I see that our befuddled, subliterate president is likening U.S. troops in Iraq to the soldiers of the Continental Army: this is true, but only in the Bizarro World sense employed by Bush and his neocon minions, who live in an alternate universe where up is down, right is wrong, and the invasion of Iraq is a great triumph. “We give thanks for all the brave citizen-soldiers of our Continental Army who dropped pitchforks and took up muskets to fight for our freedom and liberty and independence,” Bush said. “You’re the successors of those brave men. Like those early patriots, you’re fighting a new and unprecedented war."
The central organizing principle of the Bizarro World sub-universe is inversion, and the president’s comparison is a sterling example of Bizarro logic in practice: the American revolutionaries were rebelling against an arrogant imperial entity that had oppressed and brutalized them beyond the limits of tolerance, therefore they are like the conquering army of occupation currently battling an insurgency that enjoys the active support of the Iraqi civilian population. Get it?
In the face of this administration’s rhetorical antics, one can only shake one’s head, get some earplugs, and try to look away. The president’s speechwriters have a feel for the worst of the American cultural ethos. Their prose is like the obscene online antics of Paris Hilton, or an episode of American Idol: vulgar, attention-seeking, and utterly profane.
A truer picture of what we are, and where we’re going, is obtained in this news item about American soldiers being naturalized in Iraq, which underscores our resemblance not to the revolutionary insurgents of the Continental Army, but to the redcoats, or, more accurately, the ancient Romans:
"U.S. soldiers and Marines filed into the marble hall of Saddam Hussein’s former Al Faw Palace on Independence Day as foreigners at home as well as here. But they left the room as American citizens.
"Standing under a glittering chandelier, 161 service members took the oath of citizenship Wednesday, the largest group to be naturalized at once in Iraq since the conflict began in March 2003. The mostly young, mostly male troops with last names such as Toledo and Serrano stitched across the back of their caps vowed to ‘support and defend the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America against all enemies,’ an abstract promise with a deeper meaning here."
The Romans, unable or unwilling to defend their empire any longer, soon gave in to the temptation to farm out the task outsource would be the current buzzword to the tribes that ranged across what is now Germany and France. Fierce, untamed, and looking for a gig, these barbarians soon found that fighting the Romans was less profitable than working for them. The indolent, perfumed Romans, more concerned with fighting and winning intra-Roman civil wars than guarding the outer frontiers of their empire, were more than willing to leave this dirty job to those they regarded as their inferiors. It wasn’t long before the barbarians had taken over the military defense of Rome itself and the sack of that once-proud city by successive waves of Goths and Vandals was the inevitable result.
The immigration issue impacts on foreign policy, and there is simply no escaping it. This is true for a number of reasons, which I’ll go into later, but the appalling practice of granting citizenship to those willing to assist in the illegal occupation of a conquered province vividly dramatizes the problem.
All empires are, almost by definition, multicultural entities: the imperial adventures of the Romans, the Spanish, the Brits, and the less successful European colonizers were all catalysts for the importation of a large immigrant population, which in turn had an impact on the culture and politics of the imperial homeland. In the Roman case, the creation of a mercenary army was the Empire’s ultimate undoing. In the final days of Roman decadence, the praetorians the Emperor’s elite guard consisted largely of German mercenaries, and they got in the rather nasty habit of overthrowing and murdering their Roman overlords at the slightest provocation.
No, I’m not saying that legions of foreign-born soldiers are going to pull off a coup against Our Dear Leader. What I am saying is that the political culture many of these newly recruited neo-Americans hail from hardly rules this out. Latin America, the largest source of immigration to America, has spawned many a military coup: indeed, south of the Rio Grande, this is something of a time-honored tradition. Something about the political culture of those lands encourages the cult of the Leader and militates against constitutionally limited government and the rule of law.
Whatever one’s position on the immigration question, opponents of our present foreign policy of relentless aggression can hopefully all agree that the practice of granting citizenship to foreigners if they sign up for the U.S. military is reprehensible and ought to be stopped forthwith. Because what it means is that, as Americans grow tired of and openly hostile to foreign wars and refuse to fight them, the War Party can always turn to an overseas contingent of willing cannon fodder ready to risk all for the chance to live a decent life.
Yet there are other objections to the purist libertarian position on immigration that impact on the foreign policy realm, first and foremost the question of dual loyalty, an issue that has loomed large over the American political landscape ever since our entry onto the world stage as a major power. Over the course of two world wars, our Anglophilic northeastern elites played an instrumental role in getting us involved on the side of the "allies," and the British lobby is not alone in its success. Practically every nation has its American lobby, a professional cheering section for policies favoring the mother country, or some other overseas cause or "liberation struggle."
The Israel lobby has received the most scrutiny, as it’s the most powerful and visible, but there are many others who operate under the radar and achieve close to the same results as AIPAC & Co. The Albanian lobby, fueled by drug money and the profits from the "white slavery" operations of the Albanian mafia, was a key factor in luring us into the Bosnian-Kosovo quagmire, where American troops are still on patrol, keeping the nonexistent "peace."
