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Is the Sun Setting on the American Empire?

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“The truth is quite simple. An empire increases the danger for the American people, as empires always make more enemies than friends, not to mention inciting envy and hatred. Maintaining an empire will eventually break us, as it has every single empire of the past.” Theodore Roosevelt

I believe this quote of President Teddy Roosevelt’s is spot on, for as he wrote, and history has shown repeatedly, “maintaining an Empire eventually breaks us.”

Looking at the cost so far of the Iraq war to America, some $239,222,614,656 (that is two hundred and thirty nine thousand million dollars!), I find the numbers staggering with more and more costs still to come.

I appreciate that America is a massive economy but even behemoths have their limitations and when we start talking behemoths, let’s look at the two nations that are, as they say in the racing game, making a “rails run” for world domination – China and India.

In an excellent article in today’s Sydney Morning Herald, Ross Gittins made some salient points that I feel back up what I am saying.

With their populations accounting for some 40% of the total world population (as against the combined North America, Europe, Japan and Australasia’s 15%) their economies have been virtually doubling every 12 or 13 years. India’s growth rate is around 5.5% and China’s 9.5% annually.

The USA, with less than 5% of the world’s population, consumes some 25% of the planet’s bio capacity to support its people. Europe and Japan, with 10% of the world’s population, require another quarter and China and India, as mentioned above, with 40% require another quarter.

China currently uses 26% of the world’s crude steel, 32% of the world’s rice, 37% of the cotton, and 47% of the cement.

Those are scary, scary figures for the consumption of products to maintain what is having massive repercussions world wide, both now and into the future. What happens when (not if) the economies of India and China double?

Whilst the USA is now the worlds largest energy consumer, China is now second, and India sixth.

Whilst President Bush has goaded, or attempted to goad, his fellow Americans into not being “gas gusslers” any more, when you consider that by 2030 China will be importing 2/3rds of its oil needs and India over 90%, that l’il ole drop of oil is sure going to be stretched! And this is a finite resource we are talking about here!

I am not a harbinger of doom, although I must admit that I am sort of pleased that my time on earth will hopefully not show me the repercussions of what I have written.

Be that as it may, we ignore these figures at “our,” with “our” being mankind’s, peril.

We have the capacity and ability to lower the effect of what seems the inevitable. The question is: do we have politicians with the capacity to be big enough to put self interest aside and make decisions for the common good?

On the Wallaby

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About Anthony Fountain

  • Dave Nalle

    Excellent quote from TR. If there were any actual indication that America has imperial ambitions – aside from the delusions of a few Neocons – I’d be concerned. But I imagine our rapid descent into a growing isolationism makes any taint of empire a minor concern.

    Dave

  • ss

    Just to be a stickler, though, using a qoute from Teddy R to prove America has no imperial ambitions does open a prickly bag of cats from the Phillipines to Cuba to Panama.
    That said, America came to her 19th century dreams of empire late and abandoned them early.
    Unlike the Soviets.
    I think we have a vision of an order that probably isn’t as exploitive as many imagine it to be, I just think we pursue it using questionable means and an unquestioning zeal that can be dangerous, or outright callously homicidal, to the people it’s meant to help. Not all the time, but sometimes.
    For example:
    We had congressional hearings into the graft associated with the UN Oil for Food Program in Iraq, and I didn’t hear one reasonable person ask:
    ‘Oil for what now? If the sanctions went into effect in ’91 and the program started in ’95, what were the Iraqis doing for food in ’94?’
    Or
    ‘When we have the UN apply sanctions on brutal dictators in places like North Korea and Zimbabwe, we at least make sure any refugees who get out are taken care of and not just sent back, don’t we?’
    (Unfortuneately the answer to that one is no, and the UN isn’t currently doing much of anything either)
    I’d like to hear those questions asked for ethical reasons, but for practical ones also.
    In the abscence of reasonable people asking those kinds of questions, what I did hear was that dangerous, egomaniacal ass George Galloway exploiting (and, granted, exaggerating)the facts created by those unasked questions for his own ends.
    And on a 1 to 10 Danger scale of egomaniacal idiots, Galloway’s about a 2 1/4.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy in Jerusalem

    If there were any actual indication that America has imperial ambitions – aside from the delusions of a few Neocons – I’d be concerned. But I imagine our rapid descent into a growing isolationism makes any taint of empire a minor concern.

    Dave, I cannot believe this is coming from someone who has spent a number of years living overseas in the Soviet Union and the United Kingdom, no less. A yahoo in southern Minnesota who has never gone beyond the Twin Cities or International Falls, I can understand. But someone with your knowledge of the world? I’m stunned.

