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Republic and Empire: Page Two

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September 03, 2003

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Wednesday, September 03, 2003

This has been created to consolidate a number of items on this subject scattered through View and Mail. The discussion opened on Page One of course.



Republics and Empires: Hidden Agendas

We often hear speculations about what our "real" agenda in Iraq might be. Rumsfeld and the President continue to protest that we don't have one other than the public statements the President has made.

Of course Republics don't and can't have a hidden agenda. In a Republic the goals of our policies are set in open debate and signed onto by the Congress or representative assembly. There can't be a "hidden agenda" because the mechanism for setting an agenda in the first place makes that impossible. This can be a real disadvantage for a Republic, which is one reason why Republics should have limited expectations about what diplomacy and foreign policy can accomplish. If the goal is conquest and colonization, it needs to be said right up front, and that's fair warning to the potential victim.

Now of course this describes an ideal, but it's an ideal that's not far from necessity. Give the Executive the power to keep, not just operational secrets, but secret agendas and goals, and you have gone a long way toward ending the Republic. Venice found this out, and do note that Venice was the longest lasting Republic in history, and one which the Framers had studied with some admiration.

And it's a sign of the times that many who support both the President and the war wonder if we don't have a secret agenda, and some of them fervently hope we do, and a few influential people are not only sure we have a hidden agenda but that they have helped to set it. The President denies this, of course; but then he'd have to, wouldn't he?

I am not trying to be paranoid here, and my assessment of the President is that he's pretty much what he seems to be, says what he thinks, and is pretty thoroughly on the side of a Republic: he really doesn't want to be Emperor. Of course it's said that Clau-Clau-Claudius had the same sentiments.

Now, while I don't believe President Bush to be stupid, few political figures in history have been smarter than the Emperor Claudius, who believed in the Republic but set up the civil service and other mechanisms that gave the Empire such power and endurance. Empire grew despite the reluctance of a very smart Emperor, one a lot more aware of the distinction between Republic and Empire than President Bush is likely to be, and this is not intended as an insult to the President.

Note also that Empire doesn't really require an Emperor, at least at first: Empire is rule by command, by Imperium, which can be exercised by a junta or a political class: what it is not is open covenants openly arrived at, self government deriving its just powers from the consent of the governed.

It can be splendid, and it's often more efficient than a republic. Clearly there's a lot more to be said on this; my point here is that hidden agendas are very much the negation of what I understand by a Republic.

Facts that aren't quite Agendas

One thing that isn't being said but which surely everyone knows, is that we don't need Iraq's oil revenues to make a profit from the war. All we need is for lots of that oil to start flowing into the international market.  When oil gets down to $20/bbl., the Dow will go above 10,000, US government revenues will go up, the deficit will disappear, and tax cuts will look very good. 

Another thing that's not being said loudly is that the venial UN Bureaucracy will  be the big winner if we continue the "Oil for Food" campaign, which in the past sold oil for bureaucratic salaries, guns for the Special Republican Guard, palaces for Saddam, and money for the various outfits that suck blood from the UN and would die without it.

We need to say it out loud: the time for sanctions is over, we don't care what the UN thinks about that, and we're going to sell Iraqi oil to the highest bidders. The money will go to building public service infrastructure in Iraq, and after the first round of emergency contracts is over, those will go up for competitive bid; but with big penalties for companies that do shoddy work or none at all, and we're going to enforce that with a vengeance. 

We'll also put politically correct administrators into the source selection boards. Time for the rest of the world to learn about set-asides, minority owned companies, female-owned companies, and all the rest. (I suspect that US companies, being used to that sort of thing, ought t0 do well in fair competition here...)

The Agenda We Don't Talk About

When most people talk about a US hidden agenda, they are really referring to Israel; specifically that we're over there to bash Arabs to aid Israel.  That one needs a lot more discussion than I have time for here. It's certainly not a big factor in the President's decisions (if it were there are many things we could already have done that wouldn't be obvious), but it almost certainly is the not very hidden agenda of a number of people whose advice is quite influential.

As I said, this needs more discussion than I have time for at the moment. But do note that it's the major topic of discussion among Arab sympathizers, both "the Street" (whatever that is) and the intellectuals. Acting as if no one had ever thought about this is not going to work, and indeed will raise even more suspicions.

So What Should Our Agenda Be in Iraq?

I say agenda because we have been using that word, but in fact I mean goals. What are our War Aims, and when will we have achieved them? 

