Sorrows of Empire: grim diagnosis from a noted political scientist
An excerpt from Chalmers Johnson's new book, The Sorrows of
Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic, offers
an extremely dreary, but all-too-plausible summary of America's
situation at home and abroad.
"The sorrows of empire are the inescapable consequences of the
national policies American elites chose after September 11, 2001.
Militarism and imperialism always bring with them sorrows. The
ubiquitous symbol of the Christian religion, the cross, is perhaps
the world's most famous reminder of the sorrows that accompanied
the Roman Empire--it represents the most atrocious death the
Roman proconsuls could devise in order to keep subordinate
peoples in line. From Cato to Cicero, the slogan of Roman leaders
was "Let them hate us so long as they fear us."
Four sorrows, it seems to me, are certain to be visited on the United
States. Their cumulative effect guarantees that the U.S. will cease
to resemble the country outlined in the Constitution of 1787. First,
there will be a state of perpetual war, leading to more terrorism
against Americans wherever they may be and a spreading reliance
on nuclear weapons among smaller nations as they try to ward off
the imperial juggernaut. Second is a loss of democracy and Constitutional
rights as the presidency eclipses Congress and is itself transformed from
a co-equal "executive branch" of government into a military junta. Third
is the replacement of truth by propaganda, disinformation, and the
glorification of war, power, and the military legions. Lastly, there is
bankruptcy, as the United States pours its economic resources into
ever more grandiose military projects and shortchanges the education,
health, and safety of its citizens. All I have space for here is to touch
briefly on three of these: endless war, the loss of Constitutional liberties,
and financial ruin.
. . . . .
In my judgment, American imperialism and militarism are so far
advanced and obstacles to its further growth have been so completely
neutralized that the decline of the U.S. has already begun. The
country is following the path already taken by its erstwhile
adversary in the cold war, the former Soviet Union. The U.S.'s
refusal to dismantle its own empire of military bases when the
menace of the Soviet Union disappeared, combined with its
inappropriate response to the blowback of September 11, 2001,
makes this decline virtually inevitable.
There is only one development that could conceivably stop this
cancerous process, and that is for the people to retake control
of Congress, reform it and the election laws to make it a genuine
assembly of democratic representatives, and cut off the supply
of money to the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency.
That was, after all, the way the Vietnam War was finally brought
to a halt.
John le Carré, the novelist most famous for his books on the role
of intelligence services in the cold war, writes, "America has entered
one of its periods of historical madness, but this is the worst I
can remember: worse than McCarthyism, worse than the Bay of Pigs
and in the long term potentially more disastrous than the Vietnam
War."15 His view is somewhat more optimistic than mine. If it is just
a period of madness, like musth in elephants, we might get over it.
The U.S. still has a strong civil society that could, at least in theory,
overcome the entrenched interests of the armed forces and the
military-industrial complex. I fear, however, that the U.S. has indeed
crossed the Rubicon and that there is no way to restore Constitutional
government short of a revolutionary rehabilitation of American democracy.
Without root and branch reform, Nemesis awaits. She is the goddess of
revenge, the punisher of pride and arrogance, and the United States is
on course for a rendezvous with her."
The full text of the article, "Sorrows of Empire," can be found at the
web site of Foreign Policy in Focus.