As I began to read Antiwar.com some three years ago, just before the launching of Operation "Enduring Freedom," I had a frame of reference to analyze empires and expansionism, but scarce data to apply it to the contemporary U.S. Let me put that framework in a nutshell.
It was based in Eric Voegelin‘s political science. A political gnostic or ideologue knows how to act before any event and does not inquire further nor learn from facts anymore for the sake of power, of course.
Now, Western ideological perversions produced two kinds of political religions in the 20th century, one from the right and another from the left. The Nazi gnostics political fundamentalists of the far right were smashed by the combined forces of the Soviets and the liberal democracies in WWII. Then, NATO and the West stood firm for 40 years and the USSR’s communism imploded in 1989, to the surprise of spin doctors. The world was free of empires and political gnostics. Or was it?
A victor in war is supposed to design a peace treaty. The victors of the global war WWIII, or the Cold War talked about a new world order. Yet they just talked; they did not agree upon a redistribution of power. The European Union was much too occupied to expand and organize itself, and it was not a global power. The U.S., the remaining superpower and the only state with a "global cavalry," relied on piecemeal arrangements. As Hannah Arendt put it, to forgive is the beginning of freedom. The West as epitomized by Clinton’s nonchalance preferred to forget. And the political world simply went on and on until 9/11.
The strategic application of terrorism on 9/11 unleashed a disproportionate response. President George W. Bush, elected on a mildly isolationist ticket, used a "bigger stick" than Theodore Roosevelt, Richard Nixon, and other U.S. presidents ever dreamed of.
After Enduring Freedom’s relatively happy end, I was prepared to concede to the U.S. the benefit of the doubt to build democracy in the secularized and "Saddamized" Iraq. It seemed simple, brilliant, and innovative. I had not read "A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm."
I learned a lot from you, indeed.
I learned from Karen Kwiatkowski how the neocon virus was implanted in the Pentagon by Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, and their team, and how U.S. foreign policy became the captive of special interests.
I learned from Justin Raimondo how to confront the main issue, the heart of the matter, hubris in politics.
I learned from Patrick Buchanan that in order to be a conservative, first of all, you need to oppose neoconservatism.
I learned from Jim Lobe how bipartisanship may be a blessing or a curse; in Washington, the defense of empire sadly became a bipartisan affair.
I learned from William Lind how fourth generation war in Iraq re-writes the story of David and Goliath for modern times. The outcome of such a struggle is much too well-known to think that the neocons are not aware of it.
I learned form Jude Wanniski how insanity crept into the White House and replaced common sense, and how liberal democracies became addicted to illiberal policies as a new empire began.
I learned from Chalmers Johnson that empire is unavoidable as long as the U.S. has more than 1,000 military bases abroad.
I became aware, through Juan Cole, how the many subtle and powerful variants of Islam operate in Iran and Iraq.
I learned from Alan Bock that you don’t have to be a simplistic "peacenik" to condemn violence.
To be both rigorous and kind, I could list other authors and issues on this site. Yet the point is obvious: Antiwar.com is telling the amazing story of America’s 21st century empire.
That story is pretty much the same in history from Alexander the Great to the present. Alexander transformed his mission to protect Greece from Persian invasions into a farfetched conquest of the East. (Oliver Stone’s movie, by the way, completely misses this point.) A moment comes when imperial objectives intrude upon national interests. Such twisted objectives develop a wretched life of their own. Sound familiar?
A comparison may be useful with the Portuguese experience.
In 1974, Portugal considered itself the last European colonial power to come home from Africa and Asia. The rationale for fighting in Africa against the independence movements was to defend the West against Communism. That was a half-truth. You can’t defend the West if you abuse the rule of law that characterizes it, and the authoritarian regime was liquidated by the April 25 revolution on account of such abuse. On the other hand, the colonial wars were part of the struggle between the West and the "Commies"; civil war went on in Angola and Mozambique for 20 more years, with the adversaries supported by the U.S. and the USSR.
American political scientists such as Philip Schmitter and Samuel Huntington are aware of the plight of the Portuguese empire. The notorious and nefarious Huntington begins The Third Wave by stating that "the third wave of democratization in the modern world began, implausibly and unwittingly, at 25 minutes after midnight, Thursday, April 25, 1974, in Lisbon, Portugal." He is wrong, as all historicists are. There are no "waves of democracy," a thalassocratic variant of Harold Macmillan‘s more ethereal metaphor of "the winds of change" in his speech at Cape Town in 1960 acknowledging the inevitability of African independence. The best comment that occurs to me is Seneca’s: "If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable."
The U.S. launched in 2001 the "fourth wave of democracy" or "global democratic revolution." Huntington might have suggested the line President Bush uttered in his 2003 Westminster Palace Address:
"The great democratic movement President Reagan described [in 1983] was already well underway. In the early 1970s, there were about 40 democracies in the world. By the middle of that decade, Portugal and Spain and Greece held free elections…."
That is nonsense, of course. One of his classically oriented aides may have concocted another gem: "We’ve witnessed, in little over a generation, the swiftest advance of freedom in the 2,500-year story of democracy." Wow! Historicism maddens the people it wants to destroy.
I think that America now stands at the crossroads, not "a city upon a hill" but a "megalopolis in distress." I think you American dissidents are in for a long resistance.
Your prerogative is to play a political role like that of Russian dissidents back in the ’70s and ’80s. There is still a chance that the American republic will prevail over American empire. I sincerely hope it, and I thank you for your contribution to the effort.