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Conservatives, do you agree that we are now an empire?

 
 
Reply Sun 17 Oct, 2004 09:55 am
http://www.nytimes.com/2004/10/17/magazine/17BUSH.html?pagewanted=7&oref=regi

Quote:
In the summer of 2002, after I had written an article in Esquire that the White House didn't like about Bush's former communications director, Karen Hughes, I had a meeting with a senior adviser to Bush. He expressed the White House's displeasure, and then he told me something that at the time I didn't fully comprehend -- but which I now believe gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency.

The aide said that guys like me were ''in what we call the reality-based community,'' which he defined as people who ''believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.'' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ''That's not the way the world really works anymore,'' he continued. ''We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.''


Apparently this is the belief within the white house, or was in 2002. Do you feel this underlies the incongruencies preventing diplomacy and diplomatic action of the administration apparent to liberals? Or not?... Or is being an empire a good thing? Do you think Bush believes "we are an empire now?"
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Lash
 
  1  
Reply Sun 17 Oct, 2004 10:06 am
We have been an empire since the fall of the Soviet Union, IMO.

Sort of by default (and an enormous military build-up previously).

But, that is mostly a symmetrical thing. Now that the world has changed, and assymmetrical warring is afoot, I don't know how historians will view our power later. Doesn't an empire have to be impervious to assault?
0 Replies
 
princesspupule
 
  1  
Reply Sun 17 Oct, 2004 10:42 am
I don't really know if an empire has to be impervious to assault, Lash. I'm not really sure I understand exactly what an empire is... maybe we need a definition of empire before this goes any further... Idea The whole notion that we might be seemed hair raising when I read it in the article as coming from the White House, but on the other hand, I live in Hawaii, and the U.S. certainly took over this formerly independent nation... Shocked

We have military forces all over the globe... We offer/impose military intervention in other countries' business, but we aren't usually running their countries, at least officially running their countries... We're more "intervening" rather than running... At least most of the time...

I'm thinking that this might be a very interesting topic to debate for us all. I'm not quite sure what I think about empires and whether we are one/building one in the middle east specifically... Basically I'm against us forcing other countries to be what we think they ought to be, which is what I see Bush's military action as achieving through force rather than through subtler methods.
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Lash
 
  1  
Reply Sun 17 Oct, 2004 10:45 am
Good topic. <maybe this one won't collapse into political divisions.> I'll bring some stuff.
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Lash
 
  1  
Reply Sun 17 Oct, 2004 10:53 am
Nah-- I was quite wrong.


Definition: [n] an eating apple that somewhat resembles a McIntosh; used as both an eating and a cooking apple
[n] a group of countries under a single authority; "the British empire"
[n] a group of diverse companies run as a single organization
[n] a monarchy with an emperor as head of state
[n] the domain ruled by an emperor or empress

-------------
I thought it had to do more with hegemonic status. Should have checked the definition. My bad.
0 Replies
 
princesspupule
 
  1  
Reply Sun 17 Oct, 2004 12:41 pm
Her's another definition: http://encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com/empire
Quote:
An empire (also known technically, abstractly or disparagingly as imperium) comprises a set of regions locally ruled by governors, viceroys or client kings

For the head of state, see Monarch.
See also king (chess), king (playing card).
For the television station, see KING.
Places named King include:

King, Ontario
King, North Carolina
King County, Washington
(See also Kings County, Kingston, Kington)
People whose surname is or was King include:

Ada Byron King (Ada Lovelace)


..... Click the link for more information. in the name of an emperor An emperor is a monarch and sovereign ruler of an empire or any other imperial realm. Emperors are generally recognised to be above kings in honour. They may obtain their position hereditarily, or by force, such as a coup d'état.
The English term for emperor is derived from the Latin imperator (literally, "one who prepares against"; loosely, "commander"). In German the title Kaiser is used and in Slavic languages tsar is used, both of which are derived from Caesar.
..... Click the link for more information. . By extension, an empire is any large, multi-ethnic state. Like other states, an empire maintains its political structure partly by coercion

Coercion is the use of violence or other kinds or force, or the threat of such force, to dictate the actions of others. Libertarians and some others have a special pejorative meaning of coercion, implying that the use or threat of force is one of the ones they disapprove of. Criminals and some others have a special esteem meaning of coercion, implying that the use or threat of force is one of the ones they arrogate of.
..... Click the link for more information. . Land-based empires (such as Russia The Russian Federation (Russian: Российская Федерация, Rossíyskaya Federátsiya), or Russia (Россия, Rossíya), is a country that stretches over a vast expanse of eastern Europe and northern Asia. With an area of 17,075,400 square kilometres, it is the largest country in the world, covering almost twice the territory of either Canada, China, or the United States. It ranks seventh in the world in population, following China, India, the United States, Indonesia, Brazil, and Pakistan.
..... Click the link for more information. or the Soviet Union The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) (Russian: Союз Советских Социалистических РеспубликСССР),Soyúz Sovétskikh Sotsialistícheskikh Respúblik (SSSR))
..... Click the link for more information. ) tend to extend in a contiguous area; sea-borne empires (thalassocracy A thalassocracy is a state whose realms are primarily marine; an empire at sea, such as the Thracian and Phoenician, the latter being based on land within the borders of the cities of Tyre, Sidon and Carthage.