I note in passing that the recent "terrorist" attack planned on an Army base in New Jersey was the brainchild of Albanian immigrants who came here due to the "liberation" of their country by U.S. forces. The culprits probably received their military training skills, such as they are, fighting with the U.S.-supported Kosovo Liberation Army which now rules "liberated" Kosovo as its own private fiefdom, murdering and harassing the few remaining Serbs and burning down ancient churches.
All kinds of "blowback" are created by our policy of global intervention, and they aren’t always as dramatic as the events of 9/11 or a terrorist plot hatched by more recent immigrants. The blowback is often political and cultural, and its impact, in these cases, is more subtle and more important in the long run. As we add provinces to our overseas empire, the influx of refugees, green-card-holders, asylum-seekers, and naturalized military recruits will effect a sea change in the electorate and in Americans’ attitudes toward the prospect of becoming an imperial power.
Historically, Americans have always been rather skeptical of the alleged benefits of empire. This has been especially true in the case of the ostensibly conservative faction of the American ruling class, which has, up until recently, railed against the follies of "nation-building" and disdained the international bureaucracies and corrupt regimes spawned and maintained by generous American "foreign aid" programs. Until the neocons began to openly talk about it, the idea that America should, could, or would seek to build an empire on which the sun never sets was an oxymoronic fantasy. Today, it is an appalling prospect that seems more likely than not.
Some would say that we have been an empire for at least a century and that it’s high time we all got used to it. I would contend that this is far too simplistic to serve as credible analysis: the process of a republic degenerating into an empire involves many more aspects than simply acquiring overseas possessions, as we did at the turn of the 20th century. There is a vital internal aspect of this evolution that has to be accomplished before our leaders make the successful transition from a plain republican cloth coat to the imperial purple. In short, there has to be a fundamental change in the traditional American character and perhaps only a massive immigrant influx could accomplish it.
On the narrower question of recruiting fresh bodies for our overseas military operations by offering citizenship did you ever read The Camp of the Saints? It’s a novel about what happens when a massive flotilla of immigrants arrives on European shores, and some less extreme version of this scenario is easily imaginable in the context of our military recruiting efforts among the "undocumented." It’s not inconceivable that U.S. military recruiters will soon be setting up shop overseas, bribing potential GIs with green cards and the promise of a bright future in America, where the streets are paved with gold. Every ambitious thug, every upwardly mobile Mexican mafia "enforcer," every Russian skinhead with his eyes on the prize will flock to these recruiting centers, like ants to a honey pot left out in the yard. The world will soon be swarming with them: armed, unassimilated, and dangerous in more ways than one.
This needs to be stopped before it gets out of hand. Where, oh, where are our anti-open borders Republican members of Congress on this? They scream about the outrage of "amnesty," as embodied in Bush’s proposed legislation, and yet they are silent on the biggest immigration loophole of them all.
Americans won’t fight unjust wars that aren’t in our national interest, but a foreigner, desperate for whatever reason to leave his or her homeland and come to America for a chance at a better life, is a different matter altogether. Why shouldn’t they join up, no matter what the justice or the purpose of the war? Do those who join the French Foreign Legion have moral or political qualms about their mission? Probably not, and for good reason.
With the advent of a U.S. military that is significantly reinforced and sustained by the foreign-born, we risk losing one of the most important, and effective, checks on the tendency of our rulers to start wars, and that is the historically very limited American patience with overseas entanglements. The infamous "Vietnam syndrome" is back, but it’s beatable if the Pentagon can get around the always irksome and increasingly difficult task of making its recruitment quotas. With an unpopular indeed, hated military adventure in progress, the only way to make up for the embarrassing shortfall is by luring the foreign-born.
These latter-day Hessians are no less brave than our own soldiers and certainly not to be blamed for making what is often the only choice open to them. Yet I tremble for the future, if or, rather, when they begin to swell the ranks of our occupying army in Iraq, and wherever else the War Party sends them, because their growing importance as a military resource portends internal changes that augur the end of our old republic and herald the rise of empire.
If our army of occupation in Iraq is the equivalent of the Continental Army, then I guess that makes George W. our George Washington but that doesn’t quite fly, now does it? He’s much closer to another George: King George III, the batty old S.O.B. who lost the American colonies due to his hubris and arrogant unwillingness to listen to the wise counsel of his betters. Ours is a president who has stood the American tradition founded in a war against an occupying colonial power on its head, a Bizarro conservative who rails about leading what he calls a "global democratic revolution" devoted to "ending tyranny in our world."
At the end of the American war for independence, when the Brits were surrendering their swords at Yorktown, a story that has circulated for years has it that the British marching band struck up a tune: "The World Turned Upside Down." With Bizarro George in the White House, the world is again inverted or, rather, has reverted back to its pre-American state, with a ravenous Empire put in place of our old Republic, and a half-mad Emperor sitting in the Oval Office.
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
Take a look at the latest addition to the blogosphere, the blog over at Taki’s Top Drawer: here‘s my take on The New Republic‘s smear-artist-in-residence, and here are another few items of interest. Check it out.