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America: Quo Vadis?
Citizen reporter ponders the direction of the 'U.S. Empire'
Michael Werbowski (minou)     Print Article 
Published 2006-04-07 10:25 (KST)   
In this essay on American so called "supremacy," I examine some domestic and foreign factors which can be attributed to this sole superpower's slow yet seemingly irreversible drift into an abyss. I will use historical "projection models" from the past comparing U.S. global domination to other imperial declines, such as ancient Rome, to better grasp the current context.

Rome extended the borders of its vast empire in conquest after conquest then exacted a "tribute," or tax, on its subjected citizens. It was a reasonable trade off: the subjected peoples in return for a paying a "head tax" to their imperial overlords enjoyed the privileges of Roman civil rights and protection from barbarians thanks to the mighty empire's legions. Rome also exported its cultural grandeur, literature and architecture, which enriched the outer peripheries of the imperium.

By contrast, the U.S. exports "freedom and democracy." Decoded, these two words usually associated with liberty, in today's context really mean tutelage by the World Bank and the IMF in the form of debt repayments. Freedom, in the form of free trade agreements, is exported around the globe, which enables corporations to usurp national sovereignty and operate beyond the "rule of law" with impunity in pursuit of greater market access. In the process, this forces "target nations" to give up their rights over their domestic industries to multinational control and ownership.

The U.S. also exports its culture, such as video games and instant gratification in the form of fast food, to create an overweight and chronically ill populace on a global scale. This resembles a much cruder version of Rome's bread and circuses, which distracted both the citizens and the conquered masses at the same time. At home, America offers its growing illiterate, incarcerated or homeless population a brief reprieve from their pitiful existence by means of a computer generated "virtual reality."

The universality of Roman codes laws led to the modern day republic we call the United State of America. Yet America (unlike the glorious Roman Imperial republic) today is unable or unwilling to extend "universal principles" abroad as it did after the Second World War so successfully in the form of the Marshall Plan to Europe. It only projects its military might in short bursts of "shock and awe." Hence, its power is derided as being simply imperialistic aggression, as a leftist might say.

As a result, the U.S. is unable to win the "hearts and minds" of unruly peoples around the globe. It can bomb its perceived enemies, but it can do nothing to provide stability or prosperity after the use of military force, as it did in Germany and Japan in the post-war era. In fact, a deeply divided nation cannot even maintain a binding commonality of national purpose within its own borders. By that I mean invest in public education for its poorest, provide universal health care for its oldest citizens, or secure its own borders.

This is compounded by a presidency restricted to promoting a corporate agenda at the expense of the greater good of the nation. Added to this is an administration willing and able to wage war, but not pay for it with higher taxes or able to ask it's youngest to make the "ultimate sacrifice." It is also unable to provide housing or decent pensions for its "war heroes" on the home front. This untenable situation led to uprisings among the armed legions of Rome and triggered revolts within the Roman imperial armies. Perhaps America should do more to keep its troops happy?

Barbarians at the Gates

Implementing any national policy to stop the rot within the republic is hampered as well by the political chasms splitting up the U.S. The American "heartland," "the Bible belt," "the rust belt," and "the elite and effete Northeast" as they are called, are almost separate entities. These are disparate regions, seemingly insular foreign lands within an increasingly dissolute and divided nation.

Then there are the "ethnic mixtures" which make up the citizenry of the imperial-republic. However, the melting pot simmering with migrants is now boiling over. An increasing Latino American population seeking their fair share of the American pie is demanding more political clout commensurate with their demographic weight. At the same time, their relatives on the Mexican side of the border are heading north in search of an ever elusive "American Dream."

One poor Mexican's dream is another Arizona cattle rancher's nightmare. Border states have mounted a patriotic resistance to this onslaught by keeping an armed militia on patrol to search for and often destroy undocumented day laborers with the benign consent of an overworked and underpaid U.S. border patrol.