This is a matter for resolution by the Congress of the United States. Shouldn't the discussion be going on right now? What more important matters do they have?

Or have we come so far that we think such matters are properly restricted to the President and his advisors? There's a word for governments that set foreign policy that way; and it's not Republic.



Subject: Imperial Military

Karl Gallegher

Indeed. A well done article. Excerpt

Already this relationship is openly celebrated. Before the Iraq War, servicemen asked by the media about impending war invariably replied: "We're good to go when our Commander-in-Chief gives the word." The intimacy of the Commander's relationship with his military has become a casual part of presidential presentation. Often he prefers to address the people from afar, surrounded by his troops. Front-page pictures show the Commander, almost like pater familias, surrounded by rapt young soldiers reaching out to touch him.

Ave! Ave Caesar! And make no mistake, such builds very good armies indeed. But I am not entirely sure I agree with his Old war/New War analysis, or even understand it all.

I do know that being bogged down in Iraq is not proper Imperialism. The proper way for an Empire is to have Legions -- Heavy Armor and Mechanized Infantry Divisions -- that can defeat anyone who seriously challenges it. That includes client states. Then use the clients to do the actual police work once the conquest has been made, and only employ the Legions when necessary or when you think it time to blood the troops. Feeding a trooper a day to the Iraqis is not a proper use for US troops. Let one of the allies who now wants some of the spoils furnish the MP's.

None of this looks like the army the Framers had in mind, but then The United States doesn't much look like These United States did in 1820, or even in 1932. And the trend accelerates. Dole and Bush the Elder decided to feel good by passing the Americans With Disabilities Act federalizing every parking lot in America and putting every building under the jurisdiction of federal inspectors. Since all that was clearly left to the States we can conclude that the 10th Amendment is no more. The second is about to fall. The First seems to be gone in large part: a juvenile was recently jailed for writing poetry about his alienation from his school. Another was jailed briefly for writing a story about killing teachers until he pointed out that he was assigned to write a scary story.

But the first juvenile, it is noted, was studying Hemingway in school, not poetry, and thus can be jailed for writing alienation poetry. That ought to insure his loyalty, or at least that of the others in his school.

And this may be more relevant to the new model army than is at first apparent. Vlahos goes on:

All comparisons to Rome, of course, are mere metaphor. But the transformation the American Military needs to think about has three passages: from serving a republic to serving an empire, from a national-tribal identity to a world-cosmopolitan identity, from being a defender to being an enforcer.

The Coast Guard is an example. And of course the Marines used as border guards who shot a teenage goatherd because the boy was potting tin cans with his .22 rifle, precisely as I used to do when I was younger. Dangerous thing, to stop that charging tin can in its tracks, particularly when there are Marine sharpshooters hiding so well you don't know they are there.

From being defender to enforcer.

The mission of Rome was To Protect the Weak and Make Humble the Proud. Defending Rome became secondary.

As to Old War/New War: sure we need to be able to practice New War; but we also need to make it clear we can defeat any opposition and that client states have independent policies only at our sufferance.

That is the essence of Empire. Some of us may mourn the old republic. But then so did Cicero, and his head and hands were displayed at the Roman Forum rostrum from which he had so often spoken, and from which, once, he had saved the Republic. And Marc Antony's wife pierced with a hatpin the tongue of the greatest orator Rome had ever known.

But that was a long time ago. And we were born free.

On Governing Iraq, see 

The Iraqi Meatgrinder

We continue to feed a trooper a day into the Iraq meat grinder. It's a small cost except to the one fed and his family, but it mounts up: units have to toughen up under continual danger and losses. Add the heat and it can get serious.

The proper way to occupy Iraq is to build a comfortable enclave with good defenses and secure perimeter, garrison that, then bring in a client army to do the actual occupation. The client army should be from a state in which, or near which, we maintain a substantial garrison, so that the homeland is held hostage (although we would NEVER say it that way) to the good behavior of the field army doing the dirty work. There are plenty of countries that would like to rent out their soldiers and would actually welcome a substantial US force in their midst. They don't intend disloyalty to the Alliance, they want in on it; they would like to be part of the hegemony. 

The advantage of this is that most of our troops either get to come home or take their families to the client state where it's a lot more pleasant than Iraq in the desert (116 F at 2 PM average last week), and the body bags don't go to the US. In fact, most client states will simply bury their troops where they fell rather than send them home.

