troops in Iraq, who creamed Saddam Hussein and his cronies
in record time, are turning their sights on another target:
the Bush administration and if I were the Bushies, I'd be
scared. A sergeant stationed in Fallujah recently told
got my own 'Most Wanted' list. The aces in my deck are Paul
Bremer, Donald Rumsfeld, George Bush and Paul Wolfowitz,"
the soldiers of the Army's 3rd Infantry Division
are tired exhausted is more like it. They've been there
since September, and were promised that they'd be home by
now. But it isn't just homesickness. Pfc. Eric Rattler avers:
used to want to help these people, but now I don't really
care about them anymore. I've seen so much, you know, little
kids throwing rocks at you. Once you pacify an area, it seems
like the area you just came from turns bad again. I'd like
this country to be all right, but I don't care anymore."
conquered country needs to stay conquered, and that requires
an occupation; we'll be in Iraq anywhere from 5
to 10 years,
according to the experts and influential members of Congress.
It is also going to require a lot more troops. But American
soldiers are trained to win wars, not to baby-sit restive
natives. Imperialism goes against the grain of the American
character, as vociferously expressed by one of the military
wives, Rhonda Vega of Hinesville, Georgia, who told
a national TV audience:
send my husband home send all the soldiers home. They have
done the job they were supposed to do."
calling for Rummy's resignation on national television, military
wives speaking out against the occupation it didn't take
very long for the backlash against the Iraq war to make itself
felt. War "revisionism" usually takes years to kick in: this
time, however, the smoke had barely cleared from the skies
over Baghdad before the lies of the War Party were exposed
and the storm of indignation broke. This can be explained,
at least to some extent, to the ubiquity of the Internet,
and is also due, perhaps, to the unusual brazenness of these
particular liars. After all, the administration's Niger-uranium
fantasy was debunked by UN inspector Jacques Baute "with a
few quick Google searches," as Joshua Marshall described
were they thinking?
by arrogance, and the myth of American preeminence, the neoconservative
architects of a frankly imperial foreign policy don't care
what ordinary people think. The whole world, for them, consists
of Washington, D.C. and immediate environs, which is how come
Rich Lowry can proclaim, in all seriousness, the rise of a
consensus." The editor of National Review opines:
one wants to say it out loud, but we are all colonialists
"we," of course, he means all the policy wonks who inhabit
the Washington Beltway, and who seem to have arrived at a
"consensus" on the desirability of imperialism:
all the vitriolic partisan disagreements about American foreign
policy, then, there is a sort of colonialist consensus, which
is why American troops are in Afghanistan and Iraq (a Republican
president's colonialism), Bosnia and Kosovo (a Democratic
president's colonialism), and perhaps soon Liberia, too (a
Republican president's colonialism that is pleasing to Democrats)."
the grunts who have to fight Washington's wars of conquest
are not included in this great "consensus." Their opinions
are not even considered, because they don't count. We must
leave it to the elites, on the right and the left, and they
want to provide security and decent government to far-flung
parts of the world for our own good to protect America's
interests; liberals want to provide security and decent government
to far-flung parts of the world for other people's good
to protect humanitarian principles."
this means is that, when it comes to foreign policy, the ideological
spectrum has been considerably narrowed to include only the
two known varieties of neoconservatives: right-neocons and
left-neocons, with the entire range of permitted dissent on
foreign policy matters consisting of the short distance between
National Review and The New Republic. Libertarians,
leftists, paleoconservatives, and other opponents of our policy
of global intervention all are beyond the pale, including
non-ideologues Pfc. Rattler, Ms. Vega, and the people who
will actually have to fight these endless wars of conquest.
and his fellow mandarins see their role as grand strategists.
They are all of them little Napoleons, and their unspeakable
arrogance leaps out at Lowry's readers:
unspoken assumption of both sides is that swaths of the world
have proven incapable of self-government, and they're both
right. So conservative Republican President George W. Bush
sends American troops to take over from the nasty dictator
of Iraq, Saddam Hussein, and liberal Democrat Howard Dean
wants to send American troops to take over from the nasty
dictator of Liberia, Charles Taylor."
unspoken assumption is that we can care passionately about
the ability of distant peoples to govern themselves without
losing our own capacity for self-government, embodied in the
Constitution and the revolutionary anti-colonialist heritage
of the Founders. Can we rid the world of nasty dictators without
the risk of installing one in Washington? Certainly, in the
neocon view, it is a risk well worth taking, but, in the self-enclosed,
self-referential world of Lowry's "colonialist consensus,"
such a question never even gets asked.
