The Price of Empire

Is there a single region of the world where the United States government isn’t scheming to grab more control, more influence, and have more of a military presence?

In Pakistan, a memo has been unearthed from “President” Zardari to Admiral Mike Mullen, head of the joint chiefs of staff, proposing a coup d’etat in which the military and intelligence chiefs would be replaced – with US “political and military support” – in favor of individuals more compliant with the American agenda. Also in Pakistan: an outright attack by US and Afghan forces on a Pakistani military base, a “mistake” in which 28 Pakistani soldiers were killed.

Is the United States government actively trying to destabilize Pakistan – in order to be able to pull off a “coup” and move in with US troops in support of “democracy”? Are we, in effect, at war with Pakistan? Sure seems like it.

In Iran, we’re running a terrorist operation that strikes at both military and civilian targets, and we’ve just announced a new round of sanctions. Not content with a campaign of economic strangulation, prominent US lawmakers and former top national security officials are harboring, succoring, and defending a known terrorist organization whose goal is “regime change” in Iran. Hardly a day goes by without a threat of military action emanating from Washington.

In Syria, we are supporting armed “protesters” whose goal is the overthrow of the Syrian government. In Libya, our proxies recently succeeded in doing the same. In Egypt, we are reprising our record of support for mobs demanding the ouster of the government – while in Bahrain, we take the side of the reigning king as angry mobs gather in the public square.

In Eastasia, we are intervening in a regional dispute, claiming to be a “resident Pacific power,” and scheming to make the South China Sea (of all places!) an American lake. The much-vaunted “Pacific pivot” has us setting up a new military base in Australia and sending 2,500 US troops to man it. Is this because China is planning to send the Peoples Liberation Army Down Under – or because the Americans are looking to expand the string of major military bases that allows them to project power (and impose their will) all over the globe? Of course it’s just a coincidence that, in tandem with our Asian offensive, we’re about to announce an agreement to base US warships in Singapore, right on China’s doorstep.

Our ambitions, however, are hardly limited to Eastasia. In Central Asia, aside from our decade-long campaign to subjugate Afghanistan, we’re spending tens of millions of US taxpayer dollars to prop up some of the most repressive regimes on earth. The idea is to encircle both Russia and China: toward this end we are courting the dictators of Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Tajikistan, and haggling with the newly-elected government of Kyrgyzstan to retain our basing rights.

In Europe, we are intervening massively – via the Federal Reserve, this time – in order to shore up insolvent banks, support the Euro, and prop up the decadent welfare states of the EU. On a more militaristic note, via NATO we’re intervening – again! – in Kosovo, Serbia’s lost province, where rebellious Serbs are defying the gangster “government” in Pristina and defending their autonomy: naturally, we aim to crush them. Since the Obama administration has come into office, new bases have sprung up in Poland, Bulgaria and Romania. And if the long reach of Uncle Sam into the very heart of Europe isn’t evident in the legal troubles of Julian Assange, then one is wearing blinders.

In Africa we are invading Somalia, sending the Marines to Uganda, and scheming with Kenya and Ethiopia to pacify great swathes of the continent. This is being done in the name of the “war on terrorism,” but in reality it is a response to Chinese economic penetration of the dark continent, which the US sees as a threat. A ring of new military bases is being set up in Yemen, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia, and the Seychelles from which to run our ongoing “drone war” against alleged “terrorist” outposts in Somalia and the Arabian peninsula. This is not to mention the “secret” bases reportedly operating in “Israel, Kuwait, the Philippines and many other places,” as Catherine Lutz points out in an excellent overview of what the late Chalmers Johnson called our “empire of bases.”

In South and Central America, the American military presence is rapidly expanding, with seven new bases in Colombia since 2008, two new naval bases in Panama – and those are just the ones we know about. What we don’t know is the extent of Washington’s covert operations south of the border, including supplying arms to Mexican drug cartels – a truly shocking scandal which is being steadfastly ignored by the openly pro-Obama “mainstream” media.

The pace of US intervention across the globe is picking up speed, even as the world-wide economic crisis threatens to bring down the Empire – and the response to this accelerated imperialism drives a growing global backlash.

It used to be that the US was considered a relatively benign force, internationally, and our “foreign aid” program took on an aura of humanitarian sanctimony. This was dramatized in the 1955 satiric novel, The Mouse That Roared, which imagined a bankrupt mini-state of “Freedonia” declaring war against the US in order to be defeated so that they could then get on the foreign aid gravy train. (Spoiler: the plot is foiled when Freedonia wins the war!).

However, then came The Ugly American, and the Vietnam era, which brought home the dark side of interventionism. America’s post-9/11 rampage throughout the Middle East has erased whatever good will was left over from the old days. Except for the cargo cultists of the Pacific islets – such as the John Frum cult of Vanuatu, who “dress in crude replicas of US army uniforms, paint themselves with ‘USA’ on their chests, shoulder wooden rifles, and march in military file hoping it will bring the planes back” – there are very few fans of US intervention left out there. Instead, the overweening US presence abroad is only making us enemies, and deadly ones, too.

All this will come back to haunt us – indeed, it already has, and I’m not just talking about how terrorism is the unacknowledged offspring of US intervention. The economic blowback alone will be severe enough to destroy us: we are well down the road to bankruptcy, and a few more downgradings of US debt will have us in the same condition as Greece.

This is why the increased pace and violence of US intervention abroad is doubly troubling. The utter recklessness of our leaders is astonishing: it smacks of desperation, of some mad plan to “rule or ruin.” Unless our leaders change course, we are rapidly hurtling toward a tremendous collision – with our adversaries abroad, with our own economic limits, and with reality itself. The sheer force of the impact will destroy all that we value in our civilization, i.e. what is left of our prosperity and our liberty. This is the price of empire, and the question of the century is: are Americans prepared to pay it?


The response to our “matching funds” pitch has been fairly good, so far, but in order to make our fundraising goal in this grim winter of 2011 we’ll need to step up the pace a bit – well, actually, a bit more than a bit. When you look at the sheer scope of the Empire, and take into account all the various economic and political interests fighting to maintain and expand it, the task of dismantling it takes on truly Sisyphean dimensions. As Catherine Lutz points out in her New Statesman piece:

“The global reach of the US military today is unprecedented and unparalleled. Officially, more than 190,000 troops and 115,000 civilian employees are massed in approximately 900 military facilities in 46 countries and territories (the unofficial figure is far greater). The US military owns or rents 795,000 acres of land, with 26,000 buildings and structures, valued at $146bn (£89bn). The bases bristle with an inventory of weapons whose worth is measured in the trillions and whose killing power could wipe out all life on earth several times over.”

And that’s not counting all the new bases in Iraq and Afghanistan, nor does it include secret facilities rumored to exist elsewhere. This vast network exists parallel to an extensive constellation of think tanks, lobbying groups, publicists, foreign agents, military contractors, and academics whose goal in life is to justify the Empire, and portray it as a benevolent necessity rather than an albatross hung around our necks.

On the other side of the barricades stands – us. And that’s pretty much it. Oh sure, we have allies on both the left and the right. But there are very few who are working, day and night, on this issue to the exclusion of all else.

That’s why the survival of is so important – and why failure is not an option as far as our winter fundraising campaign is concerned. So please, help us even the odds and give today, as much as you can afford – because we just can’t do it without your help.

Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo passed away on June 27, 2019. He was the co-founder and editorial director of, and was a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He was a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and wrote a monthly column for Chronicles. He was the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].