Some kind of ill wind, encased in a blind fog, separates us from the voices of the past that might assist us in finding our way as a nation and as a people once more. I am reminded these days of Carl Schurz, Union General in our Civil War, and stout anti-imperialist in the age of American Imperialism. When I look at our nation involved in every other single nation’s troubles, and so much at odds with what our founders intended, I hear once again what he wrote for the American Anti-Imperialist League in 1899. Yes, we actually questioned overseas empire at one time. We’ve lost our way so badly that it is seen as necessary to the survival of the Republic to maintain overseas empire. That is heard in our ears as “The United States must lead in the world in order to,” and so it goes. Here, I intend to say it is not only unnecessary but fatal to that republican form of government and our very way of life.
Shockingly, the American body politic has been a corpse for 118 years. Schurz wrote the platform for the League and its central argument against our imperial adventures in both Cuba and the Philippines:
“We hold that the policy known as imperialism is hostile to liberty and tends toward militarism, an evil from which it has been our glory to be free. We regret that it has become necessary in the land of Washington and Lincoln to reaffirm that all men, of whatever race or color, are entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We maintain that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. We insist that the subjugation of any people is “criminal aggression” and open disloyalty to the distinctive principles of our government.”
Mid-nineteenth-century Americans understood naturally that our founders viewed our form of liberty as superior to all others at the time. We knew as a people that we had fought our revolution to free ourselves from monarchy and autocracy, and any sort of empire. We knew too well that a large standing army in peacetime, while necessary in some respects today due to technology, was dangerous. It remains so. President Dwight David Eisenhower’s 1961 Military Industrial Complex Speech has not been heeded, producing disastrous results. Ask any Vietnam or Iraq or Afghanistan vet.
In the early twenty-first century we have thoroughly forgotten it all. That is not only shameful, but embarrassing to any republican and democrat, small r and d. I am.
This essay is not any sort of argument for isolationism, or a libertarian anti-government rampage. Our founders and those that followed through to the 20th Century were rightfully proud of our republic and democracy. In our mad rush to cut government spending, attack the efficacy of government itself, we have lost the point of the whole thing in the first place. Government exists to protect the liberty and opportunities for happiness of our entire population, and to protect our and not some foreign- like corporate entity’s property.
Even in protecting property rights that individual American citizens hold dear, we have gotten fully off track in enshrining the very same rights in corporations, and not human beings. Conservative founder Alexander Hamilton envisioned corporations as being subject to State charters with conditions to be met to ensure the liberty of us all.
As to imperialism?
All we have to ask ourselves today is why is it we are bombing people in Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, and contemplating doing so in North Korea, and Iran?
And with corporations as people; that we need billions more for an already bloated military imperial force.
We all know the fight against terrorism is real. Yet, what launched it 16 years ago is fading. We come to the realization we are in truth fighting for corporate interests around the world, and have been for decades now; at least since the 1950’s and the frenzied Cold War. That war is over. Yes, Russia is out for us, but at present they do not attack militarily across the Bering Strait or anywhere else on our coastlines around the globe. That too, even Hawaii, Guam, St. Thomas and Guantanamo are products of Imperial America. The Cold War in its totality globally has been over since the mid 1990’s.
What if we stopped bombing? Stopped over-feeding the Military Industrial Complex? Would those people under our bombs stop hating us so, and seeking revenge? All these are worthy questions we must answer now. We should have done so in the years immediately following 2001 and 911. Invoking this today for bombing tomorrow is simply lunacy.
Does the average American contemplate at all how the Military Industrial Complex feeds further war and loss of American and foreign lives the world over? Do they know that we are an imperial power and are seen so by those worldwide? Our image of being a republic and a democracy seeking what the founders sought is so far from reality that we do not even think about it anymore. Our predecessors did! And they valued that with their lives.
So ours is an Imperial America, and has been once again like that in 1899, at least since the Cold War. And corporate America and global corporatism feeds on our worst instincts.
We need to recover that part of the United States, its Constitution and core ideals as a reality so that we can once again be proud to say we are American citizens. And we would be able to stand with other people’s fighting for democracy with an authoritative voice for the first time in over a hundred years; especially if we employed other means than domination and war to do it. Fat old white guys in yellow hair, and militarism, are roads to death and ruin.
Please tell me it is not too late.
(Part II Coming.)