How does one accommodate these growing internal-external border pressures, while at the same time engage in an endless "war on terror" overseas? The longer this question remains unanswered the faster America will slip into the abyss.

On the foreign front of the global scale American-state, the war in Afghanistan against terror is being fought without the proper amount of ground troops. The same is true in Iraq. U.S. Special Forces try to win the "war on terror" by terrorizing local villagers who shelter their own "freedom fighters." Wielding a big stick without dangling a carrot to the Afghan resistance, or any other armed opposition to the ongoing occupation, is unlikely to quell the ongoing uprisings in poor and backward states.

The same is true for Iraq, where one of the most costly wars in U.S. history is being fought. This unwinnable war is draining the U.S. treasury to the tune of over $250 billion per year. Beating up bullies like Saddam Hussein or stomping on "military midgets" in the Middle East will neither win the U.S. friends nor honor in the region, nor quell a growing Arab insurgency. On the contrary, bombing semi-feudal societies "back to the stone age" is a futile military goal not far from utter folly.

The bombing must lead quickly to reconstruction and the stabilization and political engagement of the defeated enemy in post-war talks. In the case of Iraq, a far more advanced society than Afghanistan, the U.S. sought to pacify the nation with "shock and awe" followed by a brutal occupation. It has sought to put the ox before the cart by drafting a constitution in a state at war and under occupation. How much longer can the U.S. finance such counter productive conflicts even if it meant to gain access to oil in the Persian Gulf? We all know the oil is running out, yet the Pentagon strategists are obsessed with fighting oil wars just as we enter the post oil era. This is madness!

Furthermore, America gets most of its imported oil from the Western Hemisphere from three client states -- Mexico, Canada and Venezuela. It does not take billions of dollars to fund a massive intelligence agency to figure this out. South America is becoming increasingly troublesome for Washington, to be sure. But trying to overthrow its elected leaders is not likely to win Washington many friends in its backyard, either. For its part Canada and Mexico are profiting from a boom of oil and gas exports to their American neighbor. A continental trade bloc within the NAFTA context is key to American energy self sufficiency.

Ironically, the U.S., so heavily dependent on close economic ties to its North American trading partners, is damaging bilateral ties with these indispensable allies. Trade friction, differences over the Iraq war, militarization of the U.S. borders to the north and south has split apart the "Three Amigos."

Canada and Mexico have one big advantage over their "oilaholic" neighbor: they are both, relatively speaking, energy self-sufficient. This strategic resource, although nationalized in the case of Mexico, can be shared provided the U.S takes steps to accommodate and not alienate these allies. NAFTA can be taken further and integrated into an EU style union with a common currency, a common immigration policy and labor movement flexibility.

But perhaps in the current state of affairs this is only a distant pipedream. Instead of courting its allies in North America and France and Germany in Europe, the U.S. has hooked up a diplomatic midget or "non-actors" on the international scene, as Dr. Brzezinski refers to Great Britain. Mind you, I love foggy old England and its selection of warm ales and cricket matches. But why has America chosen the UK as its deputy in fighting the "war on terror"? Britain, no matter how charming it may seem from Washington, is still is suffering from a post-imperial complex. It has become a major base in Europe for terrorist cells and terror networks.

Furthermore, Britain neither has the economic resources (it refuses to join the world's new reserve currency, the Euro) nor the military muscle to support America's military theatrics as impressive as they may appear to some spectators watching CNN.

Like "the mouse that roared," Britain goes to war with third rate "military midgets" in the Balkans or in a more farcical fashion against Argentina to protect a few dozen grazing sheep on a windswept barren island called the Falklands. Britain hopes some of its former imperial glory may rub off on America, and vice-versa. Maybe America identifies with the old and dowdy "mother country" which it spurned back in revolutionary war. But such nostalgia is not worth much militarily nor diplomatically in terms of winning imperial wars in the name of "freedom and democracy."
This story has appeared on other Web sites under this citizen reporter's pen name Peter Utrecht.
©2006 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Michael Werbowski

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