    All the American president needs to be considered an emperor is some olive leaves on his head. A nation with bases all over the world that freely tells other nations like India and Israel what to do, who tells the Moslems to stop rioting as though he were their Khalif is an emperor in fact, if not in name.

    American culture dominates the world – or tries to – much as the Roman and Hellenistic culture did two and two and half millennia ago. That you cannot see this astounds and amazes me. If I had the money I’d send you some glasses to see reality with. But I don’t, and must make do with these comments instead.

  • gonzo marx

    comment #1 sez…
    *If there were any actual indication that America has imperial ambitions – aside from the delusions of a few Neocons – I’d be concerned.*

    might i suggest the gentle Readers look … here to see the IMperialistic Agenda of the NeoCons… at the bottom of the page, you can see the signatories from 1997 when the site went up…

    have a look….i’ll wait…

    back?…scared yet?

    those who looked saw names like, Cheney, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, Perle, Libby and others who are pretty well known and have written almost ALL of the foreign policy for the last 5 years…

    INCLUDING, but not limited to, the Invasion of Iraq (the reasons for it too) and the Domestic surveilance bits…as well assetting quite a bit of National Policy

    look up what those folks have written that has become US policy…then remember to check out their Ideological Leader, Proffessor Strauss and read his works

    then c’mon back and try and dismiss concerns about an imperialist agenda…i could use the Laugh

    Excelsior!

  • http://theugliestamerican.blogspot.com andy marsh

    Ican see that MY trip to Hawaii did nothing for gonzo’s attitude!

  • gonzo marx

    heyas Andy…hope the trip went well

    i posted 2 articles while ya were gone, lemme know what ya think…

    how’d ya like “Stranger”?

    Excelsior!

  • http://theugliestamerican.blogspot.com andy marsh

    trip was great, weather was beautiful…”Stranger” was a very very good book. I see the correlations you wer etalking about!

    Now I’ll go read your stuff!

  • Nancy

    Anyone who would seriously try to claim that the US only does what it does out of altruism & because it’s been roped into the role of global cop/nanny/teacher/etc. would seem to be on some serious drugs, and I wish he’d share them with me for that kind of a rose-tinted outlook! The real pity of it all is that these neo-nazi-cons like Cheney, Wolfowitz, et al won’t be tried in a world court like their nazi predecessors 50 years ago, and get the justice that’s coming to them for their crimes against humanity – the citizens of the US just as much as those elsewhere.

  • Nancy

    BTW, I noted w/amusement that Quayle was among the signers. I take it that he signed by order of Marilyn, since he himself certainly was incapable of understanding most of the vocabulary therein.

  • Dave Nalle

    Just to be a stickler, though, using a qoute from Teddy R to prove America has no imperial ambitions does open a prickly bag of cats from the Phillipines to Cuba to Panama.

    Actually, Roosevelt is the perfect choice. He believed in a strong, even aggressive foreign policy in protecting US interests, but pointedly did NOT believe in an international empire. He stated clearly that he did not want to hold on to foreign territory, specifically Panama. He wanted stable regimes in the western hemisphere and the end to the European colonial system, so that trade could grow and all of the economies could prosper. We largely ended up with Panama by default because no one else seemed to be able to manage it properly. And the Philippines, Samoa, Hawaii and Cuba all took place under other presidents. Plus we gave Cuba back to the people almost immediately. That process of liberation and return of a country to its people was the TR model.

    Dave

  • Dave Nalle

    Ruvy, your point in #3 is valid, except that I differ in that I don’t call what you describe an Empire. The fact that we have international bases is not what gives us the influence we have, it’s our wealth, purchasing power and cultural output. That certainly makes us the world leader and the culturally dominant country in the world – something which may have traditionally gone along with Empire – but the fact that we don’t conquer and hold territory keeps us from being a true Empire. I’d compare our role to being more like that of the pre-Alexandrian Greeks, where their influence was everywhere but they didn’t generally engage in wars of conquest outside of their own territory.

    Dave

  • ss

    I’m inclined to take TR at his word as to what he wanted, but he did in fact end up presiding over the birth of the short lived American Empire, after McKinley fell victim to assasination at the hands of an Anarchist (the terrorists of the day). Strong willed and (probably) good intentioned as TR was, he helped unleash a poltical tide that he just couldn’t beat back.
    Except in Cuba. Cuba did in fact gain it’s independence. Though we would wind up sending our troops back five (I think it was, but possibly six) times over the next fifty years, and in the end Cuba wound up in the hands of Castro.
    The Phillipines continued the long and particularly nasty war they fought against the Spanish against their new colonial masters, namely us, until WWII put them back on our side and afterwards we finally left. After decades of dictatorship they finally settled into an unstable mix of democracy and mob rule that may be (MAY be) settling into a stable, democratic government.
    As far as I know, things worked out okay in Guam.

