How times have changed!

“The interesting thing about America is that she asks nothing for herself
except what she has a right to ask for humanity itself.”
— Woodrow Wilson

There is an interesting thought in this. The American Empire, for most of
its life, was ultimately based on a notion of spreading certain ideals —
democracy, free markets, an open marketplace of ideals — to the places
under its control. Not to say, of course, that it didn’t employ coercive
means to achieve this, but there was always a stated (and often followed)
intent to use the power of empire to spread the benefits of this way of
life to the world.

Yet in recent years — I’m thinking of the past two years in particular —
there has been a change in attitude, a stronger sense that America is
interested in its own well-being, end of message and off, and that it is
willing to sacrifice that of its peripheries without even a slight thought
to achieve this aim.

And the question I ask myself is, Can an empire which has always
depended for its coherence on the propagation of certain ideals survive
becoming a simple organ of its own survival? At what cost will we have
to hold the peripheries if they see that our goal is ultimately to beat them
down, to force them to obey our every order without concern for their
own situation and status?

The increasing centralization of power and draining of the peripheries
was one of the key transitions that moved Rome from an empire to an
unstable collection of warring states. If we are agreed that the American
Empire, at its height, was beneficial to its members, and that this (their
own ultimate complicity, unwilling only for short times, willing more often
than not when they realized the profits of joining) is what made the
administration of so far-flung a collection of states possible, then what
is this likely to lead to now?

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Published in: on August 6, 2002 at 17:28  Comments (2)  
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2 Comments

  1. I am not sure I believe that there has been a change in mindset, so much as a change in rhetorical strategy.

  2. Perhaps we have completed the first phase — discovery — and moved on to the next phase — growth. When our country was founded, many different groups were united under a common philosophy. But now that we are well-established, just as people locked in a room together for too long tend to do, we have had time to figure out what our differences are, and those have been taking more precedence than our similarities. Thus our common idealistic vision has collapsed into a more mundane survival goal. It is sad, but that’s how empires rise and fall and fission. I still believe that the West Coast will secede soon; I hope so.
    Oh, and the rich have gotten too fat and selfish to remember where they came from. ^_^


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