06 October 2016

"American Imperium"

Excerpts from an essay in Harper's:
Republicans and Democrats disagree today on many issues, but they are united in their resolve that the United States must remain the world’s greatest military power. This bipartisan commitment to maintaining American supremacy has become a political signature of our times. In its most benign form, the consensus finds expression in extravagant and unremitting displays of affection for those who wear the uniform. Considerably less benign is a pronounced enthusiasm for putting our soldiers to work “keeping America safe.” This tendency finds the United States more or less permanently engaged in hostilities abroad, even as presidents from both parties take turns reiterating the nation’s enduring commitment to peace.

To be sure, this penchant for military activism attracts its share of critics. Yet dissent does not imply influence. The trivializing din of what passes for news drowns out the antiwar critique. One consequence of remaining perpetually at war is that the political landscape in America does not include a peace party. Nor, during presidential-election cycles, does that landscape accommodate a peace candidate of voter consequence. The campaign now in progress has proved no exception. Candidates calculate that tough talk wins votes. They are no more likely to question the fundamentals of U.S. military policy than to express skepticism about the existence of a deity. Principled opposition to war ranks as a disqualifying condition, akin to having once belonged to the Communist Party or the KKK. The American political scene allows no room for the intellectual progeny of Jane Addams, Eugene V. Debs, Dorothy Day, or Martin Luther King Jr.

So, this November, voters will choose between rival species of hawks. Each of the finalists will insist that freedom’s survival hinges on having in the Oval Office a president ready and willing to employ force, even as each will dodge any substantive assessment of what acting on that impulse has produced of late. In this sense, the outcome of the general election has already been decided. As regards so-called national security, victory is ensured. The status quo will prevail, largely unexamined and almost entirely intact.

Citizens convinced that U.S. national-security policies are generally working well can therefore rest easy. Those not sharing that view, meanwhile, might wonder how it is that military policies that are manifestly defective — the ongoing accumulation of unwon wars providing but one measure — avoid serious scrutiny, with critics of those policies consigned to the political margins...
The essay concludes with this rather thought-provoking comment:
Nearly a century after Americans hailed the kaiser’s abdication, more than seventy years after they celebrated Hitler’s suicide, and almost thirty years after they cheered the fall of the Berlin Wall, a thoroughly pacified Europe cannot muster the wherewithal to deal even with modest threats such as post-Soviet Russia. For the United States to indulge this European inclination to outsource its own security might make sense if Europe itself still mattered as much as it did when the War for the West began. But it does not. Indeed, having on three occasions over the course of eight decades helped prevent Europe from being dominated by a single hostile power, the United States has more than fulfilled its obligation to defend Western civilization. Europe’s problems need no longer be America’s.
I welcome comments from European readers.


  1. "Europes problems need no longer be America’s." I would say that is a true statement to make today, as compared to the U.S joining Allied sides during the big wars of the last century. Unfortunately U.S foreign policy on the boarders of the Europe are making problems for Europe. Lybia, Syria, Iraq, Afgan interventions are flooding Europe with refugees (I personally have no problem with them coming). But sometimes they are labeled in the media as migrants, when they are fleeing U.S bombs or ISIS regions which America is responsible for creating through their disastrous interventionist policy (I am aware some European countries militaries helped in these interventions).
    Also unfortunate is that it looks like future U.S policy will remain pretty much on the same course with the two candidates ye have coming up. America wants to be top dog in this realworld game of RISK, they will do whatever they deem necessary to anybody, anywhere if it is in their strategic interest or if it hinders an enemy. Europe is too busy bickering among themselves to solve anything. They are too busy building walls to refugees, worrying about the financial sector, bailing out the smaller European nations, dealing with Brexit and imposing crippling Austerity on the poorer member states in the EU. There is a lot of factors in this and I'm sure I don't know them all, it is quite complex. As Europe is an ally of America, you notice they never say a bad thing about them. America is like that big kid in the class that does what he wants all the time, no one is there with enough clout to say.. "maybe, you shouldn't do that", I think Europe could do with a bit of courage and it could definitely do with more moral fiber. I'm meandering now, so I'll leave it at that.

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  3. Dwight Eisenhower warned against the Military-Industrial Complex, and we have paid no attention to that. Just imagine if all the money we spend on war materiel (much of it not wanted by the military, but Congress appropriates the money anyway) were used to bring our infrastructure, which is falling apart, back to where it should be. Just as many jobs, but taking care of our country instead of others.

  4. Wow! That's a lot of assumptions. The U.S. is the number one military country but so what? Why are we like that? What are we afraid of anyway? We live half a world away from the hotspots. Are you aware that Russia lost 25 million people in WW2? America wasn't there. The U.S. showed up LATE in two world wars because we weren't interested in fighting for someone else's freedom. Only a slap by Japan woke us up. Europe has a mighty long history that we can't fathom or deal with. We are NOT the world's saviour,,,we just like to think we are.

  5. Yemeni Rebels just fired missiles at a U.S. Navy vessel... so why do we have a naval vessel off the coast of Yemen, why are we bombing anyone in Yemen ourselves?

    If we are an empire it would sure be swell if the elites passed down some of the imperial earnings to the rest of us who toil and bleed for their profits.


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