restoring our biblical and constitutional foundations


Is the Cost of Empire Worth It?

 David Alan Black 

Now that evidence of WMD and proof of collaboration between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden have failed to materialize, the administration is left with liberation for putting American lives at risk. My question: There are a lot bad guys in the world. Are we obligated to eliminate them all for the sake of democracy?

No doubt the administration genuinely believes in what it is doing, a belief matched only by the unconditional quality of its prose. It seems clear to me that we went to war in Iraq not to save the peace from Saddam, who was already safely in the box. I suspect that Bush sincerely believes he can convert the Arab world to democracy. “A new regime in Iraq,” he said in February 2003, “would serve as a dramatic and inspiring example of freedom for other nations in the region.” Thus the war on terrorism was sidetracked, and the neocon vision of converting the Islamic world to the American way of life accelerated.                                                                  

Personally, I am unconvinced that Mr. Bush will be able to once again rally the free world in a preventive strike against Iran or North Korea. After the Iraq/WMD debacle, members of any future “coalition of the willing” will be hesitant to accept the word of the U.S. government on anything. This loss of post-9/11 good will from our European allies is an astonishing shift in European thinking. I remember reading Le Monde after September 11. This paper, widely known for its anti-American stance, declared: “Nous Sommes Tous Américains”:

DANS CE MOMENT tragique où les mots paraissent si pauvres pour dire le choc que l'on ressent, la première chose qui vient à l'esprit est celle-ci : nous sommes tous Américains! Nous sommes tous New-Yorkais, aussi sûrement que John Kennedy se déclarait, en 1963 à Berlin, Berlinois. Comment ne pas se sentir en effet, comme dans les moments les plus graves de notre histoire, profondément solidaires de ce peuple et de ce pays, les Etats-Unis, dont nous sommes si proches et à qui nous devons la liberté, et donc notre solidarité.

After the Iraq War had begun, Jean Daniel declared in Le Nouvel Observateur: “Nous Ne Sommes Pas Tous Américains.”

But the shift is explainable. George W. Bush began his first term leaning toward a “humble” foreign policy and assailing “nation-building” abroad. He begins his new term having launched two full-scale invasions and having put into place a strategic doctrine of preemption that gives unprecedented leverage to America’s armed forces. President Bush closed his 2004 State of the Union Address pleading for athletes to stop using steroids. A better plea might have been to ask our nation’s top leaders to stop using steroids when managing our foreign policy.

Of course, Bush’s political power is nothing new. Arthur Schlesinger’s now famous phrase “the Imperial Presidency” was the title of his book describing the Nixon Administration and has since become a basic axiom in American political science: when Congress is confronted by a foreign crisis, it dumps massive amounts power into the hands of the presidency. When President Bush repeatedly announces to great applause that he is defeating terrorism by spreading “democracy” in the Middle East, I believe he is sincere. I believe the enthusiasm of the crowd is genuine. What is missing, it seems to me, is any attempt by either his party or the opposition party to educate people about the huge political and fiscal problems we are passing on to them. “This will take time and sacrifice,” announced President Bush upon declaring war on Iraq. “Yet we will do what is necessary, we will spend what is necessary,” he added. What he forgot to point out is who will do the sacrificing and paying.

“The ultimate test of a moral society,” Bonhoeffer once said, “is the kind of world it leaves to its children.” It’s amazing to me that Congress can keep spending more and more while sending bigger and bigger bills to our children. The cost of Empire is simply staggering, and we have apparently only just begun.

As far as I am concerned, both parties have declared war – on our children’s future. Today’s conservatives want it all: hegemony, guns, butter, and tax cuts. This is a pipe dream, of course. America’s foreign policy will bankrupt future generations of Americans, and we will have no one to blame but ourselves.

January 27, 2005

David Alan Black is the editor of If you would like to know more about becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ, please feel free to write Dave.

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