December 26, 2005
How Stands the Empire?
How long ago
was it that you last heard some pundit blather on about America
being "the greatest empire since Rome"?
while, I imagine. For if the Iraqi insurgency has done nothing
else, it has induced a sense of humility, and of the limits of
all Americans hope the Iraqi elections will usher in a coalition
that will let us depart. But it is time we stood back and took
a hard look at what this war tells us, not only about our ability,
but about the wisdom of trying to remake the world in our own
generation of Americans really up to the task? Is it really willing
to pay indefinitely in blood and treasure to realize the ambitious
agenda George W. Bush has set out? Consider:
2,150 war dead are not 4 percent of the men we lost in Vietnam,
our home front has buckled. Half the nation wants out. Is this
how a mighty empire reacts to a little adversity?
field armed forces one-tenth the size of U.S. forces in 1945,
and not half as large as the forces commanded by Ike and JFK.
Yet, the very suggestion of a return to the draft, which we all
readily accepted in the 1950s, causes a firestorm of indignation
few of our future leaders wish to risk their lives in the "global
the rest of us been called on to sacrifice. Today, we spend 4
percent of our GDP on the military. In Ike's day, it was 9 percent;
in Reagan's, 6 percent. But any proposal to raise taxes to expand
U.S. armed forces to enforce the Bush Doctrine against Iran or
North Korea would have Republican supply-siders digging the cobblestones
out of the streets of Georgetown.
comes to empire, we are -- in a phrase Bush used to hear often
growing up in West Texas -- "all hat and no cattle."
we invaded to liberate Iraq from a brutal tyrant, or to strip
a dangerous regime of WMD, or to establish democracy, does the
world appreciate it? Does the world really want America to democratize
A new Zogby
poll of 3,900 people in six once-friendly Arab nations finds that,
when asked to name the leader they detest most, 45 percent named
Ariel Sharon, but Bush has moved into second at 30 percent. Tony
Blair was a distant third at 3 percent. No one else was close.
Only 6 percent
agreed with al-Qaida's goal of a caliphate ruling the Islamic
world, and only 7 percent approved of its terrorism -- but fully
36 percent admired how al-Qaida "confronts the U.S."
is President Bush? When he urged the Iranians to go to the polls
and repudiate the mullahs, they responded by choosing as president
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who makes Hashemi Rafsanjani look like Ramsey
Clark. When Condi Rice stiffed the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood
on a visit to Cairo, the Brotherhood soared in Egyptian eyes and
swept to victory in 60 percent of the parliamentary races it contested.
today, nationalists burnish their credentials by dissing us. In
Canada, Prime Minister Paul Martin seeks to save a scandal-ridden
regime by pandering to Canadians' dislike of the United States.
Hugo Chavez made himself the toast of South America by flipping
off Bush at the Argentine summit. Evo Morales just swept to victory
in Bolivia by promising to defy the Americans.
went to Seoul, he was informed that South Korea is pulling out
of Iraq. The U.S. ambassador, who denounced the North as a criminal
regime, was told to shut up. East Asia just held its first summit
-- to which the United States was not invited. The Uzbeks have
just told us: Close your airbase, and get out.
of charges that we used secret prisons in Europe to interrogate
jihadists and EU airports to transfer them there, the United States
has never been less admired in NATO Europe, nor its president
Is it not
thus apparent the world does not really want an American empire,
or American hegemony, or Bush's "democratic revolution"?
Is it not equally apparent that we Americans, unwilling to conscript
our young or further tax ourselves, cannot sustain a global policy
that commits us to defending nations all over this world, most
of which do not even like us?
Iraq ends, the era that began with the fall of the Berlin Wall
has reached its close. That place in the sun the Greatest Generation
won for us, and the Cold War generation kept for us, the baby
boomer generation appears to have lost. And perhaps forever.
needs a new vision. America needs a new foreign policy.
2005 Creators Syndicate