Rants and Raves

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Monday, January 14, 2008

Uncomfortable Thoughts: Empire part 2

OK, in spite of the common insult, we're not an empire. (And see the comment to part 1.)

But what if...

-weapons of mass distruction became cheap and easy to manufacture by any moderately industrialized country? Say, Zimbabwe, Columbia (the part ruled by FARC), Ivory Coast? What if the only way seriously crazy regimes could be prevented from doing so was by occupying them for the foreseeable future? What if they become affordable by the bigger street gangs?

-large areas of the world became so chaotic that no industry or resource extraction could occur until some kind of order was restored?

-large-scale mass murders, too large for the rest of the world to ignore (say, on the tens of millions scale) start to occur in an area of strategic importance to us? Or even in one that isn't. Point being, what if the only way to prevent genocide is the permanent occupation of the area?

-the entire rest of the world outside of North America goes to hell in a handbasket? I mean no law, no cops, no currency etc. Civilization reverts to its default state - feudalism.

I don't like the idea of the US becoming an empire. We've had this great little experiment going to see how far we could push the envelope of liberty and still maintain a reasonably orderly society. (And my definition of "reasonably orderly" is pretty loose.) I don't want us to call it off now.

But I can foresee circumstances, some of them at least fairly likely, that might mean that we'd have little alternative than to occupy and govern significant areas of territory not assimilated into the polity and culture of the US.

One final anecdote:

Some years back I was doing some work for the Polish Academy of Science. A colleague there was a paleobiologist who I had many stimulating conversations with. The last time I spoke to him he did manage to shock me speechless when he suggested that the US should create an empire, "and then we (the Eastern Europeans) could be Americans junior class, something like the late Roman/Byzantine empire did with grades of citizenship."

Now I think the idea of diferentiated and ranked citizenship goes against the whole American idea, but I actually wonder how much of the world would go for it? Forget anti-American rhetoric - two-thirds of the people who are trying for a permanent change of address every year are trying to come here.


  • At 1:40 PM, Blogger Saint in Exile said…

    If other societies became so dysfunctional, then I doubt that they would be worth saving. To live in such a self-destructive society that one must choose between death by civil war or an uneasy peace forced upon the society from guns abroad seems to be as near as one can get to a definition of Hell on Earth. To make the judgment from abroad as to whether a society is worth saving probably seems a bit arrogant, but some degree of arrogance is justified when the only solution calls for your own blood.

    In some ways, this choice has been faced by us already. Not to take anything away from the results in Iraq since General Petraeus took over, but one of the ways that violence in Baghdad was reduced was to simply let the two sides fight it out in certain areas. Eventually, new sectarian neighborhoods formed along the lines drawn through months of hard fighting between Sunni and Shia. Though unpleasant, this made more sense than attempting to impose order with our forces and protracting the fight with us caught in the middle.

  • At 11:54 AM, Blogger Ted said…

    An interesting concept to mentally assent to, but the current fiasco in Iraq proves why it's practically unsustainable.
    In the last eight years, it's amazing (in a completely disgusting way) how far so-called conservatives have listed portside toward fascism, which used to be an exclusive bally-hoo of the left.
    Historically, once a nation degenerates from its republican principles, it wanders through democracy until the point where a decision to bribe one individual or group becomes a commitment to bribe all the looters and whiners...At that point, the bullet and billy-club replace the bribe as the means of control, because there simply isn't enough wealth to extort from the productive to keep up with the way the politricksters squander.
    We are passing from democracy to that point of early despotism now, with such of this mentality in power rationalizing up a "Patriot" Act III "just for emergencies" and every politrickster running for office concocting a global, economic or environmental "emergency" for which to strip individuals of God-given liberty by way of it.
    Let us hope and pray this idea remains only a temptation, and not one that grows into sin.


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