We could also recruit a few regiments of Iraqis, train them to be MP's, and let them do most of the dirty work. Using crack armored and mechanized infantry for police patrols is not their best use.

Bring the army home, or send it to a pleasant client state. They're a bit tired of this:

Last Sunday, a front-page story in the New York Times aroused attention throughout the Pentagon. Pfc. Matthew C. O'Dell, 1st Brigade of the 3rd Infantry Division, told a reporter: ''You call Donald Rumsfeld and tell him our sorry asses are ready to go home. Tell him to come spend a night in our building.''


And just after I wrote that, I received:

Subject: New Model Army

Exchanging fire w/Syria, too:

----- Roland Dobbins


So it looks as if I am not alone in those thoughts. Let me give you another: if we have to go in to Syria, an Iraqi army would be helpful; and indeed we can occupy Syria with Iraqi auxiliaries and Iraq with Syrian. Those are a bit close, so perhaps we send Syrians to Pushtan Afghanistan, Afghanis to Iraq, and Iraqi to Syria. Or perhaps we can recruit some Bosnians. We are only now learning the tricks of the empire trade; but as the Germans said of the United States after Kassarine Pass, we learn fast.

And no sooner had I written that than

Subject: 70% deployed?!

------- Roland Dobbins

And see below.

The Iraqi Mess Part Two

I see the Brits have lost troopers in the south of Iraq, and Iraqi saboteurs are able to cripple the electricity system (by blowing up oil and natural gas pipelines) all through central Iraq. Some pundits seem to think this is a surprise for our military people.

I can't think it was much of a surprise. The question is what can you do about it?

These are issues that ought to have been considered before we went in, but it's beginning to look as if we never thought that far ahead. I am not astonished by that, either. We don't think Empire and imperial interests, and our military is still an army trained for service to a republic, but being used for imperial actions. 

But it has long been known that good soldiers don't make good policemen. The mission of the police is to keep the peace. The mission of the military is to break the enemy's will to resist in an organized manner, and cause him to flee the field. In this enlightened age we no longer pursue the enemy and kill all his survivors (think Shibboleth for an early example), so there are residual elements of resistance. This was to be expected. 

What these people can do is cause misery to their own people. Make enough people miserable enough and things get unstable, and then, they hope, there will be an uprising against the American occupation, and we will be thrown out. The same hope fuels the Palestinians. It hasn't worked there, because the Israelis have no place to go (although the Palestinians suggest New York and Florida; amusing because in the case of some of the settlers in Gaza, they came from Long Island to begin with). It might work in Iraq since most of our troops don't want to be there in the first place, and would like nothing better than to come home. (If you missed that see above.)

And the news media are making the most of it. Where are those weapons of mass destruction? As if that mattered. The fact is that we know:

  1. Saddam Hussein had chemical weapons and did not refrain from using them on both military and civilian targets in his own country and on neighbors.
  2. Iraq is a large country and had all the resources needed to make more such weapons any time it wanted to, on fairly short notice. Actual possession of such things isn't the threat: it's the capability of making them pretty quick coupled with demonstrated intention to use them that makes a threat.
  3. If you made a list of nasty people the world would be better off without, Hussein would be in the top twenty, and probably the top ten. We can do without him, even if it wasn't necessarily our job to decapitate Iraq's nasty regime.
  4. It was in his interest to demonstrate to the UN inspectors that he didn't have no WMD and wasn't going to make no WMD, and he had renounced WMD forever. He didn't do that.
  5. Instead, he played silly games with the inspectors, and eventually threw them out of the country. Then he played taunt the tiger with the US Navy and Air Force. He kept seeing just how close to the edge he could get.
  6. Hussein could be deterred from using chemical weapons on us. He didn't even use them on US forces in the First Gulf War. And against modern forces the kind of crude stuff he had wouldn't have been very effective anyway.
  7. He went to great lengths to convince us that he had something to hide, and built huge secret complexes whose purpose was carefully hidden from us and the UN and his own people.
  8. Nukes are different, and if he could get those he might have a chance of deterring us. The trouble is, nukes are harder to get, and concealing their manufacture is hard to hide.

Everyone in Washington must have known all that. Surely no Congressman was unaware of any of it. There are probably people in the New York Times and the Washington Post who didn't, but even there the top layer of people have to be that smart.

And it's all water over the dam anyway. We are in Iraq now, and the question is, what do we do now?

