Thoughts on the American empire …
Is it an empire?
Whenever I say that America has become an empire, someone is sure to say I'm being ridiculous.
But what do you call a government that has tried (usually successfully) to force "regime changes" in Panama, Grenada, South Vietnam, Cuba, Guatemala, Chile, Rhodesia, South Africa, Iraq (in 1963), the Philippines, Serbia, Afghanistan (twice), Iran and several other countries that don't immediately come to mind?
What do you call a government that has troops stationed in a hundred countries around the world?
What do you call a government whose leader says everyone must play by his rules or risk being attacked?
America the protector?
But then someone is sure to instruct me that "American troops are stationed abroad because those countries asked for them."
Yes, people in foreign countries want American troops there – just about as much as the Poles enjoyed having Soviet troops in Poland.
American troops are in those countries only because the governments of those countries were bribed with your money to allow American troops in.
How would you feel if there were Chinese troops wandering around your city?
Or even German troops?
So how do you think Germans feel about seeing American troops walking their streets – or Korean or Japanese citizens watching American soldiers commit murders and rapes in their countries without facing local prosecution?
America rules the world – by force.
And that's ironic. Because for as long as I can remember, conservatives have been railing against the threat of world government.
But now we actually have a form of world government – a government run by George Bush and enforced by the American military – and most conservatives are all for it.
Our government decides what rules Iraq must live by, and if Iraq breaks those rules it can be bombed or invaded.
Our government decides which governments are legitimate and which must be replaced, which dictatorships are evil and which are "our partners in the War on Terrorism."
Some people can't understand why our government is getting ready to attack Iraq, but is ignoring North Korea – which admits to having nuclear weapons and the ability to fire them at Alaska.
The difference between the two countries is simple: North Korea has the means to hurt us, Iraq doesn't.
In the past 50 years, our government has attacked many countries – Panama, Grenada, the Sudan, Afghanistan (twice), Cuba, Vietnam, Iraq and others. But it has never attacked a country that had the capability to hurt America.
Russia, China, Pakistan, India, North Korea, Israel – all have nuclear weapons. So we participate in "constructive engagement" with those countries.
But Iraq? No threat to us, so we can bomb it and invade it with impunity.
After 9-11, some people said we should try to find the people responsible, capture them and prosecute them. They were largely laughed at as being unrealistic. Only by bombing and devastating Afghanistan could we be sure to get Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida. And our president assured us that they would be brought to justice.
Now it's a year later. Osama bin Laden hasn't been captured or killed. Al-Qaida is alive and well. So is anyone concerned?
Of course not. Our attention is directed to Iraq – even though there's no public evidence that Iraq has anything to do with al-Qaida – and a lot of evidence that they're enemies of each other. Suddenly, Osama bin Laden is no longer important.
This doesn't make sense if you think the object is to end terrorism. But it makes perfect sense if the object is to demonstrate the empire's power to intimidate.
Why do they hate us?
For the past year, we've been hearing over and over that the Muslims and others around the world hate us because of our freedoms and our prosperity.
If that's true, the terrorists have won – because we're rapidly giving up our freedoms, and the loss of those freedoms is destroying our ability to prosper.
But, actually, it is only Americans who say that our freedoms and prosperity are the reason foreigners hate us. If you ask the foreigners, they make it clear that it's America's bullying foreign policy they detest.
Liberty and security
We're also told that we must give up some liberty for the sake of security. But that's not true.
For most of our history, Americans enjoyed both liberty and security from foreign threats.
But, as Tim O'Brien has pointed out, while it's possible to have both liberty and security, you can't have an empire as well. Once the American government decided to run the world, Americans were forced to choose between liberty and security – because you can't have all three. Once you become an empire, either liberty or security must go.
Most likely, however, we will lose both liberty and security. We're losing our liberties, but innocent Americans will continue to be hurt by terrorists because of what our government is doing overseas.
Whenever I write on these subjects, I invariably get e-mails accusing me of hating America or "blaming America first."
Quite the contrary. I love America, and I can't stand quietly by while the land of peace and liberty is being destroyed.
I love the America of the Constitution and limited government – not the America of the Patriot Act and the Orwellian Department of Homeland Security.
I love the America that Washington and Jefferson said should be far removed from all the age-old quarrels of Europe and Asia, while trading benevolently with people all over the world – not the America that has troops in a hundred countries while our own government prohibits us from peaceful trading with dozens of countries.
In short, I want my country back.