The term (a combination of the Greek "thalassa", "sea", and "kratos", "rule" or "government") was first used by ancient Greeks to describe the government of Minoan civilization, whose power depended on its navy.
..... Click the link for more information. is a fancy name: the Athenian The Delian League was an association of Greek city-states in the 5th century BC. As it was led by Athens, it is sometimes pejoratively referred to as the Athenian Empire.

In 478 BC, following the defeat of Xerxes' invasion of Greece, Pausanias the Spartan led Hellenic forces against the Persians. He was an unpopular commander (who may have conspired with the Persians), and Sparta was eager to stop prosecuting the war. They surrendered the leadership of the ongoing campaign to Athens, which was eager to accept it. The Delian League was inaugurated in 477 BC as an offensive and defensive alliance against Persia. The principal cities in the League were Athens, Chios, Samos, and Lesbos, but many of the principal islands and Ionian cities joined the league.
..... Click the link for more information. or British The British Empire, in the early decades of the 20th century, held sway over a population of 400-500 million people (roughly a quarter of the world's population), and covered nearly 30 million square kilometres, (roughly two-fifths of the world's land area).

The British Empire came together over 300 years through a succession of phases of expansion by trade, settlement or conquest, interspersed with intervals of pacific commercial and diplomatic activity, or imperial contraction. Its territories were scattered across every continent and ocean, and it was described with some truth as "the empire on which the sun never sets." Arguably, its zenith was achieved in the 1890s and 1900s.
..... Click the link for more information. empires provide examples) may feature looser structures and more scattered territories. (Compare the concept of "empire" with that of a federation A federation is a state comprised of a number of self-governing regions (often themselves referred to as states) united by a central (federal) government. In a federation the self-governing status of the component states is constitutionally entrenched and may not be altered by a unilateral decision of the central government. Federations may be multi-ethnic, or cover a large area of territory, although neither is necessarily the case. Federations are often founded on an original agreement between a number of sovereign states. The component states of a federation usually do not have the right to secede unilaterally .
..... Click the link for more information. , where a large, multi-ethnic state -- or even ethnically homgeneous one like Australia The Commonwealth of Australia is the sixth-largest country in the world (geographically), the only one to occupy an entire continent, and the largest in the region of Australasia. Australia includes the island of Tasmania, which is an Australian State. Its neighbouring countries include New Zealand to the southeast; and Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and East Timor to its north. The name 'Australia' comes from the Latin phrase terra australis incognita ("unknown southern land", see Terra Australis). The word "Australia" is pronounced by locals as either @"[email protected] or @"[email protected] (SAMPA), əˈstɹeɪlɪə or əˈstɹeɪjə (IPA).
..... Click the link for more information. or a small area like Switzerland The Swiss Confederation or Switzerland is a small landlocked federal state in central Europe, with neighbours Germany, France, Italy, Austria and Liechtenstein. The country has a strong tradition of political and military neutrality, but also of international co-operation, as it is home to many international organisations.

Confoederatio Helvetica, the Latin version of the official name, avoids choosing one of the four official languages. Its abbreviation,
..... Click the link for more information. -- is based on mutual agreement among the participants.)


Empires throughout HistoryThe modern term "empire" derives from the Latin

Alternative meanings: See Latin (disambiguation)

Latin (Lingua Latina)
Spoken Roman Empire
Region Italic peninsula
Total speakers extinct
Dialects -
Genetic
classification Indo-European
Italic
Latin
Official status
Official language Vatican City
Regulated by none
Language codes
ISO 639-1 la
ISO 639-2 lat
SIL LTN Latin was the language originally spoken in the region around Rome called Latium. It gained great importance as the formal language of the Roman Empire.
..... Click the link for more information. imperium

Ancient RomeImperium was a Roman concept of legal authority. A man owning imperium had absolute authority within the scope of his magistracy or promagistracy (see below), but could be vetoed or overruled by a magistrate or promagistrate owning a higher degree of imperium.
Imperium was indicated in two prominent ways. An "imperial" magistrate or promagistrate carried an ivory baton surmounted by an eagle as his personal symbol of office (
..... Click the link for more information. , a word coined in what became possibly the most famous example of this sort of political structure, the Roman Empire

The Roman Empire is not the Holy Roman Empire (843-1806).

