OPINION & REVIEW: Imaginary imperialism

Too parochial for empire

The immense (but declining) global power of the United States notwithstanding, the conceptual baggage required to engage in truly imperial ambitions has simply not been a part of the Bush administration’s mindset. This remains so despite its assembly-line-style production of countless “national security” reports on a vast range of global security matters — committee-written, unreadable documents marked by a total lack of intellectual coherence or clear direction. These can, if anything, be seen as a collective “cover-up” for the administration’s obvious lack of thought beyond the here-and-now.

To be sure, no imperial plan is ever perfectly framed or implemented (as Theodore Roosevelt himself realized), but the Bush administration’s version of such now appears to have been remarkably without rhyme or reason — on, in fact, an automatic pilot, driven by a self-aggrandizing Pentagon budgetary process and “priorities” strikingly determined by shifting domestic politics (what Congressional district or crony corporation had put in the best, or most influential, bid for a base, military-style activity, or war-production plant). True, our generals remain engaged in the fearsome-sounding “Global War on Terror” by order of the White House — but this has proven a helter-skelter example of global confusion, regularly renamed by an administration clueless about what its “war” really is. [complete article]

American empire, going, going …

Pax-Americana advocates may be eager to invade all kinds of vastly smaller nations, but the last thing they want is to extend U.S. citizenship to Iraqis or Iranians or North Koreans or Venezuelans. Inviting the best students from those countries here to study might have been acceptable in the flush years after World War II, but something tells me that wouldn’t go over big right now.

Instead, our decrepit colossus lumbers around the world feeling unloved, bearing freedom’s cup in one hand and an M16 rifle in the other. But the cup is made of plastic and came free with a BK Double. The American promise of a blend of democracy and capitalism that could make the whole world America-like is hardly taken seriously by anyone anymore, and it’s only Americans, cosseted by a soft ‘n’ squishy mountain of consumer debt and buffeted by wall-to-wall media coverage of Britney’s latest indiscretion, who don’t know it.

Do we seriously believe the world hasn’t noticed that American democracy has been eaten out from within, like a cotton boll infested with weevils, and that American consumer capitalism, cruel as it can be, bears almost no resemblance to the “free markets” inflicted on the developing world? [complete article]

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