    I think we all hope our move from colonial imperialism to economic and unilateral military imperiousness works out much better for everyone.
    Though looking at South America and the Middle East these days… Our imperious mein and lapses of concern for the people we want to make (junior) partners in progress may in fact be creating resentments that very dangerous men can and will exploit.

  • http://www.rainbowchaser.com.au Anthony Fountain

    G’day Dave,

    You wrote:-

    “Though looking at South America and the Middle East these days… Our imperious mein and lapses of concern for the people we want to make (junior) partners in progress may in fact be creating resentments that very dangerous men can and will exploit.”

    Here is the nub of the question as I see it.

    Given that “perception is reality”, current American policy IS GIVING much resentment and whilst I am sure many, many Americans have little or no interest in what is happening outside their shores, those driving the ship are creating those resentments you alluded to, principally through, as you correctly called it, their/your “military imperiousness”.

    As a keen student of history, I know “our day” is fast closing and in knowing that, I just wish those in power would maybe privately acknowledge that also and not go playing King Canute.

    We have little enough to leave our grandchildren.Why compound it by bringing them into a world where the stick is in the other hand?

    Carpe diem

    Tony

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    SS wrote that, not me, Anthony.

    Dave

  • http://www.rainbowchaser.com.au Anthony Fountain

    Sorry Dave, I was looking at the post numbers and read over the sender.

  • http://biggesttent.blogspot.com/ Silas Kain

    I’m damn sick and tired of America being vilified as some type of Imperialist pig. Sure, there are some political leaders who have those kinds of visions. The majority of Americans are just trying to make their way through life’s challenges. There comes a point when enough is enough. Americans have to start waking up and taking a serious look at what their government has become. I was struck yesterday by the outpouring of love and suppport for Coretta Scott King at the funeral service. What struck me most is that Americans have been the model for the rest of the world in so many ways. We got a lot of lip service at that cermony. It’s time for polticial, religious and civic leaders to put their words into action. Coretta Scott King’s legacy is best served by doing instead of yapping.

  • http://www.rainbowchaser.com.au Anthony Fountain

    G’day Silas,

    You wrote:-

    “I’m damn sick and tired of America being vilified as some type of Imperialist pig. Sure, there are some political leaders who have those kinds of visions.”

    Silas, one of the things that constantly amazes me about America, and Americans, is how you treat youir voting at elections.

    Here in Australia (yes, I know we have compulsory voting and you get fined $50 if you don’t vote) we get about 96% of those eligible voting and whilst Aussies are normally depicted as pretty laid back people (which we are until we get pissed off) very rarely have they got their electoral choices wrong.

    Conversely, in your country it seems to me that if 50% vote, it’s “you beaut” time and the real loser is democracy anmd dare I say it, you get the politicians you probably deserve.

    You also wrote;-

    “The majority of Americans are just trying to make their way through life’s challenges. There comes a point when enough is enough. Americans have to start waking up and taking a serious look at what their government has become.”

    So how come so few vote and use the ballot box to either elect them or flick them?

    Most of the world doesn’t have that opportunity that Australians,Americans, Poms,New Zealanders etc do through the democratic system.

    Perhaps if more Americans voted, you may reduce the angst or is that “pie in the sky” stuff?

  • http://biggesttent.blogspot.com/ Silas Kain

    Unfortunately, Americans have allowed the political system to make it inconvenient to vote. Who the hell votes on a Tuesday? The elderly, the special interests, and a handful of others who “care”. I’m all for compulsory voting resulting in a fine for failure to do so. Our national elections should be held on a Saturday or Sunday. They should be for a 24 hour period across this land with polling results, etc. unavailable until the last vote is cast in Hawaii.

    The majority of Americans aren’t bad people. A bit lazy? You bet. Blind to the real issues? Of course. It’s easier.

  • http://www.rainbowchaser.com.au Anthony Fountain

    What you say resonates with me Silas.Maybe if enough people care, as they did in the Philipines against Ferdinand Marcos, you can change it.

    If not, read history I reckon with the only proviso on that being “is it too late anyway?””

  • Dave Nalle

    I was struck yesterday by the outpouring of love and suppport for Coretta Scott King at the funeral service. What struck me most is that Americans have been the model for the rest of the world in so many ways.

