Uncomfortable Thoughts: Empire part 2
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.