Thursday, November 13, 2008

The End of Empire

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.


Phil said...

I agree 100%. This is another positive outcome of the Obama election; it should allow for conservatives to return to our non-interventionist policies. Many of us conservatives/libertarians were guilty of not harshly criticizing some of President Bush's foreign policy agendas for pure partisan reasons. However, we were quick to attack President Clinton for his interventionist policies. I can only hope that after the Bush Presidency, we can return to our non-interventionist beliefs, voice our disagreements when President Obama does not adhere to them, and eventually re-gain power and enact these policies, ending our empire.

DSKohn said...

I would like to clear up that I in now way favor actual demilitarization. The size of the armed forces should, at the very least, remain as they are and military spending should not decrease as we are entering a more potentially even more dangerous world than the one we saw in the 20th Century. Those soldiers however should be stationed in the United States (preferably along the border with Mexico). Also, we will always have interests abroad and a foreign policy, which means not every single soldier should be returned to the United States.

Although it is against some of the traditions of all Anglo Saxon societies, a standing army is necessary as it is very difficult for a Democracy to respond quickly to a threat without one.

Anonymous said...

Your lack of empathy with people in other countries is astounding. There is a significant difference between, say, launching a full-out war on a country that hasn't attacked us, and helping fight AIDS in Africa, not because it could spread to America (Guess you haven't heard the sad news... it spread to America over twenty years ago! OMG!), but simply because we have the resources to be able to help Africans. Or, for example, sending peace-keeping troops to Sudan to stop genocide. But what would be the benefit in that for us?
Obviously we can't be everywhere, helping everyone. But there are certain cases in which we cannot ethically refuse to provide assistance.

And here's another newsflash, buddy: our president isn't Kenyan. Americans having a Kenyan president is oxymoronic. He is an American of partial Kenyan descent. Try a little harder next time.

Phil said...

Quick question for you moonburnt, the United States should dedicate its resources to helping Africans, but should not be concerned with ridding the Iraqi people of an oppressive dictator? Why?

Now personally, I do not think our Federal Government should be concerned about anything that does not affect American sovereignty, but I could never understand the liberal hypocrisy to protect one group of people from oppression but not others.

Anonymous said...

There is nothing hypocritical about my position here (I can't speak for all liberals). Your logical skills are atrocious (or is it the logical skills of ALL conservatives? Eh, no I don't like generalizations). Sending money and other non-military resources overseas to combat epidemics is not equivalent to engaging in armed conflict. Or were you referring to my comment about troops in Sudan? Military intervention to stop genocide is not the same as 'pre-emptive' war. Saddam Hussein was not committing genocide when we attacked Iraq, and we have neither the resources nor the moral clarity to take down all 'dictators.' Do you know how many leaders would fall under that heading? A large and ARBITRARY number, as dictatorship is not always so easy to define.

We live in a global society. Technology and globalization in general have made it so that we cannot ignore what happens in other countries. Limiting our responsibilities to our own country is ethically indefensible, though I would certainly agree that the U.S. government must help U.S. citizens first.

Kate said...

"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...It is something that could very well reach America’s shores quite easily."

Ugh. Your nievete and disgusting callousness on the subject makes me sick. George W. Bush has shifted to abstinence-only sexual education and the promotion of monogamy (rather than education about condoms, or a comprehensive education), not only in American public schools, but in African countries.

In a country where the majority of people who contract AIDS get it from their spouse, abstinence-only education is dangerous. Monogamy is not the solution to AIDS if your spouse has it. This "education" is deadly.

See "Count 1":

This is an excerpt from the experience of an HIV educator who studied Bush's abstinence-only policies in Uganda:
"data presented at the International AIDS Conference in Toronto confirmed that the tremendous gains Uganda made in the fight against HIV have withered away in the past five years — since Bush took the reins of U.S. policies. The cited reason? More unprotected sex, stemming mainly from a significant condom shortage that, according to Stephan Lewis, U.N. Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, is a crisis “being driven and exacerbated by the extreme policies that the administration in the United States is now pursuing.” Such statistics reiterate what past evidence from an array of countries have already shown: that abstinence-only education not only persistently fails to curb the AIDS pandemic, but increases the risk of it spreading by discouraging the use of contraceptives."

Maybe if you ever thought of a person in Africa as just that--a person--you would a) research your self-righteous schlock a little more and b) consider consider fighting AIDS less as an economic interest and more as a moral imperative.

Phil said...

Moonburnt, there was no genocide in Iraq? What do you call the gassing of thousands of Kurds?

Next, you are guilty of making assumption. I am not a conservative, I am a libertarian.

Next, I will defend the "Ethnically indefensible." Our all-powerful government that liberals claim to hate, yet want to give the power to do everything to, does not have its own money. The money it holds is collected from us, the taxpayer! There are no justifications for the Federal Government to spend our taxpayer dollars on things it considers to be "ethnical." The responsibility of government is to protect the life, liberty and property of its citizens, not to launch its own moral agenda and spend our money to support it!

As to Kate I say the same thing to you. Since government is meant to protect our rights to life, liberty and property from the infringement of others, it sure as heck better consider the economic advantages in the situation more so than the "moral imperative." No two people have the same moral views, therefore for government to act on any moral view is an abuse of its power. Taxation is already a necessary evil, but to spend tax-dollars on "moral imperatives" is beyond evil, it is slavery to the morality of the State.

DSKohn said...

The United States, like every other country is going to be guided by its interests. Look at the behavior of this country as well as others. China, India and Russia are all acting in naked self interest.

As far as AIDS is concerned, obviously it is here, but it is not a pandemic, I should have been more specific there as this was the point I have been trying to make. The Bush Administration has given $15 billion to assist with AIDS in Africa and the vast majority has gone to paying to anti Retroviral drugs, not to abstinence only education, a policy I disagree with.

If you do not look out for your own interests first in this world, you will get eaten a alive. America is already being picked apart in many ways by countries buying up our industries. Why, exactly am I supposed to empathize with countries that do no empathize with us? Hillel wrote, "If am not for myself, who will be for me?"

France is not going act in the interest of America, China certainly isn't, it is for America to be for itself and we should only help other countries when it does not come at to great an expense to ourselves.

DSKohn said...

Furthermore I resent some of the implications that have been made here. I do not recall anywhere in my article saying that Africans are not people. It is simply that nations in Africa will act in their own interests as other nations do.