The Roman Empire is the term conventionally used to describe the Roman state in the centuries following its reorganization under the leadership of Caesar Augustus. Although Rome possessed a collection of tribute-states for centuries before the autocracy of Augustus, the pre-Augustan state is conventionally described as the Roman Republic. The difference between the Roman Empire and the Roman Republic lies primarily in the governing bodies and their relationship to each other.
..... Click the link for more information. founded in 31 BC. For many centuries, the term "Empire" applied exclusively to states which considered themselves to be successors to the Roman Empire, such as the Byzantine Empire
Timeline
Byzantine Empire
Date Event
330 Constantine I makes Constantinople his capital
527 Justinian I becomes emperor
532-537 Justinian builds the church of Hagia Sophia (Αγία Σοφία/Holy Wisdom)
730-787; 813-843 Iconoclasm controversies
1054 The Church in Rome breaks with the Church in Constantinople
1204 Constantinople is occupied by crusaders

..... Click the link for more information. , the Holy Roman Empire

The Holy Roman Empire should not be mistaken for the Roman Empire (31 B.C.-476 A.D.).

History of Germany
series
Franks
Holy Roman Empire
German Confederation
German Empire
Weimar Republic
Nazi Germany
Germany since 1945 The Holy Roman Empire (German: Heiliges Römisches Reich) was a political conglomeration of lands in western and central Europe in the Middle Ages. Emerging from the eastern part of the Frankish realm after its division in the Treaty of Verdun (843), it formally lasted almost a millennium until its dissolution in 1806.
..... Click the link for more information. , or the Russian Empire
History of Russia
series
Early East Slavs
Kievan Rus'
Volga Bulgaria
Khazaria
Mongol invasion
Golden Horde
Muscovy
Imperial Russia
Revolution of 1905
Revolution of 1917
Civil War
Soviet Union
Russian Federation The Russian Empire (Russian: Росси́йская Импе́рия, also Imperial Russia) covers the period of Russian history from the expansion of Russia under Peter the Great into the Russian Empire stretching from the Baltic to the Pacific Ocean, to the deposition of Nicholas II of Russia, the last tsar, at the start of the Russian Revolution in 1917.
..... Click the link for more information. . Over time, other monarchies which viewed themselves as greater in size and power than mere kingdoms
In politics, a country over which a king or queen reigns, is a kingdom, see: monarchy.
In biological taxonomy (the study of the classification of organisms), the broadest category is a kingdom, see: kingdom (biology).

..... Click the link for more information. used the name or its translation (Bulgaria The Republic of Bulgaria is a republic in the southeast of Europe. It borders the Black Sea to the east, Greece and Turkey to the south, Serbia and Montenegro and the Republic of Macedonia to the west, and Romania to the north along the river Danube. Република България
..... Click the link for more information. , for example), and it came to apply to large non-European monarchies. The word eventually came to apply loosely to any entity meeting the criteria, whether a monarchy or not. In some cases synonyms of empire such as tsardom Tsar, (Russian царь, Bulgarian цар&#; often spelt Czar or Tzar in English), was the title used for the rulers of Imperial Russia from 1546 to 1917. It was first adopted by Ivan IV as symbolic of a change in the nature of the Russian monarchy. In 1721 Peter I adopted the title Emperor. (Император [Imperator]), by which he and his heirs were recognised, and which came to be used interchangeably with Tsar. It is derived from the Latin title Caesar.
..... Click the link for more information. , realm

Realm is an old term still used as an alternative word for kingdom. It is particularly used for those states which use the word Kingdom in the title (for example, the United Kingdom), to avoid clumsy repetition of the word kingdom in a sentence. For example The Queen's realm, the United Kingdom . . .

It is also frequently used to refer to territories "under" a monarch, yet not a physical part of his or her "kingdom"; for example, the various Commonwealth Realms under the British crown. The Cook Islands, Niue, and Tokelau are considered parts of the "Realm of New Zealand", though they are not part of New Zealand proper. Likewise, the Faroe Islands and Greenland are part of the "Danish Realm".
..... Click the link for more information. or reich

See Steve Reich for the composer.
See Wilhelm Reich for the psychologist.
Reich is the German word for "realm" or "empire", cognate with Scandinavian rike and Dutch rijk. It is the word traditionally used for sovereign entities, including Germany. For instance, any country with a King or Queen as head of state, such as Britain, is a Königreich (kingdom). It is still used as a suffix in certain country names, for instance Frankreich (France).
..... Click the link for more information. occur.