Me, I'd serve notice: you don't want us here and we don't want to be here. So long, it's been good to know you. Have a nice dictatorship. We're keeping control of some air strips and some oil fields. You can have the profits from those oil fields if you can find anyone to run your country we don't mind giving money to. Don't build any WMD or nukes. Sayonara.

All we need from Iraq is oil flowing to keep the world price down. If need be we can pump their oil, pay for it at $20/bbl (assuming we can find someone we're willing to pay).

Then come home and concentrate on energy independence in twenty years. We could do that.

I am not sure we can pacify Iraq in twenty years. Or two hundred.

Of course we won't do that. So what do we do now?

(For reaction including some who are aghast, see below.)

And here is a man with a view:

The proper way to occupy Iraq?

It certainly isn't the way you suggest! i.e."The proper way to occupy Iraq is to build a comfortable enclave with good defences and secure perimeter, garrison that, then bring in a client army to do the actual occupation."

Quite frankly, if that's the way most of you Yanks think then no wonder you're in such trouble - I've never read such nonsense in my life. You do what you suggest and you'll end up having two enemies to deal with, and frankly you'll deserve it as a reward for your stupidity. Haven't you learned the lessons of Vietnam, Korea, Afghanistan, Somalia etc etc yet? Obviously not.

You want to do it properly? You want to do it as it should be done, rather than as your hugely bloated military-industrial complex seems to compel you to do? Then do it as the Australian Army does. Like we did in Cambodia. What we did in Laos. How we handled East Timor. We've just successfully finished five years of peace making in Bougainville - that's right, bloody, savage, armed to the teeth, thoroughly screwed up Bougainville - the Hell of the South Pacific. And how did our lads do it? Well, totally unarmed for one thing - not a weapon in sight, or out of sight for that matter. Yep, that's right, no guns at all. Total Australian casualties? None. Total Bougainvillian casualties? None. Prior to our arrival over 50 people per week were being killed in that nasty little civil war. By late 1998 we had a truce in place and in 2001 we helped negotiate a comprehensive peace agreement.

As our Defence Minister Robert Hill said the other day "The fact that it was an unarmed group - perhaps the first ever peacekeeping group to serve without access to weapons - is sometimes overlooked. But the absence of arms was fundamental to winning the trust of the local population.".

So how is it done? Very simple. When Australian troops arrive in a foreign land the first thing they do is establish fresh clean water supplies - for the locals. Then we build hospitals, provide medical supplies and services and start training the locals. Then we build schools for the local children, supply them and again start training the locals. Then we get in our agriculture experts to see what we can do to stabilise and enhance local food production. We get to know the inhabitants - show them we're friendly, find out what their concerns are and how we can help. That generally takes up most of the first month. Getting the picture? We win because we win their hearts and minds. We make ourselves useful rather than try to repress the locals - a loser strategy if ever there was one. We make ourselves indispensable. We provide clean water, healthcare, education, sanitation, agricultural services and security - no wonder they love us. Countries are actually better off for being occupied by Australia. We also use technology that is appropriate for the local circumstances - there's no point in using technology that can't be sustained by the locals. That would just be a waste.

Total bill to Oz so far? Oh, about the price of a couple of cruise missiles. Sure, in Bougainville we used 3,500 troops and 300 civilians but hell, we pay them anyway... Oh, and the locals handed in over 90% of the known weapons in Bougainville. That's right - they handed them in. No stupid, dangerous, provocative house to house searches thanks very much. Funny what happens when you ask people politely and point out how it is in their best interests. No threats, just gentle, persistent persuasion.

You Americans should try it some time. Our Defence Force Chief is General Peter Cosgrove. He's a friendly bloke. Ask him. He'll tell you how it's done. What you're doing now is just murder, plain and simple. Unfortunately your strategy is also murdering at least one young American every day. Not smart. Not smart at all. American arrogance may yet be the death of us all.

All the best! Dave Barry

P.S. You think it's hot in Iraq? Try Australia some time! Bloody fantastic - I love the heat! At least that's what I say every Winter...


I am tempted to leave this unanswered, but I suppose I should say a few words.

Of course what I was saying and have said all along is that the proper way to occupy Iraq is not to be there at all; but I suspect I was a bit too subtle for this reader. But I mean every word about the logic of empire: an empire must look to the health and safety and morale of its soldiers, first and foremost; then to its citizens; and then to its clients. Of course I put my statement in as brutal a fashion as I could; in the real world the language of diplomacy is employed, and clients are given titles and privileges (or at least their rulers are). As an essayist I can afford to be honest; were I really in charge of the world I'd have to be a lot more careful about what I say.

