupied to care about what is happening.

The reason for this is that underneath it all, the public (that faceless, nameless non-entity) knows that the machinery of imperialism will help sustain the economic and social status quo. If I could draw an analogy: this type of indidious "don't ask, don't tell" silence is similar to the silence that occurred during Nazi Germany; that is, when one's next-door Jewish neighbor was being bundled into the back of cars and trucks, people simply looked the other way.

I know I will be accused of scare-mongering, but certainly there is what is commonly called a "disconnect" going on between what people in the US think is happening (and secretly know) and what is happening on the ground in "the colonies."

I think of the woman's daughter I had for class: she worked in the Army morgue in Iraq--what she saw and witnessed has so traumatized her life that (back here at home) she is drinking and drugging and waking up at night with nightmares. She has simply given up on bringing up her children.

It is these little "hearts of darkness" that are going to begin to eat at the fiber of this country. The question is, will we steel ourselves to the reality--continue to live as though nothing were happening?

So then who will run the empire? The "job" of colonial administartion will not fall on the "average" American. Instead, defense contractors will take up that slack. Private contractors will run the colonies either surreptitiously or semi-blatantly.

What incentive will they have? Consider the fact that the average pay for private security contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan is $100K/year tax free. That is enough incentive to make many soldiers in the conventional services take jobs with these companies when they leave.

On the other hand, there will arise a payment system that resembles what Heinlein called "citizenship" in Starship Troopers. Is this wild paranoia or simply a presentiment of a time when the "done deal" rises to public consciosness?

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