THOLOS OF ATHENA

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

DEMOCRACY OR EMPIRE?...WHEN WILL AMERICA DECIDE?

“[Rome] creates a desert”...

“But there are no tribes beyond us, nothing indeed but waves and rocks, and the yet more terrible Romans, from whose oppression escape is vainly sought by obedience and submission. Robbers of the world, having by their universal plunder exhausted the land, they rifle the deep. If the enemy be rich, they are rapacious; if he be poor, they lust for dominion; neither the east nor the west has been able to satisfy them. Alone among men they covet with equal eagerness poverty and riches. To robbery, slaughter, plunder, they give the lying name of empire; they make a solitude and call it peace.”--Tacitus
The precise problem which faces us is which road the United States will take. Chalmers Johnson, writing in the January 2007 issue of Harper's Magazine, leaves no doubt that the choice is stark. In one part of his article, Republic or Empire, he contrasts the fate of Imperial Rome with that of Great Britain. The Romans, as Johnson says, were ultimately unwilling to part with the Empire, and this in itself, was the undoing of democracy. But in the aftermath of World War II, the British were ready to let go of imperial power, and this was a decision in favor of their democracy.

Americans have not awakened to this moment of truth, or even come to recognize the problem as a distinct political issue, owing to what Albert Einstein once said: "Problems cannot be solved by the level of thinking that created them." The problem is only in part the present political crisis; that is to say the power struggle of a rogue President against our courageous representatives in the House and Senate. Rather, we as Americans have largely failed to confront the level of thinking, not to mention the associated problems, brought about by a National Security State and a Military Industrial Complex. A shift of consciousness is required of Americans, and a willingness to take collective responsibility for what our country has become.

There are no ruthless means that an empire will not resort to; if the leaders feel that the nation's prerogatives and base of power are threatened. Why are those things which get done in our national interest, the same things the historian Tacitus describes? Robbery, slaughter, plunder?
“[America's] imperial project is expensive. The flow of the nation's wealth—from taxpayers and (increasingly) foreign lenders through the government to military contractors and (decreasingly) back to the taxpayers—has created a form of “military Keynesianism,” in which the domestic economy requires sustained military ambition in order to avoid recession or collapse.” (Johnson)
During the Great depression of the 1930s the theories of British economist, John Maynard Keynes, were being put to the test by President Franklin Roosevelt. Putting unemployed men to work in newly created public works projects was one way of dealing with the economic disaster at hand.
"To prevent the economy from contracting, a development typically accompanied by social unrest, Keynes thought the government should take on debt in order to put people back to work. Some of these deficit financed government jobs might be socially useful, but Keynes was not averse to creating make-work tasks if necessary. During periods of prosperity, the government would cut spending and rebuild the treasury." (ibid)
Military Keynesianism, as described by Chalmers Johnson, seems to be the weapon of choice in the hands of a rogue administration. Any fantasy of violence and domination, from scorched earth to rape, from torture to the death squads, from bribery to larceny to embezzlement has been possible, once the nation became, first and foremost, since 2001, a military state. And the the money has gone here, there, and back again, with the shoddiest kind of accounting practices. And it is no accident.
"In 2005, the Government Accountability Office reported to Congress that “neither DOD nor Congress can reliably know how much the war is costing” or “details on the appropriated money is being spent.” Indeed, the GAO found that , lacking a reliable method for tracking military costs, the Army had taken to simply inserting into its accounts figures that matched the available budget. Such actions seem absurd in terms of military logic. But they are perfectly logical responses to the requirements of military Keynesianism, which places its emphasis not on the demand for defense but rather on the available supply of money.”

“This creates a feedback loop: American presidents know that military Keynesianism tends to concentrate power in the executive branch, and so president's who seek greater power have a natural inducement to encourage growth of the military-industrial complex. As the phenomena feed on each other, the usual outcome is real war, based not on the needs of national defense but rather on the domestic political logic of military Keynesianism. As US Senator Robert La Follette Sr. observed, “In times of peace, the war party insists on making preparations for war. As soon as prepared for war, it insists on making war.””(ibid)(my emphasis)
And the fantasy world will be the last thing to end, as the President's Press Secretary proved just a few days ago:

TONY SNOW:
"Also, I want to address kind of a rumor, an urban legend that's going around--and it comes from the language in the President's Wednesday night address to the nation, that in talking about Iran and Syria, that he was trying to prepare the way for war with either country and that there are war preparations underway: There are not."
Someone should tell Tony that his "urban legend" has been upgraded with those US nuclear subs lying off the coast of Iran, not to mention the two carrier battle groups gathering in the region, the Patriot Missile Batteries headed for the Gulf States, in addition to the 20,000 GIs the President is trying to get funded for some disagreeable duty. And Tony says there are no preparations for war.

Speaking for myself, I'd be pleased to embrace some new level of thinking and share what I could with my fellow Americans and everyone. Some help seems to be available; and if we do as Albert Einstein recommended with a thought experiment of our own, we might be able to find some renewal in Eastern thought.Here are the words of a man Mahatma Gandhi called "The Great Sentinel":
"We never can have a true view of man unless we have a love for him. Civilization must be judged and prized, not by the amount of power it has developed, but by how much it has evolved and given expression to, by its laws and institutions, the love of humanity. The first question and the last which it has to answer is, Whether and how far it recognizes man more as a spirit than a machine? Whenever some ancient civilization fell into decay and died, it was owing to causes which produced callousness of heart and led to the cheapening of man's worth; when either the state or some powerful group of men began to look upon the people as a mere instrument of their power; when, by compelling weaker races to slavery and trying to keep them down by every means, man struck at the foundation of his greatness, his own love of freedom and fair-play. Civilization can never sustain itself upon cannibalism of any form. For that by which alone man is true can only be nourished by love and justice."
--Rabindranath Tagore, The Realization of Life, 1916

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