The actual political concept predates the Romans by several hundred years: empires began to appear soon after the first cities made the necessary administrative structures possible. The Akkadian Empire The Akkadian Empire, founded in western Asia, was Semitic. Semitic princes had already established themselves at Kis, and a long inscription has been discovered at Susa by J. de Morgan, belonging to one of them, Manishtushu, who like Lugal-zaggisi was a contemporary of Uru-duggina. Another Semitic ruler of Kis of the same period was Alusarsid (or Urumus) who "subdued Elam and Barahs." But the fame of these early establishers of Semitic supremacy was far eclipsed by that of Sargon of Akkad and his son, Nararn-Sin. The date of Sargon is placed by modern scholars around 2300 BC (by Nabonidus at 3800 BC).
..... Click the link for more information. of Sargon of Akkad Sargon (2334 BC - 2279 BC) was the first person in recorded history to create an empire, or multi-ethnic state. His empire encompassed the region of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, and part of what is present-day Turkey.

His capital was Agade in Akkad.

Sargon of Akkad was probably the same person as the first Sargon of Assyria (also known as Sharrukin or Sharru-kin). Sargon's empire would presumably have included Assyria. He is listed in the Assyrian king list as the son of Ikunum and the founder of a dynasty.
..... Click the link for more information. furnishes one of the earliest known examples.

Empires can take several forms. They have traditionally formation as powerful monarchies A monarchy, (from the Greek "monos arkhein", meaning "one ruler") is a form of government that has a monarch as Head of State. The distinguishing characteristic of monarchies is that the Head of State holds his office for life, unlike in republics, where presidents are generally elected for a certain amount of time. The term monarchy is also used to refer to the people and institutions that make up the royal establishment, or to the realm in which the monarchy functions.
..... Click the link for more information. under the rule

In common usage, leadership generally refers to:

the position or office of an authority figure, such as a President http://www.cer.org.uk/articles/times_grant0702.html
a group of influential people, such as a union leadership http://www.cbc.ca/stories/2003/04/01/milton_030401
guidance or direction, as in the phrase "the emperor is not providing much leadership"
capacity or ability to lead, as in the phrase "she exercised effective leadership"

..... Click the link for more information. of a hereditary (or in some cases, self-appointed) emperor An emperor is a monarch and sovereign ruler of an empire or any other imperial realm. Emperors are generally recognised to be above kings in honour. They may obtain their position hereditarily, or by force, such as a coup d'état.
The English term for emperor is derived from the Latin imperator (literally, "one who prepares against"; loosely, "commander"). In German the title Kaiser is used and in Slavic languages tsar is used, both of which are derived from Caesar.
..... Click the link for more information. , but the so-called empires of Athens


Athens (Greek: Αθήνα, Athína) is the capital of Greece, and also the capital of the Attica region of Greece. In addition to being a modern city, Athens is also famous for being a powerful city-state and a very important center of learning in ancient times. It is named after its patron goddess, Athena.

In Ancient Greek Athens was called Athinai (Αθήναι, plural for Athena), and in the 19th century this name was formally re-adopted as the city's name. Since the official abandonment of Katharevousa Greek in the 1970s, however, the popular form Athina has become the city's official name.
..... Click the link for more information. , Britain and the United States

United States of America
(U.S. Flag) (U.S. Great Seal)
National Mottos
(1776 - ): E Pluribus Unum
(Latin: "Out of many, one")
(1956 - ): In God We Trust
Official language None at Federal Level,
Some States Specify
English; de facto, Spanish spoken by growing minority, especially in the West
..... Click the link for more information. developed under democratic auspices. Historically, most empires came into being as the result of a militarily strong state conquering other states and incorporating them into a larger political union. Typically, a monarchy or an oligarchy rooted in the original core territory would continue to dominate this union. Many ancient empires maintained control of their subject peoples by controlling the supply of a vital resource, usually water; historians refer to such régimes as "hydraulic empires". The introduction of a common religion also often strengthened empires, as occurred (pace Edward Gibbon) with the adoption of Christianity under Constantine I of the Roman Empire. And cultural influence played a large part in the survival of the Chinese empire and of its semi-imperial sphere of influence.

