Friday, April 22, 2011

Inverted American Empire

Somehow we got this thing backward. When I was studying history, the British controlled one-quarter of the world's land mass and its people, making them rich and powerful. Less than a century later, the U.S. is fighting in the Middle East with troops all over Europe and Asia in occupations that are draining trillions from our economy.

How did we get into such a dyslexic version of empire and how long can we sustain it? And why are we doing it?

The questions arise as we take another expensive step into a Libyan quagmire with the use of Predator drones even as John McCain, the Senator from Endless War, urges, "All we need to do is get sufficient air power in there to really nail Qaddafi's forces, and we can succeed."

As we inch toward more war in Libya, the one we "won" in Iraq is still weighing us down as the Baghdad government clutches at us to keep troops there, even as "fragile" progress in Afghanistan threatens that scheduled drawdown this summer.

In the face of all this pressure, Defense Secretary Robert Gates is worrying out loud about the President's goal of cutting $400 billion from national security spending over 12 years:

“The worst of all possible worlds, in my view, is to give the entire Department of Defense a haircut--basically (saying) everybody is going to cut X percent."

Haircuts will do little without a reassessment of the Armed Forces' strategic mission in this century, which has been defined by a single event--the 9/11 attack--and the anxiety growing from it.

As its tenth anniversary nears, shouldn't we ask ourselves what we have been doing all over the Arab world since then, and isn't there a better way, without expending so much American blood and treasure, of protecting our national interests?

Reality eventually broke up the British Empire to end the inflow of wealth that gave them so much for so long. We should reexamine the reality that could reduce the American outflow that has been taking so much from us for so long now.


Walt said...

I think that what happened to the British Empire was that it bled itself white in two World Wars - but even before that the Imperial administration was starting to get a bit hide-bound and reactionary. It wasn't nimble enough any longer. Faced with nationalism as a centripetal force (witness India, etc.) the Empire was doomed as soon as the administration became too weak to maintain its grasp.

In America's case, our reach often exceeds our grasp. We blundered into an empire after the Spanish-American War, and fought an insurgency for several years in the Phillippines. We're guilty of imperial overreach now, with nothing to show for it than massive debt and thousands of deaths.

Anonymous said...

Only when we realize that American exceptionalism doesn't exempt us from reality will we right our course. We have deluded ourselves and especially in our military adventures that what happened to other powers cannot happen to us. This was evident with our thinking in Vietnam where we attempted pretty much what the French tried, but it would work since we are Americans. Our adventures in the Arab world mimic the British as you show. Unfortunately what will follow from this is that like the British we too will come up economically crippled. Happened to the Romans also so why not us? Mike R

Fuzzy Slippers said...

This is adorable. You managed to write an entire post about "American Imperialism" without once mentioning America's current president. How do you do that? It's really quite the accomplishment to separate the "problem" from the president who oversees it all.