Swans Commentary » swans.com January 14, 2008  



End The Empire: A Polemic


by Michael Doliner





One keeps forgetting to go right down to the foundations. One doesn't put the question marks deep enough down.
—Ludwig Wittgenstein


(Swans - January 14, 2008)   We can only understand the machinations of the Bush administration as a continuation of an American foreign policy that started, at the latest, in 1898. With the invasion of the Philippines then, if not earlier, the United States abandoned its policy of non-intervention and embarked on its present imperial policy. Without an understanding that the Bush administration policy is a continuation of this long policy, we tend to interpret it as merely bungling and incompetence. As long as we continue to do that nothing significant will change.

For example, many people would like to see the troops withdrawn from Iraq. But the troops are in Iraq to maintain control the oil cornucopia of the Middle East. American imperial policy, supported by all administrations since the first third of the last century, requires such control. Iraq is a shambles and the American troops protect no one except themselves. They are there not for any of the false reasons Bush gave, but to occupy and control Iraq and allow American rather than Chinese oil companies to profit from the oil resource. The policy is bipartisan. It will therefore be impossible to elect a Democrat who will withdraw the troops from Iraq unless we confront, expose, and end this imperial policy itself. Laughing at Bush, cursing deposed Rumsfeld, and kicking out Cheney, however satisfying in themselves, will not help to change an American foreign policy that both parties and all the organizations of the elite support. Electing Clinton or Obama will not help either. Troops will remain in Iraq as long as the United States maintains its imperial policy.

Again, will the new National Intelligent Estimate (NIE) prevent Bush from attacking Iran? It might, but that will only leave it to the next president, Republican or Democrat, to do the attacking. Why? Because even with its troops in Iraq the United States cannot maintain control of the Middle East as long as Iran remains powerful and independent. The US destruction of Iraq strengthened Iran. The occupation of Iraq is too expensive, too chaotic, and too exhausting for America to continue it for much longer. Already the American presence is so weak that it has little influence on events. If we have to leave Iraq, Iran will still be there, and it will dominate the region with an anti-American policy. That would put an end to the Empire. To continue, the Empire needs to eliminate Iranian independence. But Iran is too large and strong, and oil shipments through the Persian Gulf too vulnerable, for such an attack to be anything but catastrophic.

Nevertheless, the Imperium requires control of oil. Since the Iraq occupation is impossible partly because of the existence of Iran, Iran must be destroyed to maintain that occupation and continue the Empire. On this all the presidential candidates except Ron Paul agree. The Iranian nuclear policy, like the false reasons for the invasion of Iraq, is a pretext only. If it proves not serviceable the Empire will, must, find something else to justify an attack or perish. Only by abandoning the American Empire and therefore the need to control the Middle East will we be able to restrain such an attack once and for all and heal the ever-growing wound in the Middle East and beyond. The NIE alone will, at best, postpone the Empire's last desperate futile move that is likely to consume the world.

We can only hope that the American elites are aware of the insanity of this contemplated attack and that it was because some secret power behind the throne wanted to block it that the NIE was published after Cheney's long concealment. But that would imply that some secret power was ready to abandon the Empire as a whole and it is unlikely that anyone has that much power. The super rich, who think they control everything, control a lot less than they think. No person or group of persons is strong enough to abandon the Empire itself, for that is the condition of their rule. Only if the Empire is directly exposed within the political arena will it become even possible to abandon it. For only then can they be forced politically to do so?

The Empire, to survive, needs to control the oil of the Middle East, and that is impossible through the Iraq occupation. To continue to try to maintain this control is to walk a tightrope over calamity and eventually to plunge into it with some sort of attack on Iran. Maintenance of the Empire requires such a suicidal attack on Iran. Apparently, some rich powerful Americans know the plan to attack Iran is a disaster. But do they know what that means about the Empire as a whole? It is a strange situation. Those who seem to be secretly in power might even want, if they see the true implications, to end the Empire. But they cannot do so because of the bedrock ideas of their class. The question of the Empire's survival, as an open political question, might just allow them to do what they want to do anyway. What is certain is that the appearance of that question as an open political question is essential to any hope of abandoning the Empire and thus thwarting an attack on Iran.

It may be that the loss of the Empire will coincide with a drastic decline in American wealth and power, but it will not be the cause. The United States would have done far better had it never engaged in this imperial policy. The United States was extremely prosperous and free before the disastrous intervention into World War I, and would have remained so had it not intervened. If the Empire ended, its enormous drain upon the country, both in people and resources, would stop. The horrible politics of lying, war, and corruption would also likely stop. This would more than make up for any possible losses from the end of an Empire that has never been even profitable for the country as a whole. Even control of Middle Eastern oil itself never benefited the average guy, but only the big oil companies.

The real cause of an American decline will be the pathetic American financial situation, peak oil, global climate change, and the rest of the fundamental ecological, medical, agricultural, geological, and other challenges that face the human race as a whole. Of course, mishandling of these problems with a continuation of politics as usual might precipitate a World War III that would likely end the human experiment in toto. When and if Americans ever grasp just what a formidable adversary nature is about to prove they will think of terrorism as nothing more than a pinprick. In any case terrorism will end with the Empire's end.

We are already too late to avoid a calamity, but we can mitigate it somewhat. The enormous resources wasted on the military and the complete corruption of the political mechanism make any response to the looming ferocious natural threat impossible. America must abandon its Empire as a first step. Right now all the political space is filled with arrant nonsense as political hacks try to explain American policy with obvious gobbledygook. The terms of the discussion must change. The conversation must take the existence of the Empire as obvious and raise the question of its continuation. Only if continuation of that Empire becomes an open political question can the Empire ever be abandoned. And only then can we turn our attention to the tsunami of dangers we now face.

An American attack on Iran is nothing but the last reflexive twitch of the dying Empire. It is a desperate move that cannot save the Empire in any case, but can plunge the world into its last horrible war. Yet the Empire's inertia pushes us towards this policy. Given the natural American distaste for Empire, exposing it would likely go a long way towards turning the public against it.


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Internal Resources

Patterns which Connect

The Rape of Iraq

America 'the Beautiful'


About the Author

Michael Doliner has taught at Valparaiso University and Ithaca College. He lives with his family in Ithaca, N.Y.



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This Edition's Internal Links

The Zoology Of Pwogs And Pwogrevs - Gilles d'Aymery

Spoiler Today, Rebel Tomorrow - Cartoon by Jan Baughman

Buy Now And Lighten Up - Peter Byrne

Clinton And Obama On Iran And Biofuels - Michael Doliner

The Secret Ingredient Of Activism: Mutual Support - Philip Greenspan

One Minute To Midnight - Martin Murie

The Insurgent Word: Fear - Gerard Donnelly Smith

Lest We Overlook The Obvious - Carol Warner Christen

Groucho, Chico, & Harpo - Charles Marowitz

Porte - Poem by Guido Monte

Blips #63 - From the Martian Desk - Gilles d'Aymery

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Published January 14, 2008