An empire can mutate into some other form of polity. Thus the Bernese empire of conquest no longer appears so imperial, but its territories have become absorbed into the canton of Bern or become cantons or parts of cantons elsewhere in the Swiss Confederation. The Holy Roman Empire, itself in a sense a re-constitution of the Roman Empire, underwent many transformations in its long history, fissuring extensively, experimenting with federalism and re-constituting itself as the Austrian Empire - vastly different in nature and in territory. The former second British Empire has spawned a loose multi-national Commonwealth of Nations, and the old French colonial empire has also left traces of its existence in cultural networks and associations. The Soviet Empire leaves behind it the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

An Emperor-based empire can readily become (say) a republic by means of a coup (Brazil, 1889, Central African Empire, (1979)); or it can become a republic with its dominions reduced to a core territory (Germany (1918 - 1919), Ottoman Empire (1918 - 1923)). The breakup of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918 provides an example of a multi-ethnic superstate fissuring into multiple constituent or new parts: the republics, kingdoms or provinces of Austria, Hungary, Transylvania, Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Czechoslovakia, Ruthenia, Galicia...
0 Replies
 
princesspupule
 
  1  
Reply Sun 17 Oct, 2004 12:49 pm
Quote:
The aide said that guys like me were ''in what we call the reality-based community,'' which he defined as people who ''believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.'' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ''That's not the way the world really works anymore,'' he continued. ''We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.''
Shocked
0 Replies
 
kickycan
 
  1  
Reply Sun 17 Oct, 2004 03:18 pm
I think we are an empire of sorts, and I don't think that is inherently a bad thing. It's the idea of "spreading freedom", which I have heard Bush say many times. That to me translates to expanding our empire, which again, isn't bad in itself. But when Bush mentions the spread of freedom, he is referencing Afghanistan and Iraq, leading me to believe that pre-emptive military strikes are acceptable ways to spread freedom. I do not believe this is wise, or even possible.
0 Replies
 
princesspupule
 
  1  
Reply Sun 17 Oct, 2004 06:26 pm
kickycan wrote:
It's the idea of "spreading freedom", which I have heard Bush say many times. That to me translates to expanding our empire, which again, isn't bad in itself. But when Bush mentions the spread of freedom, he is referencing Afghanistan and Iraq, leading me to believe that pre-emptive military strikes are acceptable ways to spread freedom. I do not believe this is wise, or even possible.


Yup. <Nodding agreement>

Here's an article on this very topic: http://www.alternet.org/story/17480/

Quote:
The Imperial Gong Show Year

By Tom Engelhardt


I haven't checked my Chinese calendar but if 2003 wasn't the Year of the Rat, I don't know what it was. We would normally heave a collective sigh of relief to have left it even a day or two behind us -- if 2004 didn't lie ahead. Still, if the year was bad for the rest of us, it wasn't exactly dazzling for the Bush administration either and perhaps we should count a few modest post-New Year's blessings for that at least.

2002 should certainly have been dubbed the Year of the New Rome, the year neocon pundits (and a few liberal commentators as well) proudly urged us to shoulder our new imperial burden and emulate the Romans, or at least the 19th century Brits, forever and a day. If so, then 2003 was the year in which our homegrown imperialists fell silent on the subject of empire, while our legions, setting out to remake the Middle East and then the world (cap that W), fell into the nearest nation-building ditch.

In the spring of 2003, after a series of global skirmishes with enemies of some significance -- France, Germany, Russia, and that "other superpower," the protesting peoples of the world -- the Bush administration launched its long-desired, long prepared for war against an enemy of no consequence. "Mission accomplished."

But when we sent our first proconsul out to rule the newest part of our Middle Eastern Imperium of Freedom, he came back quicker than you can say "Jay Garner." The second team was off the bench in no time and Coach Bush (having fronted for a second-rate baseball team earlier in his remarkably empty career) promptly rushed them onto the field, led by the well-appointed, well-booted L. Paul Bremer. Having left a cushy "risk management" company stateside to risk manage what was tagged as the future capital of Middle Eastern oil, he arrived in Baghdad speaking, like George himself, in the imperative. (Have we ever, by the way, had a president who told so many people in so many places so publicly what they "must" do?). Bursting with energy, Bremer dismissed the Iraqi army and the Baathist bureaucracy only to find -- no Lawrence of Arabia he -- that he couldn't even get a phone line to Sadr City, no less a government into Baghdad or an army of useful natives into the field.

The latest Baghdad joke, according to Herbert Docena, reporting from that city for the Asia Times on-line, is: How many American troops does it take to screw in a light bulb? "About 130,000 so far, but don't hold your breath." And sadly, that's not really a joke. Feeling his oats, Bremer promptly announced the dismemberment of the last thing at hand -- what was left of the devastated Iraqi economy. Every strip-mining plan ever imagined by some right-wing Washington think-tank was promptly hauled out and dumped on a prostrate and largely unemployed Iraqi populace. And so Iraq was "opened" for business -- without a government and with a foreign army in place -- the way you might slit open a still breathing animal.

