America’s transcendence to empire did not happen all at once – not when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989 in the waning days of the Cold War, not with a mushroom cloud over Hiroshima in 1945, and not with the Rough Riders on San Juan Hill in 1898. Even in the case of the latter, “winning” Puerto Rico and the Philippines was at least as much a bullish attempt to consolidate power for ourselves in the world by exacting revenge on the Spanish as it was an exercise in expansionism and empire. Teddy’s audacious actions were just a wink-and-a-nudge, the soft speech compared to the big stick approach to global assertiveness that our country takes in the world now. When is the last time that any rhetoric out of Washington was emblematic of the counsel to “speak softly” (other than the relatively meek reactions to General Musharraf’s declaration of martial law last week)?
We spent the first fifty-five years after World War Two gorging on what we believed was the admiration of the planet, the illusions of banal nationalism. We swallowed it whole, and spent the last seven years squeezing out lump after stinky lump of stars-and-stripes shit that we offer back to the world as manna. Clearly there are those who are looking around because they can’t believe the stink is ours. Our shit doesn’t stink. To believe that it does would be un-American to Mr. Cheney and his minions, traitorous to Ms. Coulter and her ilk.
Why can’t we get off the pot and create something more beneficial? Because we have made it a critical component of our foreign policy to turn assholes into allies. The sad thing is, if we were actually doing that, things might be going better. What we are doing instead is trying to turn assholes into Americans (though it’s arguably easier to turn Americans into assholes) in some warped notion that if we could get them to think like Americans they wouldn’t want to hurt us. Obviously we don’t know ourselves very well.
We can’t even pay them to think like us. They just don’t want to. Despite that reality, and despite that our “verbal support” for Musharraf may be waning, John Negraponte says we will continue to give Pakistan millions of dollars, according to an article in yesterday’s New York Times. But the money isn’t helping. In America, power is just another commodity that we are trying to buy (at outsourced, bargain rates), which will be used to intimidate and strong arm and waterboard a culture passionate about living their own lives their own way, thank you very much.
Instead of hiring Neanderthal mercenary organizations like Blackwater to muscle them into submission, we should be investing in programs like CARE, the Peace Corps, Doctors Without Borders and organizations with experience in conflict resolution, like the Carter Center.
All the saber rattling engenders nothing except louder protests which brings more saber rattling. “My way or the highway” is a signpost on the road to hell. Let’s flush the holier-than-thou threats, elect a sane government and have some movement toward meaningful dialogue.