By Douglas Kohn
America’s posture since the rise of Bill Clinton increasingly looks like we are trying to forge an Empire. The NeoConservatives, who took their inspiration from earlier American liberal ideas were the main intellectual force behind this. The movement culminated in the invasion of Iraq. Such was the imperial hubris that several essays came out in direct defense of it, such as ‘The Case for Empire.’ It seems that as America is humbled militarily and economically, this new empire will have to be the first thing to go.
Contrary to popular belief, the ideas of the NeoConservatives have a long history in America going back to the founding fathers. Thomas Jefferson spoke of using America’s future potential power to build ‘an empire of liberty.’ The NeoCons further believed they drew inspiration by twisting many of the ideals of Winston Churchill.
America has at least a small military presence in nearly130 nations, though most of these are not combat ready troops. Our largest permanent bases remain in their post war locations, with Japan, Germany and South Korea having the most.
Much of this is unnecessary. Why do we have bases in South Korea still? Yes, North Korea is a problem but South Korea has nearly twice the population of the North and are armed with the most sophisticated American weaponry money can buy. Their army has over half a million men, and though it is smaller than the North’s, it has much more sophisticated weaponry and tactics. America maintains a force of 37,000 men in Korea, a fact greatly despised by a local population that has come to greatly despise the country that saved them from Communism. Our 37,000 men would not be able to help the South Korean army in any significant way if the North were to invade. South Korea is more than able to take care of itself in the event of a war, which is very unlikely.
The Bush Administration recently set up the African Command for the Pentagon. Under his administration engagement with the nations of Africa has deepened on every level. Funding to fight AIDS has increased to a historically high level. This is not a problematic policy; AIDS is a truly global problem that has the ability to spread by exponential levels when more people contract it. It is something that could very well reach America’s shores quite easily. However, there is a new semi imperial scramble for Africa going on. China has engaged with Africa on record levels as well, mostly on an economic sphere. America has only two recognizable interests in Africa, increasing African oil production to keep prices low and contributing to fighting AIDS.
Our constant intervention here is unnecessary. It was not necessary to intervene in Somalia when an Islamist regime was formed. Yes, it would have been a radical Islamic regime and we have worked with many of these before, but it would not have been in a serious position to cause major problems around the world. Somalia is not a powerful country and would not have had access to nuclear weapons. The spread of Christianity in Sub Saharan Africa will serve as its own check on the spread of Islam and its militants. We do not need significant numbers of troops to trounce around Africa, our election of a Kenyan president will give us much sway over the hearts and minds of the continent.