As it turned out, however, there were other "risk managers" around ready to play quite a different, if no less chancy game -- and they turned out to be brutally good at it. After all, eight months and a right turn past victory later, and Baghdad International Airport is still not open to commercial traffic, thanks to those pesky shoulder-fired missiles that seem to litter Iraq and the shoulders to hoist them on. So while, from London to Maine, corporate privatizers can hold conferences galore on the country's new economy, about all that will get them into deepest (and part of the time quite literally) darkest imperial Baghdad is a dangerous drive overland, some body armor, and private guards.

Recently, even our proconsul narrowly escaped a roadside ambush near the capital. (Hint: the new police force, the new military, and the new Iraqi intelligence service we seem to be reconstituting from retread Saddamites are obviously riddled with people feeding information to the armed opposition.) So L. Paul now finds himself ensconced behind concertina wire, inside Baghdad's ecologically unfriendly Green Zone, backing down on various proposals and swatting off obdurate Shiite clerics calling for democratic elections, while wondering what hit him and where in the world he'll ever find a "sovereign" government to which to turn over some shred of power next June. So it goes in our unexpected world.

The Empire strikes out

2002 was the year of the Nuclear Posture Review, the National Security Strategy, the Axis of Evil, and the Bush Doctrine. It was the year when, as the Greta Garbo of hyperpowers, we declared our desire to be alone at the top; practically shouted out our plans to dominate the planet militarily to the end of time; publicized our desire to conquer the heavens with previously forbidden weaponry straight out of Flash Gordon; swore our fealty to the nuclear option till the (mad) cows come home (as they just have); insisted in the name of national security on the rejection, ripping up, or even unsigning of every protective, multilateral treaty or measure devised by the human mind in recent decades to keep our proliferating, global warming world somewhere on this side of the law; and insisted that "regime change" was in order -- and that we would carry it out everywhere but in the United States. 2003 then might be considered the year when the planet proved its bedrock, cranky, anti-imperial recalcitrance.

So, with a nod to the neocons, here, retooled from the 1960s, is my adage for the New Year and beyond (and I'm willing to loan it out to anyone in Washington who finds it useful): Beware of domino theories. They tend to rear up and bite you in the butt.

In the 1960s, if we didn't defend any small piece of global turf against nationalist and communist insurgencies, our leaders swore that its loss would be but the first toppling domino -- as with South Vietnam -- starting a cascade that would sweep the nations of the world into the communist camp. It's perhaps symbolic of our unipolar world that our new imperialists imagined a far more "proactive" set of dominoes -- not ones they would have to defend from toppling, but ones they would shove over themselves.

Their war in Iraq was to be just the first push in a domino cascade that would reorder the planet into a Pax Americana. Hostile Syrian and Iranian regimes, sideswiped by a collapsing Iraqi domino, would go down; so would the supposedly friendly Saudi one; the Palestinians, helpless and alone, would be the next to follow, making a peace of the defeated with neocon darling Ariel Sharon; even Kim Jong-il, the "dear leader" of North Korea, halfway across the planet would be crushed beneath a pile of American dominoes, and while we were at it, the French, Germans, and Russians would go down too, though peaceably, leaving the superpower contender of the future, China, in a thoroughly exposed and indefensible position.

Of course, none of this happened. It seems years ago, though it was only months back that Syria, Iran and North Korea were in our gun sights (with Cuba, Libya and the Sudan not far behind). Only last June, the United States was threatening to become the national equivalent of a serial killer.

And yet, by year's end, the road to Damascus was closed; the President was welcoming Libyan strongman Qaddafi (the Saddam Hussein of the Age of Reagan) back into the comity of nations; U.S. aid was being readied for and sanctions temporarily lifted on an Iran suffering unparalleled devastation from a natural catastrophe (and American officials were even muttering about a new era in relations); something approaching actual negotiation with North Korea was being carried out through the Chinese government; and administration officials along with Bremer were searching madly for "withdrawal" formulas in Iraq (even if they were meant to leave our troops, Halliburton, and Bechtel there for an eternity). Meanwhile, in Washington, the neocons, jobs at risk, were threatening war and crying foul (or is it fowl?) as their global war-fighting plans were sent back to the think-tanks -- at least for now -- and the multilateralists of Father Bush's administration were slipping back into positions of authority.

In 2002, thanks largely to Osama bin Laden, the Bush administration was flying higher than a cruise missile. By year's end 2003, the only hawk still openly talking the talk of empire was the Vice-President, who included the following quotation from Benjamin Franklin in his Christmas card: "And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid?" In short, by the end of 2003, despite a brief Alka-Seltzer moment of relief with the capture of Saddam Hussein (but not, of course, Osama bin Laden), something was wobbling in the House of Bush.

