Principalities & Powers

The Empire’s New Clothes

Not the least of the several noticeable ironies that attend the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st is that, when the logically appropriate moment for the declaration of a formal American Empire arrived during the half-century of conflict with the Soviet Union, the empire failed to emerge.  Today, well after any reasonable excuse we might have had for conquering the world has passed into the same graveyard as the Iron Curtain and the Un-American Activities Committee, the global imperium of the United States is virtually upon us.  Liberals and neoconservatives who bleat tearfully over the spread of democracy and human rights across the planet invoke, at the same time, the need, the duty, and even the virtue of using the American military to clobber dissenters into submission.  Interviewed in the American Conservative last fall, Norman Mailer mentioned that he had failed to understand the rationale behind the projected war on Iraq until he read an opinion column in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that proclaimed the necessity of the United States conquering the world.  Not long before, an issue of the Atlantic sported several articles suggesting that the United States occupy Iraq permanently and one (by Jimmy Carter’s one-time aide James Fallows) proposing that we make Iraq the 51st state.  Of course, the neocons agree (except when they are intimating that all Arab peoples...

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