Notes on the Atrocities
Like a 100-watt radio station, broadcasting to the dozens...


Wednesday, July 23, 2003  

Somehow the US went from resisting the label “imperialists” to embracing it. After the war, I was preparing a treatise to demonstrate US imperialism, using historical examples, charts and statistics, and my usual winning logic. And then I started hearing administration types (supporters, “officials,” the vast right-wing media network) readily admitting it, even admitting that we probably couldn’t be world-conquerors forever, so we should capitalize on the opportunity now and really shake up the globe.

Weird.

I mean, it’s a democracy, after all, and our principal interest shouldn’t necessarily be bending the world to our will. Imperialism and democracy seem binary opposites. But I guess there was some love of the old British Raj, which was sorta democratic, at least later on, and so maybe Americans are thinking we could pull our own “we brought trains and democracy to Injah” kind of thing. (Much more likely, and undiscussed, is the opposite: imperialism brings tyranny to America. But hey, what the hell, roll the dice. You might get lucky. You’ll only lose your self-determination and individual liberty on the way, and you might actually gain a few decades of world dominance on the way; seems like a great gamble to me.)

But I digress. Since everyone already agrees we have become imperialists and world-dominators, let me ask this, then: why would you want to be? Let’s weigh the pros and cons.

First, the cons. No getting around it: you have to make some sacrifices. You have to spend boatloads of dough on the military. This cuts into money you might otherwise spend on things like health care, education, and food. So, while the US is currently second in per capita income, everything else looks bad: infant mortality, 34th; health care 37th, life expectancy, 33rd; literacy, 54th; debt, 1st. The US also has the highest rate of impoverished kids in the world.

Given the massive military machine it requires to roll through country after country (not to mention the additional support needed to defend the “homeland” against a world now pissed off that we’ve rolled through their countries--that’s globalization for ya!), we’re not likely to start spending on programs to benefit those without education, money, or health care.

Now, the pros. Let’s see, strokes our vanity. Also money, at least in the near term, and at least for the already-wealthy. And … well, that’s pretty much it. Everyone knows it’s a fleeting status, and we’ve already discussed the costs. So vanity is our main impetus.

All things considered, I'm not sure how excited I am by the prospect of 5 decades of empire.

posted by Jeff | 11:00 AM |
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