In instant retrospect, 2003 already looks like a Gong Show year for the American Empire. Put another way, when early in the year the administration reached into its mighty imperial arsenal, all it pulled out was brute force applied brutally in a three-week shock-and-awe campaign against Saddam Hussein's pathetic military (and then reapplied with counterproductive ineffectiveness ever since). No one can deny that empires work on a principle of brute force. It's a necessity if you plan to conquer others and rule them against their wishes, but it can't be the only arrow in your quiver. A little finesse is usually necessary, if you plan to stick around for a while. Some plums need to be offered, at least to some of the conquered and those from elsewhere who fight in your legions. There has to be some way to join the empire as a junior partner and benefit somehow. None of this was available in the Bush version of shouldering the imperial burden.

To the extent that we proved imperial in 2003, it was largely in the Pentagon's long-term planning for weapons systems, large and small, slated to dominate the planet for the next half-century or more. Can there be any doubt that we already have the weaponry of 40 Roman empires and 20 British ones with more to come? After all, we even have futuristic weapons on the drawing boards for 2050.

But here's a lesson for the year (also retooled from the 1960s): You can't rule this bedeviling planet with weapons systems based in the United States, or on offshore aircraft carriers, or even on military bases dotted across the globe, no less via a series of delivery vehicles from outer space. The resistance in Iraq has made this point staggeringly clear: We smote -- and given our fundamentalist administration that word is surely on target -- Saddam Hussein's regime with our techno-best and from its ruins arose an armed opposition centered in but not limited to Sunni Iraq. 5,000 armed men, if you believe the Pentagon, up to 50,000 if you believe a recent CIA report; all Baathist "bitter-enders" and al Qaeda warriors from elsewhere, if you believe Don Rumsfeld or the President, up to 23 different mostly home-grown resistance groups if you believe various foreign journalists. But the most curious thing is that no one in Washington or among our military and civil administrators in Baghdad quite knows who the armed opposition actually is and they tend to identify themselves mainly through roadside bombs and suicide bombers.

This is either some kind of bleak miracle, or an illusionist's trick. After all, it took years in Vietnam against a powerful southern insurgency backed by the militarily strong and determined North Vietnamese regime backed in turn by the Earth's other superpower, the USSR, and for good measure by Mao's China with which it shared a border, with copious supplies flowing in from abroad and sanctuary areas in bordering Cambodia and Laos, before a desperate American president even began considering calling up the reserves. In Iraq, against relatively lightly armed, no-name insurgent forces of a few thousand or tens of thousands, without a significant power behind them, without sanctuaries, or major supply channels (other than the copious arms already cached in the country), with largely homemade bombs and small numbers of fanatical individuals willing to turn themselves into suicide weapons, the mightiest military power on earth has already been stretched to the breaking point. Its leaders, scouring the planet for new recruits, are having trouble finding enough troops to garrison an easily conquered, weak, and devastated country.

The foreign legions they've managed to dig up -- a few thousand Spaniards and Poles, hundreds of Bulgarians and Thais, handfuls of Mongolians, Hondurans, and the like -- add up modestly indeed, when you consider who's asking for a hand. And even our own version of the Gurkhas, the British who, thanks to Tony Blair, have shipped out sizeable numbers of troops to garrison the -- at present -- more peaceable Shiite southern regions of the country, turn out to be doing their much needed work for sixpence and a song. Their cut of the Iraqi pie looks beyond modest. Like a child with a roomful of toys, all the Bush administration knows how to say is: "Mine."

A global Enron moment

In a sense, our new Rome already lies in ruins without even an enemy fit to name to oppose us. And the true face of our home-grown regime in Washington is ever more visible. The visages on display aren't those of an emperor and his administrators, proconsuls and generals, but of so many dismantlers, strip-miners, and plunderers; less Augustus, more Jesse James (the real one, not the movie hero).

They may be building weapons for 2050, but they're plundering in Iraq and at home as if January 1, 2004 were the beginning of the end of time. Having ushered into office the Halliburton (vice-)presidency, we now have a fitting "empire" to go with it. While empires must to some extent spread the wealth around, our proto-imperialists turn out to have the greed level and satiation point of so many malign children. Other than "must" and "mine," the words they -- and their corporate companions -- know best, it seems, are "now," "all" and "alone." It's a vocabulary that doesn't contain a future in it, not the sort of vocabulary with which to rule the world.

No matter how many times we insist that all we carry in our baggage train is "freedom" and "democracy" for the oppressed nations of the Earth, those elsewhere can see perfectly well that our saddlebags are full of grappling hooks and meat cleavers. Bad as 2003 was for us, it may not be long before it's looked upon as their global Enron Moment.

