In recent years the United States of America has evolved into the largest, wealthiest, most powerful, most materialistic, most racist, most militaristic, most violent empire of all times. The question is, “What can be done about it, if anything?” We shall examine six possible responses to the American Empire:
The vast majority of Americans are completely oblivious to the fact that our government has over 1,000 military bases in 153 countries and that our foreign policy is based on military doctrines such as full spectrum dominance, nuclear primacy, the right of pre-emptive strike, and imperial overstretch. Because of their abysmal ignorance of foreign affairs, most Americans are in a state of denial regarding the very existence of the American Empire.
Regrettably, most of our national political leaders, who should know better, are also in denial. The same is true of the national news networks including PBS and NPR. They are all steeped in the myth of “the home of the free and the land of the brave,” and they constantly refer to the United States as “the greatest nation in the world.” But it’s all pure bunk, and many of them know that it is.
Although some armchair environmentalists, pacifists, democratic socialists, and simple-living adherents are fully aware of the perils of the Empire, they feel powerless to confront a government owned, operated, and controlled by Wall Street and Corporate America. They talk endlessly about how bad things are, and they try to live their personal lives in positive ways, but in relation to the government they do nothing but naively hope for the best. For these risk averse Americans it’s all about rolling with the flow. The name of the game is compliance.
The real Pollyannas are liberal Democrats, so-called Progressives, and Libertarians who still believe the U.S. government is fixable. Liberal Democrats and Progressives like Bernie Sanders believe that all we have to do is elect the right liberals to the Congress, and they will enact campaign finance reform legislation which will solve all of our problems. This is, of course, pure fantasy. Wall Street and Corporate America like things just the way they are. Meaningful campaign finance reform will never happen.
Barack Obama was supposed to have undone all of the damage done to America by George W. Bush. The only differences between Obama and Bush are related to style and rhetoric. Their policies are virtually identical.
Both the Democratic and the Republican political parties are effectively brain dead. Neither has had an original idea for decades. It matters not whether the President is a Democrat or a Republican. The results will be the same.
Libertarians, on the other hand, have a somewhat different view of government reform. They think the problem of America lies with the fact that our government no longer adheres to the language of the Constitution. Everything would be just fine, if only Congress would follow the rules laid out by our founders. But this view is equally naïve. Wall Street and Corporate America use the Constitution to suit their own needs. They are quite content with the way in which both the Congress and the White House interpret the Constitution. None of the Tea Parties and state sovereignty resolutions sponsored by Libertarians are going to change anything.
Political and constitutional reform of the U.S. government are dead in the water. Neither is going to happen.
In February 2008 a poll conducted by the UVM Center for Rural Studies found that 77 percent of eligible Vermont voters thought the U.S. government had lost its moral authority; nearly 50 percent believed the United States had become unsustainable (politically, economically, militarily, and environmentally). And what were they prepared to do about this alarming state of affairs – elect Barack Obama President, which was tantamount to doing nothing at all.
One option which Vermonters might have considered was peaceable secession. Only 11.5 percent chose that option. Not unlike most other Americans, Vermonters were drawn to the federal government in search of a safe haven rather than fleeing from the principal cause of much of their angst.
As the American economy began to melt down last fall, Americans and foreigners alike sought financial security in the U.S. dollar and U.S. Treasury bonds. The dollar maintained amazing resilience in light of multitrillion-dollar government deficits. As the Federal Reserve began printing money like it was going out of style, the value of Treasury notes soared and interest rates plunged towards zero even though the risk of holding such notes was escalating upwards with each new government offering. It made no sense whatsoever! Conservative bankers stood in line to receive government bailouts, and liberals and conservatives alike fought for so-called stimulus funds. The government claimed it would solve the nation’s health care problems which it had helped create. Conservative politicians like Vermont Governor Jim Douglas showed up at the White House hat-in-hand. Indeed, Douglas was the first governor to have a private audience with Obama.
It was truly the Age of Obama, who promised to fix everything through “hope and change.” The only problem was, tens of millions of Americans actually believed him.
The flight back to America is unbelievably strong in light of the chaos caused by our government. Conservative Americans, many of whom are supernationalists, resonate to the fact that the U.S. is the only global superpower. The fact that America has become an imperialist nation is actually a source of pride to them.
Loyalty to the Empire remains the politically correct norm in America regardless of the moral, social, and ethical implications of that stance. American loyalists are indeed the 21st century equivalents of the British Tories back in 1776. They remain staunchly committed to the smug views that “might makes right” and that “everyone should be just like us.”
An increasing number of Americans are expressing their displeasure with the Empire by getting off the treadmill, distancing themselves from the Empire, and embracing a lifestyle based on simple living. They hope to achieve a quieter, simpler, more meaningful life by slowing down, working less, consuming less, buying locally, and becoming less dependent on fossil fuels. Downsizing and downshifting are important bywords of the simple living movement. Many downshifters view agricultural and energy self-sufficiency as necessary first steps towards eventual political independence. Not only is such a view based on ignorance, but it is politically naïve as well.
Japan, which has the second largest economy in the world, is neither energy independent nor food independent. It literally imports every drop of oil that it consumes and most of its food.
Unfortunately, many simple living, back-to-the-land practitioners become so self-absorbed and complacent with their newfound ideology that they overlook the fact that the world is still going to hell in a handbasket. From the isolation of their small town, village, farm, or commune they fail to note that the American Empire continues to bear the primary responsibility for the deaths of thousands in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Palestine, to mention only a few places. Buying locally may make one feel good, but it really doesn’t do a whole lot to curtail the influence of the Empire. One’s tax dollars are still used to purchase the Pentagon’s high-tech instruments of death.
Although simple living, localvore, conservation, and back-to-the-land are all worthwhile activities, they may also be forms of escapism, alternatives to confronting the American Empire.
A final alternative response to the Empire is confrontation which could take one of three forms – rebellion, revolution, or secession. Rebellion, armed resistance to the government, and revolution, the attempted overthow of the government, should be summarily rejected as exercises in utter futility. Such activities would be instantaneously snuffed out by the most powerful Empire of all time. Nonviolence is the only game in town.
This leaves peaceable secession as the only viable way of confronting the Empire. The Communist regimes in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union were all brought down by a common nonviolent strategy, namely by demonstrating unequivocally that the leaders of these regimes had lost their moral authority. The American Empire will eventually implode just like the Soviet Union did, but the process can be accelerated significantly by hammering away at the corruption and loss of moral authority of all U.S. government officials and anyone who votes for or supports this government.
The Empire has no clothes, and the sooner we all realize this, the better off we will be.
Thomas H. Naylor
August 10, 2009