wants neo-colonialists to come out of the closet, so to speak,
and openly proclaim their proclivities, previously thought
shameful and now openly celebrated. Furthermore, he says,
we must learn from our predecessors how to go about building
the new imperial order:
can also openly study the British example and learn its lessons,
especially how to create a in [Niall]
Ferguson's phrase 'self-liquidating' empire, one that
builds the institutions necessary to decent government, then
is one way to describe a policy that over-extended, impoverished,
and eventually drained the British homeland, ending in exhaustion
and economic ruin. As the last, degenerated remnants of a
once mighty empire debate whether to throw their lot in with
the United Socialist States of Europe, or fall back on their
Anglo cousins across the ocean, one can only agree with Lowry
that we must study the British example and learn its lessons.
But what lesson, apart from "Don't go there!", can possibly
enthuses over what a great deal European imperialism was for
the downtrodden peoples of, say, Africa, although I'm almost
sure he wouldn't want to bring the
Belgians back to the Congo, or the Spanish, for that matter,
back to the Southwest United States (although perhaps, with
a little coaxing, they could be persuaded to take Mexico in
.) What he doesn't mention, however, is that it wasn't
such a great deal for the Europeans. The economic benefits
of imperialism accrue only to certain politically favored
entities and individuals, while the economic health of the
commonwealth suffers in the long run. An empire must be policed,
maintained by an administrative apparatus, and militarily
defended: imperialism is essentially a policy of endless war.
The costs far outweigh whatever prerogatives and peripheral
benefits come with the imperial purple.
"consensus" of would be empire-builders excludes an awful
lot of people, not only us libertarians, people on the Left,
and the Buchanan-American First wing of the conservative movement,
but also the U.S. military, from top-ranking officers in the
Pentagon to the lowliest grunts on the front lines. In the
months leading up the invasion of Iraq, prominent military leaders spoke
out against intervention and were disdained by the War
Party as needlessly and dangerously interfering in the political
process. Now that they have been
proven right, we see ordinary soldiers in uniform calling
on the Secretary of Defense to resign.
U.S. general has just conceded
what everyone has known for many weeks: that America is bogged
down in a guerrilla war against a multi-faceted Iraqi resistance
movement that will not be easily defeated. "This is the duty
we accept," said President Bush today [Thursday] about this
war, but he is wrong. The American people never accepted any
such thing. When the U.S. went to war with Iraq, and invaded
its territory, we were told that it was necessary in order
to disarm the Iraqis, who possessed "weapons of mass destruction"
yes, even nukes. Saddam Hussein has already "reconstituted"
his nuclear weapons, said Vice President Dick Cheney. Now
both Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair are facing
a growing chorus of jeering criticism where's the WMD? The
cry goes up on both
sides of the Atlantic, directed at Bush, Cheney, and Blair,
calling on them to resign.
This is a "consensus"?
is much to Lowry's contention that the Left, as embodied by
Howard Dean and his supporters, represents but another wing
of the War Party. During the Clinton years, liberals embraced
the idea of "humanitarian" intervention in Bosnia, Haiti,
Kosovo, and elsewhere. Certainly a great deal of the antiwar
sentiment in the Democratic party is due to sheer partisanship.
people are not static entities floating in a vacuum. They
live in human history, and are not incapable of learning its
lessons. In wartime, the ruling party invariably seizes the
moment to increase its stranglehold on power, and its opponents
resist. In this sense, Republican opposition to entering World
War II was "partisan." Today, in fighting the interventionist
policies of the Republican-led War Party, Democratic peace
activists who might be otherwise inclined to endorse intervention
on "humanitarian" grounds will find themselves constrained
by both politics and logic. We may be in for a repeat of the
process whereby the progressive populists of the 1930s who
opposed U.S. entry into the war became the conservatives of
the 1940s and 50s, and were later derided as "right-wing isolationists."
is the occasion for political realignments, and this is undoubtedly
what is happening at the moment. A great debate is taking
place as America takes its first halting steps on the road
to Empire, and the question of the day is: What are we
getting into? Americans want to know but most of them
are excluded from the discussion. They just don't matter,
according to the Rich Lowrys of this world, but of course
they do matter. Their taxes pay for the grandiose delusions
of the policymakers; their lives are lost in pursuit of Napoleonic
dreams, and they are, increasingly, insisting on being included
in the national discussion.
near mutiny by American soldiers in Iraq shows how and why
the attempt to build a colonialist "consensus" is doomed from
the start. The great irony is that Lowry's "consensus" had
no sooner been proclaimed than it had already begun to collapse.
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