Though I am 100% certain that regime change in Iraq is our only viable course of action, that does not mean I do not see the physical and moral dangers of American power imposing itself afar.
In today's NY Times Magazine Michael Ignatieff presents the most complete, logical, balanced, informative, rational, and thought-provoking study of the realities of American empire, "empire lite" he deems it, and after exploring with a palpable urgency the alternatives to America exerting its military strength in Iraq, he concludes that it is in fact the necessary and prudent course of action:
- Ever since George Washington warned his countrymen against foreign entanglements, empire abroad has been seen as the republic's permanent temptation and its potential nemesis. Yet what word but ''empire'' describes the awesome thing that America is becoming? It is the only nation that polices the world through five global military commands; maintains more than a million men and women at arms on four continents; deploys carrier battle groups on watch in every ocean; guarantees the survival of countries from Israel to South Korea; drives the wheels of global trade and commerce; and fills the hearts and minds of an entire planet with its dreams and desires.
....The 21st century imperium is a new invention in the annals of political science, an empire lite, a global hegemony whose grace notes are free markets, human rights and democracy, enforced by the most awesome military power the world has ever known. It is the imperialism of a people who remember that their country secured its independence by revolt against an empire, and who like to think of themselves as the friend of freedom everywhere. It is an empire without consciousness of itself as such, constantly shocked that its good intentions arouse resentment abroad. But that does not make it any less of an empire, with a conviction that it alone, in Herman Melville's words, bears ''the ark of the liberties of the world.''
So we are a reluctant empire, an empire of necessity, forced into renewed "empirical" action by the realization that there are no more backwaters in the world, that American soil is the roost where the world's resentment and discontent will ultimately alight. But what of Iraq?
- The impending operation in Iraq is thus a defining moment in America's long debate with itself about whether its overseas role as an empire threatens or strengthens its existence as a republic. The American electorate, while still supporting the president, wonders whether his proclamation of a war without end against terrorists and tyrants may only increase its vulnerability while endangering its liberties and its economic health at home. A nation that rarely counts the cost of what it really values now must ask what the ''liberation'' of Iraq is worth. A republic that has paid a tiny burden to maintain its empire — no more than about 4 percent of its gross domestic product — now contemplates a bill that is altogether steeper. Even if victory is rapid, a war in Iraq and a postwar occupation may cost anywhere from $120 billion to $200 billion.