Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Russia Today Explains It All For You

This video of a rather lengthy discussion on Russia Today TV about "Soviet Amerika" might be illuminating to anyone who questions the notion that the United States is an Empire, behaving as an Imperial Power, and is falling into many of the same traps and hazards Empires of the past have been prey to, most tellingly, the former Soviet Union.

One of the main problems with maintaining the Founders' vision of their new republic -- and one of the main reasons it has failed -- is the matter of scale. The United States is simply too big, and constantly strives to become much bigger (either literally or by proxy), to maintain the kind of rugged quasi-libertarian republic the Founders set in motion. The Imperial idea was there at the beginning, of course, given that the Rebellion, the Revolution, was an act of liberation from the British Empire. But not -- at all -- for the purpose of ending Imperial ambition. Instead, it was to take control of the Imperial impulse in this hemisphere at any rate from the hands of the British and to conduct the Imperial enterprise the way the men of substance who precipitated and engaged in the Revolution desired.

But you can't really have an Empire that's close to the People except as tyranny. The Republican ideal and Imperial tyranny are simply incompatible. What do you do?

Initially, Americans tried to resolve the incompatibility by expansion -- which in time included, of course, the genocide and extreme resource exploitation, extraordinary levels of immigration, numerous wars of aggression and conquest and so on that characterize America's expansionary period. It also included a devastating Civil War.

I've commented in the past about the telling irony of the Gold Rush. Arguably, America was a Libertarian Paradise, say from 1800-1850, and yet, when gold was discovered in the newly conquered territory of California, hundreds of thousands of Americans packed up and left their Paradise -- at immense expense and risk to life and limb -- and headed out to California, where many of them simply died, if they made it at all.

And I've asked why. Why would they do that if they already lived in Paradise? While there was gold to be found, to be sure, the individual Argonaut was in no position to find much of it, and certainly was not going to hold on to it if he did. Most of these Argonauts knew that when they set out, or if they didn't know it, they came to understand it on the trek. If they survived the trip, they were generally impoverished, famished, and worn out by the time they got to California, and many were so disappointed by what they found, and so filled with foreboding and loathing they promptly died.

Few of the survivors ever made more than the meanest living in California, and such living as they were able to make required the constant replenishment of the population with newcomers. That's been the basis of California's "prosperity" all along. Attract a constant stream of immigrants, and by this means, some of those who arrived earlier are able to "prosper" by exploiting the newcomers. If that fails, as it does from time to time, bar the door.

Speeded up and in microcosm, that's the story of the United States.

But what happens when that endeavor reaches the end? The net has to be cast farther and farther afield, and the Empire has to grow either physically or by proxy outside the boundaries of the territory already claimed and settled.

But that sets in motion instabilities that can easily lead to collapse.

The Rugged Yeoman of yore cannot individually seize some foreign land and rule and prosper as potentate -- and still preserve anything of the Republican ideal of the Founders.

The Rugged Yeoman becomes a Tyrant. His Republic becomes an Empire. The scale of the endeavor metastasizes.

Our friends in Russia have tried to approach the problem from the reverse direction, going from Empire to Republic, and in doing so, have somewhat reduced the scale of their political enterprise by spinning off many of the "Republics" that once constituted the Soviet Union and before that, the Russian Empire. Yet they still face the tyranny of their own Oligarchs and their republican political efforts are primitive at best. It sort of works -- and doesn't. The urge to Empire is still very strong within Russia today.

On the other hand, the United States has formed a political and economic axis with the United Kingdom, at least at the elite levels, which is practically a unity. The dissolved British Empire is being revivified through the Power and agency of the United States, with a specific concentration on those areas of the globe where the British failed to impose their benevolent rule: Iraq, the Yemen, Somalia, the Sudan, Iran, Afghanistan and so forth. All of these were failed British colonial outposts or failed clients of the British Empire when time was. Their continued assertion of independence is being directly challenged by American (primarily) military might and technology, with Israel's annoyance and tag-along in the Middle-East.

And the comment from observers abroad is that this is absurd and self-destructive. Don't do it! And yet it is being done. Without let or hindrance. Those who have been down this path before go unheard and unheralded.

Study and consider.

As always, the question remains, What do you do about it?

The always upbeat and cheery Chris Floyd (heh) provides plenty of additional cogency. I can only take him in small doses, but he's right you know. His buddy Arthur Silber (also right, you know) I can't take at all.

1 comment:

  1. Yeah, the Frontier Thesis doesn't get much love these days but it explains stuff better than anything.

    Instead, it was to take control of the Imperial impulse in this hemisphere at any rate from the hands of the British and to conduct the Imperial enterprise the way the men of substance who precipitated and engaged in the Revolution desired.

    Yeah it's kind of funny how we freely depict the revolution as led by local political notables from all over demanding "No Taxation Without Representation" and rarely stop to wonder who they pictured those American PMs being.

    Which feeds into the hilarity that we've managed to construe the lesson of the American Revolution as "sign petitions and write letters to the editor" when the real lesson is "round up unsatisfied elites, link up with your country's worst rival, and start sacking armories".