    Odd, what struck me most is that President Bush was about the only political figure there who didn’t use it as a soapbox to advance their agenda or slam their opponents.

    Dave

  • gonzo marx

    bah..you want more voter turn out?

    simplicity itself…make it a Federal Holiday

    ta daaaa…

    Excelsior!

  • Dave Nalle

    You could just hold the election on Saturday as an alternative.

    I’ve never understood why Republicans oppose a holiday for voting. It would likely benefit them since it would bring out people who work for a living.

    Dave

  • RedTard

    I like the system the way it is. People who care and want change come out and vote, people who are ignorant of the issues or too lazy do not. By having 50% voter turnout it is like each of us that vote is voting for the equivalent of two.

  • gonzo marx

    Novak once crowed on Crossfire that he liked it when no one showed up to vote, this way the Religious Right, rich folks who coudl take time off and seniors would make up the majority of voters…and that woudl be good for the GOP

    me?..i want as many folks to vote as is possible

    Excelsior!

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    I’m not sure relying on those particular constituencies has been terribly good for the GOP.

    Dave

  • gonzo marx

    mebbe not, but it’s worked lately…eh?

    i’m not for either “gang” as you well know, and it is my Thought that a huge chunk of those not voting woudl be Independant

    if they could be motivated and brought into the process, things could change a great deal…to the chagrin of both “gangs”

    and that’s a good thing

    Excelsior!

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    It worked for getting votes. It has not worked for the good of the party.

    As for these voters that turn out, you should drop by a Republican precinct, county or state convention sometime. It’s like free porn night in an old folks home. More than creepy.

    Dave

  • http://notapottedplant.blogspot.com/ Transplanted Lawyer

    I’m going to have to source the author on his claim that the war in Iraq has already cost the U.S. nearly $240 billion. How was this figure arrived at and what exactly is included? The salaries of soldiers that we would have had to have paid anyway? Throwing around a bunch of facts with no evidence to support the claims is not generally a good way to convince skeptics of the truth of your claims.

    While there is no doubt that maintaining an empire is an expensive proposition, it is not at all clear to me that the U.S. is an empire in the classic sense of the word. Imperial powers view their captured territories as belonging to them. India belonged to the British. Louisiana belonged to the French (and then the Spanish and then the French again) and they sold it to the USA. The Romans thought of their imperial conquests as “theirs.”

    We do not view Iraq — or Afghanistan the Phillipines or Okinawa or Western Europe or for that matter nearly anywhere we have projected our military power — as “ours.” There are possessions of the U.S. that we think of as “ours,” like Puerto Rico and Guam, which do not enjoy full participatory rights in our government. Iraq is not at such a level and there is no talk, and has never been any talk, of giving Iraq such a status.

    I submit that the U.S. empire is unlike any empire the world has ever seen. It is mercenary, to be sure, and ambiguous in its moral intent. But it is not based on conquest and government of other lands. Caesar would not have approved, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

  • gonzo marx

    #28 confuses “Imperial” with “Colonial”

    the postulate is that the NeoCon agenda promotes an IMperial agenda, not a colonial one

    there IS a difference…

    as for the numbers, as far as i am aware, they come from the GAO and CBO

    Excelsior!

  • http://www.rainbowchaser.com.au Anthony Fountain

    The cost of the Iraq war was sourced from the National Priorities Project -( http://nationalpriorities.org/index.php?option=com_wrapper&Itemid=182 ) and is based apparently on Congressional Appropriations.

  • http://biggesttent.blogspot.com/ Silas Kain

    Odd, what struck me most is that President Bush was about the only political figure there who didn’t use it as a soapbox to advance their agenda or slam their opponents.

    Oh, Dave. Bush didn’t need to use it as a soapbox. He’s the President. I gave him credit for showing up. It could not have been easy. Nor can it be easy for him that his daddy and Billy Bob Bubba are so close. The ultimate irony? Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush take out a declaration for marriage in Massachusetts. One can dream, can’t he?

  • Dave Nalle

    That would indeed be amusing, Silas. But I think Bill’s tastes run a slightly different direction. Maybe they’re both chasing skirt together, though.

    Dave

  • http://beyondbabylon.blogspot.com David Ben-Ariel

    With America’s military power and might, we could rule the world like anybody else would (excluding our British, Jewish and NW European brethren) in a heartbeat given half the chance, but we’ll leave it to the fascist Europe to prove how benevolent (all things considered) we have been and how many will rue the day we fall.

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