is very hard to get a clear reading on the present
situation. Oh sure, there are those who write as if
they know what is going on, but their commentary,
on further analysis, can be seen to rest only on a
wide reading of utterly conventional and predictable
sources with "official U.S. party line" stamped on
them. Such people are conventional extremists – a
sort of Radical Middle, who trust Dubya and damn all
doubters. A Radical Middle has a certain potential
for being the embryo of a fascist movement, but I
doubt that a genuinely fascist future lies before
enough about Free
DAN, TOM, WOLF, AND THE WAR STREET JOURNAL
reason why it is hard to weigh the present situation
has to do with the "information" we get
from the enthusiastically servile U.S. media. CBS,
NBC, CNN, and the rest might as well move into government
offices for all the critical journalism they undertake.
Owing to the communications revolution, however, we
need not depend on these State Department cheerleaders.
Instead, we can survey the foreign press online.
would help a great deal if more Americans read the
foreign press. We are a nation whose overall ignorance
of the world is probably greater now than it was in
1840. Unlike the Australians with their famous "cultural
cringe" vis-a-vis England, we early hid ours
under a cloak of frontier bumptiousness.
European press, it is true, does waste some time deploring
the "cowboy" style of Bush II, not to mention the
frontier rhetoric of every U.S. administration since
JFK, or even Polk. It is more important to see deeply
into what U.S. politicians do in our name than to
worry about their manner.
now, we may leave cultural complaints to the European
press. They tend to criticize America generally and
are bound to confuse the good, the indifferent, and
the bad. I only recommended reading outside the U.S.
press. I never told you to read these foreigners uncritically.
RELIGION AT BAY
more important than gun-toting unilateralism in U.S.
policy – as a matter of cultural style – is the brute
fact of U.S. imperial hegemony. This empire was not
"thrust upon us," it was not acquired in a British-style
fit of absent-mindedness, nor is it the result of
successfully defending ourselves, ever so often, from
enemies who wantonly attack us for no reason at all.
present U.S. empire rests on the conscious work of
many generations of aspiring U.S. imperialists. For
almost two years I have written, in this space, about
various episodes of this world-historical soap opera,
and cannot repeat it all now. The short version is
this: a series of successful U.S. wars have led to
the present situation. The authors of these wars intended
an unusually safe position geographically, we might
have built a fairly free, interesting, and productive
society, or series of such societies, in our portion
of British North America (plus annexations). Instead,
ambitious geo-politicians put us on the road to world
empire. We still have never had a proper debate on
few months ago, some of the more unhinged Neo-Conservatives
and a few high-toned humanitarian centrists began
using the word "empire" in a positive sense. This
wave has receded. I take it that the discussion has
once again been tabled.
my old professor William Marina puts it, in the last
weeks "we have crossed the Rubicon." No one notices,
the Senate does nothing, but Caesar has arrived. At
least the original Caesar could speak his own native
language. Alea jacta est.
week, the Bush administration announced the grandest
claim heard in many centuries of a "right" to attack
anyone, anywhere, on any "evidence." I doubt that
Stalin, Hitler, or any other 20th-century
villain ever issued quite so broad a self-empowering
manifesto. You have to go back to the Mongol Khans,
at least, to find such an open-ended claim to total
don't worry about it. We are good. In our hands
any conceivable weapon of mass destruction could only
be used for good ends. We have more of them than anyone
in human history, and surely that in itself proves
our good intentions.
are the great exception to the misfortunes of the
human condition. We have risen above all sin and sorrow.
Certainly it is nothing extraordinary for such a wonderful
nation-state-empire as ours merely to announce its
right to attack anyone, anywhere, and at any time.
That must go without saying.
US, AND THEM
course I was being facetious just now with all those
"we's." We – the actually existing American
people – don't count much in these equations. We need
merely believe what we are told. We need merely go
on being fairly productive, so that the great Historical
Mission can go forward.
we mustn't question the program.
have great inspired leaders to handle all the
difficult bits, including thinking, for us. Admittedly,
they seem less great, less inspired, and less thoughtful
with each new administration, but on the other hand,
each succeeding administration can deploy more destructive
force and less restraint. It's down to their will.
Thank God, they are good.
answers several implicit questions about the current
situation. First, they – our thrice-blessed leaders
– feel little need to build a fascist movement to
sustain their power. This is the last thing they want.
Fascist movements involve mass participation, and
the thrice-born world-rulers prefer inert masses to
politically involved ones.
is too bad, really. There are still many people who
believe, truly, in the older U.S. civic religion.
They believe Lincoln did what he had to do, that "we"
won World Wars One and Two pretty much by ourselves,
that "we" overthrew the Soviets because Reagan glowered
at them and outspent them. They like war memorials
and wish there were more. Alas, their services in
a mass-based fascist movement will likely be refused.
the Great Men have done what only Kautsky predicted
might happen: they have created a global mercantilist
empire which they refer to, with high wit, as "free
trade." Kautsky thought that major wars would lead
the "capitalist" powers to form a political cartel.
He did not imagine that one power might arise that
could bring everything under its watchful eye.
course there may be some integrating and tinkering
yet to come. The Great Men will delegate bits of regional
autonomy to their loyal subjects. Japan and China
will be allowed to create a Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity
Sphere. The Europeans can oppress themselves further
in the EU. And so on.
third aspect of the present situation verges on theology.
Everything now hinges on the universal sovereign Will
of the One Good Power. The Will-to-Power has shed
its 19th-century German Romantic vestments
and springs forth clad in the best decayed-Puritan
it play in Peoria? Who knows? It's been working so
all that will and power consolidated in one place,
it is comforting to think that our rulers are so Good
and so Wise. Someone who reads only the American press
might believe such a thing. Someone might be wrong.
hey, we are the great exception. We have done away
with sin and sorrow. Just give me that old-time civic
religion. Where our great leaders are concerned, power
will not corrupt, and absolute power will not corrupt
We must believe this. The alternative is stark and
people, as economic movers and shakers, we Americans
are not so bad. We're pretty good in fact. But if
we can't be bothered to reign in the imperial superstructure
that has arisen on our shores, we will be remembered
for the empire's deeds and not for our sundry virtues.
the ground of long-standing American values – as against
the values of the present self-realizing elite – it
seems likely that the American "project" has turned
out badly, insofar as it is a political project.
We might have done better to make peace with George
III in 1778, when that worthy gent conceded virtually
all of our demands. The United States, as an independent,
sovereign republic that became an empire, is a disaster
for us and a disaster for the world.