Praetorian Progressives and Their Imperial Dreams
By: Dr. Robert R. Owens
Under President Obama we doubled-down in Afghanistan? We sent more of our fellow citizens to a long hard slog in a country whose synonym is Quagmire while announcing the eventual date of their withdrawal at the same time. In an unprecedented action Mr. Obama announced our attack as he heralded our retreat in a calculated political decision that has cost lives, squandered treasure and told the Taliban to wait in the wings for the second act.
As our economy was being outsourced, our debt monetized, and our infrastructure crumbled we meekly followed the leader deeper into a thankless nation-building campaign in the Little Bighorn of nations. A nation that is more of a Western construct than an actual nation-state, and the tribes which inhabit this mountainous waste have resisted and foiled every empire from Alexander to Moscow.
There is a fundamental difference between a republic and an empire. Republics are based upon the consent of the governed. Empires are imposed from above. Republics foster a community of equals each with the opportunity to achieve. Empires exalt the ruling class at the expensive of everyone else. Though settled by European kingdoms seeking empires the United States wasn’t founded to become an empire. Individuals fought against the empire building tyrants until their determination and resolve won independence against all odds.
It is time to re-think America’s international military commitments. It is our world wide web of foreign commitments and entanglements that has been used by the self-righteous Progressives and their cronies in the military industrial complex in their efforts to transform the United States from republic to empire. They have used the never ending wars for peace to regiment our society and create a centrally-planned bureaucratic mega government.
George Washington warned us to avoid foreign entanglements telling us, “It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world…” He warned us about allowing the military to grow to big, “Over grown military establishments are under any form of government inauspicious to liberty, and are to be regarded as particularly hostile to republican liberty.”
Thomas Jefferson outlined the essential principles of our government which included this advice concerning foreign affairs, “peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations entangling alliances with none.”
For the first 100 years of our existence we followed Washington’s great rule, “The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible.”
The temptation to empire captured the American imagination in the 1890s: the beginning of the Progressive Era. This was a time when Europe was rushing to gobble up the last places open for colonization or carving up those areas unsuited for colonies into spheres of influence.
Under President McKinley the United States entered the scramble for colonies in the Spanish-American War winning Puerto Pico and the Philippines as well as a long war against those in the Philippines who wanted the independence they had expected when liberated from the Spanish Empire by the American Republic.
Teddy Roosevelt the great grandfather of the Progressives followed McKinley walking softly while carrying a big stick in the form of the Great White Fleet. He used America’s new found industrial might and military power for multiple intrusions into the sovereignty of Latin American countries. While better known for his war against business, or trust busting as it was then called, the first President Roosevelt extolled war as a means to national greatness, “No triumph of peace is quite so great as the supreme triumph of war”
After being re-elected on the promise to keep America neutral President Wilson proclaimed America must fight to “Make the World Safe for Democracy.” An adventure which cost over 300,000 casualties and which actually expanded the empires of England, France, and Japan while sowing the seeds of an even greater war.
After Wilson’s war the Congress of the United States re-asserted control by rejecting the international entanglements of the League of Nations Treaty returning to the traditional American foreign policy of freedom of trade and freedom of action.
Under FDR America fought an undeclared naval war against Germany in 1940 and 41 and imposed draconian embargoes against Japan prior to Pearl Harbor. Once we were attacked we had to defend ourselves. However, when World War II ended with the defeat of German, Italian, and Japanese totalitarianism and the vast expansion of Soviet totalitarianism, the guiding light of America foreign policy seems to have been permanently extinguished.
As the British Empire sailed into the sunset we filled the void taking up the role of leader of the West in the Cold War. For forty-six years we faced the Soviets until they collapsed. Then instead of coming home we spread our wings even further embracing Eastern Europe. We made a vain promise to send young Americans to fight for Estonia and Slovakia. We coaxed color-coded revolutions all around Russia while our allies moved the EU to the East. All of this rebuffed the hand of the Russians and made them instead of friends bitter foes who realized America had exploited their weakness and attempted to surround them with enemies. This is the exact scenario which has haunted Russian paranoid dreams for centuries.
It is against the traditional principles of American foreign policy to establish and maintain an empire of far-flung outposts. Doing so has broken the bank and we cannot afford to be the Policeman of the world. We cannot afford to build nations for people who don’t want them while allowing our own infrastructure to decay. How did a peaceful nation of free citizens become the advocate of pre-emptive attack and endless occupation? How much blood and treasure did we invest in Iraq and what will be the result: a precipitous pull-out resulting in a Shi’a ally for Iran.
The war in Afghanistan was obviously defensive and retaliatory in nature given the Taliban’s support and collusion with Al Qaeda. But ten years later what’s it all about? Are we really dedicated to building a modern nation for tribal people who have no sense of nationhood? Have we blundered into the same trap that brought the Soviets to their knees?
And it isn’t only our current hot deployment that is problematic.
The United States has armed forces in over 130 countries. We’re committed to defend most of these countries against aggression. Where were these allies on 9-11? Where are they in Afghanistan? Why do we have treaties binding us to go to war to defend those who refuse to support us when we’re attacked? If these policies are counter-productive are there any alternatives?
Close the foreign bases and bring our troops home. Sell the bases and save the money. Station our troops on the borders to protect us from the on-going invasion of illegal immigrants who are overloading our systems. Let the maintenance of the bases and the spending of the troops contribute to our domestic economy instead of the economies of other countries. If we need to project American power, use the carrier battle-groups designed for that purpose. Protect America and rebuild our infrastructure.
When asked what to do with the American Military after World War I Will Rogers said, “Get ‘em all home, add to their number, add to their training, then just sit tight with a great feeling of security and just read about foreign wars. That’s the best thing in the world to do with them.”
We must jettison the Empire to save the Republic! If we don’t the imperial power will swamp the republican nature. We will retain the forms our Founders gave us as we find ourselves under the jackbooted heel of the Praetorian Progressives and their imperial dreams.
Dr. Owens teaches History, Political Science, and Religion for Southside Virginia Community College. He is the author of the History of the Future @ http://drrobertowens.com © 2011 Robert R. Owens firstname.lastname@example.org Follow Dr. Robert Owens on Facebook or Twitter @ Drrobertowens