And of course most people don't think as I do, or I wouldn't have to write about it.

But the world is as it is, and soldiers are as they are; and things have not changed since that Centurion wrote in the 3rd Century "If we find you have left our bones to bleach in this desert for nothing, beware the fury of the Legions." Empires have to worry about such things. Republics don't, but republics don't do a lot of occupation of foreign lands, or nation building.

Finally, Mr. Barry, I am not in charge although you seem to think we are. But I am certain the Australians are far better people than we Yanks, and know far better how to run someone else's country, and your friendly blokes will be glad to instruct us. And I invite you to send your unarmed forces to Iraq. Better you than us.

You can then politely ask the Palestinians to disarm, and Hezbollah and Hamas, and gollies, soon you will have the Middle East a nice place with everyone being orderly and polite. Why didn't we think of that?

I would, however, appreciate your views on the lessons we should have learned but did not learn from Korea? Please tell me what the Australians would have done, and done better that we did there? As for me, I thought we ought to have come home when the Cold War ended, and stop being involved in the territorial disputes of Asia as well as Europe; I never thought that we had much reason for large standing armies and a big missile establishment once there were not 26,000 warheads aimed at us, and large armies poised to be on the Rhine in hours.

It's true that standing down from Korea would have taken a few years, first to convince the South Koreans that we were serious, then to give them time to look to their own defenses (and allow the Japanese to consider their options as well); but had we begun in 1992 we would have all the troops home now.

The lesson of Viet Nam is simpler: don't entirely abandon your allies. In 1972 the North Vietnamese sent 150,000 troops south. Almost none returned alive. The US lost about 600 men in the entire year. ARVN with US materiel support and US air support devastated an army that came south with more armor than the Wehrmacht ever had during WW II. I would say that lesson was that the US with allies can defeat damn near anything. True, in 1975 the Democrats in Congress voted to abandon South Viet Nam and send ARVN 20 cartridges and 2 hand grenades per man, and no air support; once again an army with as much armor as the Wehrmacht ever had and as many trucks as Patton ever had swept south. This time ARVN was defeated, and Saigon became Ho Chi Minh city, and the Boat People began their exodus to many places -- did any get to Australia?  But the lesson was that US clients without US support can't defeat Russian clients with Russian support: a lesson that one might have thought we would understood without running the experiment. 

In any event I am sure you will enlighten me as to the lessons we should have learned; those were the ones I thought we had learned. 

And see below.




This topic -- Republic and Empire -- keeps coming up, here and elsewhere; indeed you hear the discussion everywhere now, although I was pretty much alone when I began talking about this sort of thing back in the days of the First Gulf War following the collapse of the Soviet Union. When the Seventy Years War ended I thought I saw an opportunity to stand down and return to the kind of government that served us well until 1940. 

That didn't happen, and there are times when I believe I am merely a mourner, saying an epitaph for the republic I knew.

And do understand: I am not one of those who rejoices each time one of our troopers is fed to the Iraqi meatgrinder, and I am not one who wishes us to fail. I believe our policy is not optimum, and may in fact breed more problems than it solves; imperialism usually does; but I do not cheer when I am proven to be correct.

But empire has a logic which I fear we shall not escape. I wish it were not so.

Dear Jerry,

Two points.

Firstly, I think itıs time to insert some historical perspective into this talk of empire.

The first thing to appreciate is that whoever is top dog is going to be detested by an awful lot of people who are not. This has nothing to do with the rightness or wrongness of their policies or their behaviour; it just goes with the territory. Ask the British; ask the Romans; ask the Chinese.

The second thing is that whoever is on top is going to be seen as an overbearing imperial power, rightly or wrongly. No matter how un-imperial America tries to be, it will be seen as an empire by an awful lot of the rest of the world. That goes with the territory too.

The third thing is that the United States has in practice if not name, behaved as an empire from its earliest days. The westward drive from the original thirteen colonies was the behaviour of an imperial power; the Louisiana Purchase was the act of an imperial power; the hidden agenda of the War of 1812 (to grab Canada from the British while they were occupied with Napoleon) was an imperial project that failed; the wars with Mexico to secure Texas, California, etc. was imperial behaviour; taking the Philippines, etc. as the fruits of victory of the Spanish-American war was an imperial act. If occupying Iraq is now to be seen as imperialism, then so must the occupations of Germany and Japan at the end of World War II. So nothing new is happening now in Iraq.

