and China face military confrontation, an Australian has warned
Americans about how the British Empire lasted so long.
observes Editor Owen Harries in the Spring 2001 National Interest
Illusion"), "was the only hegemon that did not attract
a hostile coalition against itself. It avoided that fate by showing
great restraint, prudence and discrimination in the use of its
power in the main political arena by generally standing aloof
and restricting itself to the role of balancer of last resort.
In doing so it was heeding the warning given it by Edmund
Burke, just as its era of supremacy was beginning: 'I dread
our own power and our own ambition. I dread being too much dreaded.'"
Harries, "I believe the United States is now in dire need
of such a warning."
of understanding the limits to its power, however, America is
forging a world alliance against itself. Russia is now allying
with China and India and Iran against American hegemony. Much,
if not most, of the Muslim world fears and hates American policies,
if not Americans. Europe is going neutral and America's Asian
allies want no part in a conflict between China and America. New
embassies are built like Star Wars' fortresses and the US Navy
has fearfully cut
back shore leave in much of the world. And now a multi-billion
dollar missile shield is sought to protect America mainly from
all the new enemies it is making for itself.
did the "world's only super power" become so isolated
"Wolfowitz Doctrine" is named for the No. 2 man at the
Defense Department and key Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld confidant, Paul
Wolfowitz, former director of the Johns Hopkins School for
Advanced International Studies, known for his support of NATO
expansion and the attack on Serbia.
the New York Times explained it, the Wolfowitz Doctrine
argues that America's political and military mission should be
to "ensure that no rival superpower is allowed to emerge.
With its focus on this concept of benevolent domination by one
power, the Pentagon document articulates the clearest rejection
to date of collective internationalism." Its core thesis,
described by Ben Wattenberg in the April 12, Washington Times,
is "to guard against the emergence of hostile regional superpowers,
for example, Iraq or China. America is No. 1. We stand for something
decent and important. That's good for us and good for the world.
That's the way we want to keep it."
though there is truth to the claim of Americans' fundamental decency,
since Athenian times democracies have been woefully unable to
run empires. American foreign policy is made by Congress in response
to sensationalist TV news and domestic ethnic voting blocks, not
with a view to national interests, but rather in response to the
short term need for money and votes for the next election. That
is the reason many foreigners see American military interventions
as inconsistent and hypocritical. Most American don t care about
foreign policy. Consequently it is controlled by the few who do
how long the Roman empire would have lasted if there had been
a Visigoth or Egyptian lobby pushing its agenda on Roman foreign
policy. The Roman Empire resulted in the end of the Roman republic
and freedom. The English empire failed when the electoral franchise
grew so much that new voters could thwart the elites' rule. Still,
many American conservatives who argue that government can't even
properly run a nursery have fallen for the concept that it can
run the world.
confusing American interests, there are also elements
in Washington that look at real or imagined threats abroad
with great favor. The old military-industrial complex has grown
to become the overwhelming military-industrial-congressional establishment.
Its power is reflected by the difficulty of closing unnecessary
bases and the wasteful weapons purchasing process, as evidenced
by ordering weapons before they are fully tested, e.g. the ill-fated
Osprey helicopter, manufactured in 42 states and congressional
we imagine wars without casualties, with exciting "bang-bang"
for evening TV, and with no hurtful consequences for our interests.
Foreigners are not going to oblige us, but more likely will wage
wars of terrorism from unknown quarters, possibly even with horrendous
biological weapons currently being developed.
the world is not even a "conservative" position. "It
is a policy" writes William Ruger for Reason Magazine
Policy Folly,"June 2001), "that will threaten rather
than preserve many of America's traditional values, such as individual
liberty, small government and anti-militarism. As has been pointed
out by a number of historians, war and preparing for war are the
soils that nurture the growth of state power, burdensome taxation,
conscription, and militarism. If American conservatism should
stand for anything, it should be the goal of limited government.
Yet the primacist policies offered here guarantee the opposite:
a leviathan." The first cost of empire will be the loss of
many of our own freedoms. The second will be our prosperity. Empires
conservatives are showing a passion for confrontation with China.
Answering those "crying Wolfowitz," Craig Smith pointed
out in the New York Times (May 15), that China and Taiwan
are actually thriving together economically -- not the image one
gets from those who want confrontation. This anti-China sentiment
is comparable to anti-German belligerence in England before World
War I, when street demonstrations demanded war. The desire of
American hawks to "contain" China resembles England's
efforts to prevent Germany from gaining its "place in the
sun." England's "Wolfowitz Doctrine" led to the
end of the British Empire, even though England "won"
the war. Not coincidentally, during the half-century after 1914,
most Englishmen lived in poverty.
preserve our own freedoms and best serve the rest of the world,
our foreign policy should be noninterventionist, non-threatening
and non-militaristic. With economic strength and a politics of
fairness and nonintervention, we can prosper and keep our own
freedom. America is simply incapable of any other consistent foreign
policy. America should be a beacon, because it can't be a competent
Jon Basil Utley is the Robert A. Taft Fellow at the Ludwig von Mises Institute. A former
correspondent for Knight/Ridder in South America, Mr. Utley has
written for the Harvard Business Review about Latin American
nationalism and for Insight Magazine, on preparation for