the end of last month, there emerged from Important
Places a statement of the
strategic thinking of the Bush administration.
Much was made of the document's unilateralism and
rhetorical embellishments. Further examination suggests
that the chief novelty lies in the sheer nakedness
of present US claims to universal rulership.
course the United States only aspires to rule the
world in order to do Good.
so, the underlying notions have been around for quite
a long time. Already by the late 19th century,
US leaders in effect asserted a non-negotiable right
of the US government to
be "secure." Any anxieties experienced
by that government were the world's fault and the
world could be held to answer for them. America, or
at least its leaders, were sinless preachers to a
sinful world and thus had every right to externalize
their psychic crises and historical traumas onto the
challenge resembled Fort Sumter, if not the Pequots
vs. the Puritans. Every foe must be met with total
war, "unconditional surrender," and Reconstruction.
At a later stage, new challenges could be seen as
Munich 1938, or Fort Sumter, or both. Having internalized
their checklist, US leaders still call for total war,
unconditional surrender, and reconstruction, no matter
what the concrete circumstances.
must forever deal with a sort of US Ruling Class Historical
"successes" and other bad habits compound
the situation. No longer do US leaders merely demand
absolute subjective security, access to any and all
markets worldwide; they now aspire to reconstruct
the mentalities of all backward, refractory foreign
leaders and failed states (the newest buzzword). "One
model" for world society outlived the Cold War,
says the Bush Manifesto of Universal Empire, and that
is the US model. It is the Perfected Millennial State,
to take a phrase from Richard M. Weaver. No one may
would be wrong for them to do so.
is also futile. On a typical day, the US leaders will
read some recalcitrants their rights. The latter will
have a period of time to comply, depending on the
US election cycle, "defense" contract awards,
and other factors. Failure to comply will lead to
bombing, more bombing, and "regime change"
leaders will fight two and a half wars at a time,
have a dingo's breakfast, and be back in the World
Situation Room in time for lunch.
leaders, having inevitably lost, will be tried for
"war crimes," no matter the facts, so that
everyone may see that All Justice flows from the hegemon.
NOT ACQUIRED IN A FIT OF ABSENT-MINDEDNESS
and detailed strategic thinking about total security
for the US government and its interests dates from
World War II. As historian Melvin Leffler writes,
strategic planners early decided that future US defense
would require effective control of the Atlantic and
Pacific Oceans. The US would need bases all over the
globe, along with "wartime access to the resources
of southeast Asia."(1)
discussions took place in 1943-1944, before anyone
was complaining of a Soviet menace and before anyone
had heard of Ho Chi Minh.
writes: "The basic strategic concept underlying
all American war plans called for an air offensive
against a prospective enemy from overseas bases."(2)
other words, US post-war planning already included
the (by now) boringly predictable bombing of the enemy
and thus incorporated as preferred policy the kinds
of war crimes which were then taking place over Germany
US would need to be able to "preserve its access
to vital raw materials in Asia, deny these resources
to a prospective enemy, help preserve peace and stability
in troubled areas, safeguard critical sea lanes, and,
if necessary, conduct an air offensive against the
industrial infrastructure of any Asiatic power, including
the Soviet Union."(3)
good old Zbiggy Brzezinski by some decades, the strategic
planners reasoned that the US could not permit any
rival power to control the Eurasian land mass. To
prevent that, the US required an array of overseas
bases which would make it possible to bomb,
whomever, as needed. Whether any power actually could
dominate all of Eurasia, was apparently beside the
the Cold War set in, these plans were put into play.
It is important to see, however, that US claims to
total security requiring global near-hegemony preceded
any Soviet actions in any direction. The key is that
"American war plans relied so heavily on air
power and strategic bombing...."(4)
It followed that the US must organize and subsidize
western Europe against Soviet aggression, lest a Soviet
foothold in the west should inconvenience future
is doubtful that very many US policy makers actually
believed the Soviets wanted to, or could, make serious
inroads into western Europe. The whole thing seems
to have unfolded from a regression theorem about bombing
as the centerpiece of American civilization. If there
were a war, the US would have to bomb; to bomb effectively
the US would have to control most of the world; and,
therefore, the US must and had a right to
control most of the world. Q.E.D.
have paid a high price in order to overcome roadblocks
in the path of our leaders' preferred war crimes.
say that "we" must rule the world in order
to bomb it, and that "we" must bomb as the
only possible means of self-defense, is to say that
"we" must have an empire in order to be
free and prosperous. This seems like a pretty good
deal for the rulers and their friends and contractors.
It may not be such a good deal for the American people,
whose interest, could they articulate it, might be
as modest as the actual defense of the United
FORWARD TO THE MUCH-MOOTED GULF WAR II
does all this have to do with the present crisis?
Directly, not much.
there's the rub: an empire has come into being on
the basis of a set of mistaken, even criminal, policies
the Open Door for US exports, an over-the-top notion
of security, and the centrality of bombing. The Cold
War provided a perfect ideological rationale for things
the leaders wished to do anyway. Absent the Cold War,
they have been looking for new missions.
would never do to give up empire, would it? The Bush
Manifesto states that it has taken a decade for US
planners to understand the New Menace. It would be
more correct to say that it has taken them that long
to wheel a new villain into place for the edification
of the TV-besotted masses.
facts of US-Iraqi relations over the last eleven years
do not matter as much as the ideology of global philanthropy
via hegemony. The ideology of benevolent US world-overlordship
is in many respects a mask for all the older motives;
but, as if we didn't have enough trouble, some of
these people really believe in their mission of uplift,
reform, and reconstruction. As Auberon Herbert told
Beatrice Webb, they will do a great deal of harm and
feel good about doing it.
was wrong. The future nightmare is not about a totalitarian
boot stomping on a face forever. It is about some
ragtag opponent of the day running (hopelessly) from
a US cruise missile. The missile comes his way accompanied
by a load of US humanitarian cant. It is hard to say
which of the two assaults is more cruel.
P. Leffler, "The American Conception of National
Security and the Beginnings of the Cold War, 1945-48,"
American Historical Review, 89, 2 (April
1984), p. 350.