Bruce Sterling on Fri, 7 Mar 2003 19:27:03 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Gwynne Dyer on The Short-Lived American Empire

*Makes some sense to me... Oh, French people, German people, this would 
mean we Yankees become dazed, harmless tourists again by 2006; please try
to keep this potential future prospect in mind -- bruces

Begin forwarded message:

> From:
> Date: Thu Mar 06, 2003  04:25:08 PM US/Central
> To:
> Subject: [GwynneDyer] GBN Global Perspectives: Gwynne Dyer on The
> Short-Lived American Empire
> GBN Global Perspectives
> Gwynne Dyer
> _______________________
> The Short-Lived American Empire
>    Just over two thousand years ago, when the Roman republic turned
> itself into an empire and extended the 'pax romana' over most of the known
> world -- western Europe, the Mediterranean and the Middle East, plus the
> great reservoir of barbarian tribes in eastern Europe and central Asia --
> Rome exercised direct control over about half the total population, and was
> able to tax them and raise troops from them. So the Roman empire lasted
> over four hundred years.
>    Many people in Washington now talk openly of turning the American
> republic into an imperial power that enforces a 'pax americana' around the
> planet, but the United States has only 4 percent of the planet's
> population, and its people are equally averse to high taxes and US
> casualties. The demand for US troops and money will rapidly outrun the
> supply, so the American empire will last about twenty minutes -- but it may
> be a hectic and painful twenty minutes.
>    The dream of American empire has attracted American
> neo-conservatives for decades, but it gained a much broader following after
> the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. The only apparent constraint on
> US power had been removed, and the idea that the world will be a safer
> place if it is governed by multilateral organisations under the rule of law
> began to give way to the fantasy that the United States can and should make
> the world a safer place (particularly for American interests) by the
> unilateral exercise of its own immense power.
>    Official Washington was starting to oppose any new international rules 
> that might act as a brake on the free exercise of US power even in Bill 
> Clinton's administration. It was Clinton, not George W. Bush, who fought an
> international ban on land mines and tried to sabotage the new International
> Criminal Court. President Bush's cancellation of the Anti-Ballistic
> Missile Treaty, the US veto on new provisions for intrusive inspections
> under the Chemical Weapons Convention, and Washington's more recent
> rejection of similar attempts to write some provisions for enforcement into
> the Biological Weapons Treaty simply follow in the same path.
>    As Boston University professor and retired US army officer Andrew
> Bacevich wrote in a recent edition of 'The National Interest', "In all of
> American public life, there is hardly a single prominent figure who finds
> fault with the notion of the United States remaining the world's sole
> military superpower until the end of time." This is called hubris, and it
> is generally followed by nemesis. That will probably arrive during the
> next phase of the fantasy: the wildly ambitious project to make the
> conquest of Iraq the cornerstone for a wholesale restructuring of the Arab
> world along American lines.
>    "America has made and kept this kind of commitment before, in the
> peace that followed a world war," said Mr. Bush late last month, comparing
> the project with the rebuilding of German and Japan after 1945. "We will
> remain in Iraq as long as necessary." You don't know whether to laugh or
> cry, but tears are probably more appropriate, for that is where this is all
> going to end.
>    Iraq is no more like Germany than Saddam Hussein is like Adolf
> Hitler. Germany and Japan in 1945 were industrial states with strong
> national identities, several generations' experience of democracy,
> homogeneous populations, and fully professional bureaucracies. Iraq is an
> artificial state of competing ethnic identities with no democratic
> tradition and a deeply politicised, totally corrupt state apparatus
> dominated by a single ethno-religious minority.
>    Never mind running the world or spreading democracy throughout the
> Middle East; merely occupying Iraq is likely to prove too heavy a burden
> for the US public to tolerate for very long. The Kurds in the north will
> try to keep the de facto independence they have enjoyed for the past ten
> years, and the Turkish army will move in to ensure that they don't set up
> an independent Kurdistan that would act as a beacon for Turkey's own huge
> Kurdish minority. The Iraqi Kurds will fight if the Turks invade, and
> America can either intervene in this no-win situation or leave the north
> of Iraq to another round of bloody fighting.
>    The Shia Arab majority of Iraq's population, long excluded from
> power by the Sunni Arab minority, will also try to leave Iraq unless it
> gets the lion's share of power in Baghdad. That won't happen because the
> loyalties of Iraqi Shias lie with their co-religionists in Iran, and
> Washington will not allow a pro-Iranian government to emerge in Baghdad
> that would control Iraq's oil and menace Saudi Arabia's. So the US will
> end up running Iraq through the same Sunni Arab elite that Saddam Hussein's
> Baath party draws most of its members from, and as a result Shia militants
> will soon be attacking American occupation forces in southern Iraq.
>    The Romans dealt with this sort of stuff all the time.  In fact,
> they often had four or five situations like this going on in various parts
> of their empire at the same time. They just spent the money, put in the
> troops, took their casualties, and killed enough of the locals to make the
> rest keep quiet. But does anybody seriously think that the current
> generation of Americans is going to pay that sort of price for a world
> empire that nobody except a narrow Washington-based elite really wants? 
> We are probably no more than two years away from a Somalia-style US 
> withdrawal from Iraq.
> ___________________________
> Gwynne Dyer, Ph.D., is a London-based independent journalist whose articles
> are published in 45 countries.For more on Gwynne Dyer, please read his GBN
> interview

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