The fourth thing is that there is nothing unprecedented in history about a republican empire. Athens was one. So was Rome, for centuries before it acquired emperors. The republic of Venice was an imperial power. The French republic had a vast empire that it only lost in the years following the end of the Second World War. And obviously both the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany were republics and empires at the same time, although I would not hold these last two up as shining examples of the genre.

What matters, and what the world should be grateful for (but wonıt show it) is that the Pax Americana that has followed the end of the Cold War is so vastly superior to the only alternative ending: Soviet hegemony.


Which leads to my other point.

The reason US forces have stayed for so many years in Germany, Japan and Korea has been to persuade these nations that the US is serious about its nuclear guarantees to them. All three nations happen to be in highly dangerous corners of the world.

Without real conviction that America really would have used nuclear weapons if necessary to stop the Red Army from rolling over it to the Rhine, the pressure for West Germany to acquire its own nuclear weapons would have been irresistible back in the Œ60s and Œ70s. More recently (and this is a nice twist) it was the continued presence of US forces in Germany that convinced Gorbachov he could allow the fall of the Berlin Wall and the uniting of the two Germanys. Here the US acted as a guarantor for the Russians against the Germans doing something silly. Actually, they still do in Russian eyes.

In the Far East, Japan, faced with both the Soviet Union and China almost in its back yard, would have had little choice but to remilitarise, including nuclear weapons, some time ago, without the comfort provided by the American nuclear umbrella and the presence of US forces. And in the present Korean situation, only the US force presence‹and nuclear promise‹could prevent South Korea from going nuclear to protect itself against North Korea. If South Korea did go nuclear, I think Japan would have little choice but to follow and the world would face the high probability of a five-way nuclear war in short order.

I hope these example help illustrate how the worldıs greatest power has no choice but to take part in the politico-military affair of the world in a manner that might be construed as imperial, and will certainly be seen by many as unpopular, if war‹ probably nuclear war‹ is to be prevented. If you find this sort of worldwide presence too onerous, thereıs a name for that; itıs called ³imperial overstretch.²

Jim Mangles


 Odd; I thought I was injecting historical perspective into the soup, and that I did so rather well. But let us look at your thesis.

The first two "sub-points" are certainly true but not relevant, at least to me, and I don't think I ever disputed them. I don't really care what others think about us. What I care about is the effect of imperialism on ourselves.

Your third sub-point is partly true, although not original. Beard among others said most of this, and he wasn't alone. Bacevich ( January 03) draws on Beard to make the point. I don't believe that the conquest of Canada was anything like the real reason for the War of 1812; that was mostly English irredentism. There were war hawks, but it was hardly the national will. Had conquest of Canada been the national will, Canada would have fallen. 

The  announcement that there have been republican empires tells me little I don't know: the fact is that the Athenian hegemony led to Alexander, which led to Pyrrhus and his intervention in Italian affairs, which led to the Roman conquest of Greece, although that latter may have been inevitable once Rome got the imperial bit in her teeth. But the last century of the Roman republic was wracked by civil wars and proscriptions and the necessity for standing armies; and while some republican forms survived Augustus, no one for a moment thought that Tiberius was simply the first man in Rome, or that the army didn't come before the citizens.

As to Venice, the Framers considered the Venetian Republic at length in the Convention of 1787. It's an interesting example, and we haven't time to deal with it here.

As to your final non-enumerated point in your first point, as an old Cold Warrior I can hardly dispute that. And it may be that the US is like Greece of old. Fletcher Pratt begins his Battles That Changed History, which I continue to recommend as an essential work in understanding Western history, by saying the Greeks had to go imperial to make it stick. It certainly looked that way to many of us during the Seventy Years War. But we didn't have to go imperial, and we did win; and a few of us remain who think that we ought to stand down. But I certainly do not regret winning the Seventy Years War.

Now to your Second Point:

I agree with every word until we get to the last paragraph, and there I disagree because I do not believe you have demonstrated any such thing. Kagan has said that if you want peace you must keep that peace actively. I don't disagree: the question is how you do that. And I put it to you again that the best way the US can preserve the peace is by developing our resources, becoming energy independent, dominating space and the seas (which will be much the same thing pretty soon) and minding our own business. 