2003 was the year our emperor's men decided to use up as much as they could as fast as they could, though, thanks to our underachieving media, this can hardly be grasped here. The sad thing is that they are dismantling us, and what matters most to us in our country including our liberties -- and all under the deceptive name of "national security." They have an unerring eye for the weak and vulnerable and, on spotting them, set upon them like so many highwaymen.

Unfortunately, as representatives of insecurity rather than security, they have let loose forces for which they feel no responsibility. We are a nation of adults, living largely in denial, led by overgrown, malign children excited by the thought of sending other people's actual children, a whole well-led army of them, including the older "weekend warriors" of the reserves and the National Guard, off to do the impossible as well as the unjust. And this is happening in part because -- I believe -- they don't imagine war as carnage, but are energized by an especially shallow idea of war's "glory," just as the President has been thoroughly energized by the ludicrous idea that his is a "war presidency."

The term "chickenhawks," often used by critics, hardly catches this. It's true that Bush's first moments after the September 11 attacks -- now buried by media and memory -- were ones of flight, and so, undoubtedly, of shame and humiliation (which helps account for at least some of the exaggerated macho posturing -- "bring 'em on" -- that followed). Instead of stepping forward to lead a shocked nation in crisis by heading for Washington, he was shunted from a children's classroom in Florida westward to safety.

What "chickenhawks" doesn't catch, however, is both the immature mock solemnity and the fun of war play for them, something they first absorbed in their childhoods on screen and carry with them still. War for them -- as they avoided anything having to do with either the Vietnam War or opposition to it -- remains, I believe, a matter of toy soldiers, cowboys-and-Indians games, and glorious John Wayne-style movies in which the Marines advance, while the ambushing enemy falls before them and the Marine hymn wells up as The End flashes on screen.

In a similar way, the neocon utopians who dreamed up our distinctly unpeaceful Pax Americana in deepest, darkest Washington and out of whole cloth seem to have imagined global military domination as something akin to the board game Risk. They too were, after a fashion, Risk managers, seeing themselves rolling the dice for little weapons icons (most of which they controlled), oil-well icons (which they wanted) and strategic-country icons (which they needed). They were consummate game players. It just so happens our planet isn't a two-dimensional gameboard, but a confusing, bloody, resistant, complex place that exists in at least three dimensions, all unexpected.

I mean if you think I'm kidding -- about children playing games -- just remember that we have a President who, according to the Washington Post's Bob Woodward, keeps a "scorecard" in his desk drawer with the names/faces and personality sketches of al Qaeda adversaries (and assumedly Saddam) and then X's them out as they're brought in "dead or alive." Think tic-tac-toe here.

The president and his men, in short, have been living in a fantasy world that makes The Lord of the Rings look like an exercise in reality. Even before the Iraq war, this was worrisome to the adults who had to deal with them. This is why there was so much opposition within the top ranks of the military before the war; this was why there was no Pentagon planning whatsoever for the post-war moment (hey, you've just won the Iraq card in your game, now you fortify and move on); this was why, for instance, General Anthony Zinni, Vietnam veteran and former CentCom commander, who endorsed young George in the 2000 race, went into opposition to the administration; this is why a seething "intelligence community" has been in near revolt after watching our fantasists rejigger "intelligence" to make their "turn" come out right; this is why our great "adventure" in the Middle East pitched over into the nearest ditch.

2004 should be a fierce holding action for them. The question is -- as with Richard Nixon in 1972 -- can they make it through to November before the seams start to tear. They might be able to. But here's the thing: Sooner or later, the children will leave the stage and some set of adults will have to start picking up the pieces. If the 2004 election is theirs, however... well, sometimes there are just things, our planet included, too broken to fix.
0 Replies
 
kickycan
 
  1  
Reply Sun 17 Oct, 2004 07:02 pm
princessp, thanks. Very interesting article.
0 Replies
 
McGentrix
 
  1  
Reply Sun 17 Oct, 2004 07:48 pm
No.
0 Replies
 
kickycan
 
  1  
Reply Sun 17 Oct, 2004 11:20 pm
I love that answer.
0 Replies
 
gungasnake
 
  1  
Reply Mon 18 Oct, 2004 04:35 am
An empire to me means direct rule and control and I don't see that in American policy.

A good analogy would be the situation which pertained in the territories between the Urals and China prior to Chengis Khan. It was ALWAYS the policy of Chinese dynasties to influence and manipulate the tribes and nations of that larger region to China's benefit but you would never have said that those territories had been part of a Chinese empire.
0 Replies
 
 

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