It is one thing to retaliate for attacks on us. It is another to keep our little vexillations all over the world. 

I doubt it matters. I suspect the die is cast already, and we will never again be a republic with small, cheap, self-government. Perhaps we can make it possible for others to be such. That in itself would be no small thing. Of course if we do, those republics will probably bite our ankles as they hide behind our shield, and when that happens, beware the fury of the legions.

Logic of Empire macroscopic scale?

The shaky relationship between occupier and occupied came to the fore in a confrontation Sunday morning in Fallujah, a restive town west of Baghdad that's seen a number of attacks on U.S. troops since the Americans shot and killed 20 protesters during demonstration in April.

A shouting match broke out when an Iraqi civilian, Jamal Shalal Habib al-Mahemdi, accused a U.S. soldier of stealing $600 from his car.

The soldier tried to wave the man on, but, at the behest of bystanders, his superior officer, Sgt. James A. Phillips, searched his pockets and found the money. Phillips then returned the bills to al-Mahemdi, who waved them above his head and cursed the soldier.

It was not clear if the soldier, whose name was not immediately available, would be disciplined. Maj. Sean Gibson, a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad, said he had not heard of the incident but was sure it would be investigated.

The incident was witnessed by an Associated Press photographer.

Kim Smith

That last sentence may be important. Had it not been, perhaps the sergeant would have ratted out his comrade, perhaps not. Armies in the field are not famously examples of plaster sainthood.

But then: 

Censoring The Press In Iraq

By Robert Fisk

The Independent 12 June, 2003

Paul Bremer has ordered his legal department in Baghdad to draw up rules for press censorship. A joke, I concluded, when one of the newly styled Coalition Provisional Authority officials tipped me off last week. But no, it really is true. Two months after "liberating" Iraq, the Anglo- American authorities and their boss Paul Bremer - whose habit of wearing combat boots with a black suit continues to amaze his colleagues - have decided to control the new and free Iraqi press.



May be relevant.

Subject: The legions become restless . . .

------ Roland Dobbins



And in the logic of empire


Mr. Newby's complaint about the anti-boycott law provisions invokes concerns about free speech. As I understand this law, it's about resisting blackmail. Since the blackmail involves threats by Saudis and other "close allies", our government cannot of course take any direct actions against the boycotters (note however that European authorities have no problem threatening the US when the US attempts to enforce various economic sanctions - - boycotts - - against Cuba).

Telling a boycotter whether or not you trade with the boycottee furthers the boycotter's aims. Is that free speech? Or is that participating in a conspiracy? Free speech, after all, does have limits. Yes, we were born free. But even in your youth, communicating with others in a conspiracy (and US law has clearly labeled the Arab anti-Israel boycott as a criminal conspiracy) was against the law, and not protected ("free") speech.

One could argue that both sides have done unsavory things so that it's hard to make a call. It seems to me that our government has made a call, and we need to live with that. Or we break the law. At least the penalties are financial and do not involve jail time.

Ed Hume

I am not at all sure this needs comment. Res ipsa loquitor.

Subj: Verge of (a) Empire? or (b) Isolationism?

Victor Davis Hanson thinks rather (b), writing in National Review Online at 

Hanson's essay is framed as an assessment of the mood of the "American street". He sees that mood as basically "fed up" with the antics of the South Koreans, Belgians, etc. etc., and as enthusiastic to bring the troops home and let such ungrateful "allies" defend themselves.

But even granting, arguendo, that he's right about that, the question remains: will the American ruling elite respond to that mood?

Or, perhaps framed another way: The current ruling elite in America is a strange menage, locked in a perpetual love/hate embrace, of Democrats and Republicans. If, as seems likely, the currently-dominant faction of the ruling elite is unwilling to respond to that mood, is there a sufficiently large faction, currently out of power, that would be willing to respond, that could take power?

Rod Montgomery ==

Probably not. Most of the country wants an end to immigration while we let the melting pot work on those who are here now, but our masters pay not one whit of attention to those desires.

It is interesting that we have "the Arab street" and "the American street" and refer to them in much the same way now. At one time the American People were in fact pretty well in control of their destiny, and "the American street" wasn't a useful phrase at all. Now it's the people who may or may not have some influence over their government. They aren't the government, of course.

  Subject: Your Republic vs Empire pages

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Roland Dobbins



This is not the last of these discussions. August 10, 2003