December 11, 2006
By Rodrigue Tremblay
"I'm the decider, and I decide what's best."
George W. Bush, 43rd President of the United States
"The president has adopted a policy of 'anticipatory self-defense' that is alarmingly similar to the policy that imperial Japan employed at Pearl Harbor, on a date which, as an earlier American president said it would, live in infamy. Franklin D. Roosevelt was right, but today it is we Americans who live in infamy."
Arthur Schlesinger, American historian
"There were not sufficient reasons to unleash a war against Iraq. To say nothing of the fact that, given the new weapons that make possible destructions that go beyond the combatant groups, today we should be asking ourselves if it is still licit to admit the very existence of a 'just war'."
Pope Benedict XVI
On September 20, 2002, American President George W. Bush enthusiastically and officially embraced a policy of world domination that his neoconservative advisors had drafted for him. In fact, it was a retake on a discarded foreign policy draft paper that Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz had written in 1992, for then Defense Secretary Dick Cheney in the George H. Bush administration.
The new foreign policy paper introduced by the White House in 2002 was entitled “The National Security Strategy of the United States” and was dubbed by its authors the "Bush Doctrine" of preventive wars and of international unilateralism and militarism. Indeed, under the guise of spreading 'democracy', the new 'doctrine' called for the United States to place itself above international law, ratified treaties and international institutions, and initiate "preventive wars" each time American interests or those of close allies such as Israel, are threatened. The policy paper went even further and proclaimed that the "United States has, and intends to keep, military strengths beyond challenge", with the intent of preserving the United States' position as the world's sole military superpower, not only on Earth, but also in Space. The Bush-Cheney administration even declared its intention to keep the option of using nuclear weapons—not only preemptively but even preventively, whenever and wherever it saw fit to do so. The 'Bush Doctrine' could as well have been called 'How to herald in an era of world anarchy' since it was consciously throwing away more than half a century of efforts to build an international system based on law and due process.
In the 20th Century, two other nations openly embarked upon a policy of world domination, attempting to impose their will upon other countries through the use of military power. First, Nazi Germany under Adolf Hitler; (1889-1945) and then the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin (1878-1953). —Hitler wanted to make Berlin the 'capital of the world', while Stalin, under the guise of spreading 'communism', hoped to create a world empire under his command. Both attempts collapsed into abject failures. During the process, however, the German and Russian peoples ended up paying dearly for their leaders' pompous and grandiose schemes, while millions of innocent victims in other countries suffered the dire consequences of insane government leaders gone awry.
The problem with megalomaniac dreams of world domination is that they inevitably lead to disasters. The reason is that such mad dreams of conquest, to be successful even in the short run, require the implementation of two dangerous and interrelated policies: first, the repression of civil liberties at the center of the would-be empire in order to crush dissent; and second, a policy of wars of aggression abroad against countries that resist the new imperial vision. The end results are the loss of liberty at home for most people, all but the top nomenklatura, and a string of costly wars abroad that bankrupt both the state and its citizens. As former senator Barry Goldwater put it: "Now those who seek absolute power, even though they seek it to do what they regard as good, are simply demanding the right to enforce their own version of heaven on earth, and let me remind you they are the very ones who always create the most hellish tyranny."
The current Bush-led imperial push around the world is contrary to the very principles upon which the United States was established. Indeed, when the United States broke away from the British empire, in 1776, its founders swore to establish a democratic republic that would be the very opposite of an empire. They had a vision for "life, liberty and happiness" for all people of the United States and of the world and abhorred aggressive, despotic and oppressive empires which trampled on peoples' rights and pursue narrow special interests at the expense of the public good. In the words of Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), 3rd U.S. President, "The issue today is the same as it has been throughout all history, whether man shall be allowed to govern himself or be ruled by a small elite." In other words, men have always had to choose between despotism and democracy, and both cannot exist at the same time. That is why a country cannot be a democracy and an empire at the same time. It is because, first, running an empire needs a strong central authority with centrally concentrated powers. This is totally at variance with the democratic constitutional order of decentralized and responsible public decision making. And, second, maintaining an empire requires a situation of constant mobilization and of unending wars.
Jefferson's nemesis was Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton (1755–1804) who, just as Vice President Dick Cheney today, did not want a true democracy but a king-run presidency and a life-long nominated senate. Only the House of representatives, in his autocratic scheme of thought, would have had recurringly elected members and some input in the working of the government. True power would have remained in the hand of a property oligarchy. Even though Hamilton himself was opposed to arbitrary government and strongly defended the fundamental right of Habeas Corpus, his followers have been more openly inclined to favor the maximum concentration of power in the Executive branch, at the expense of the checks and balances that are required to preserve freedom and civil liberties.
Internationally, Hamilton's followers are now also supreme in formulating American foreign policy. They are back in force in Washington D.C., but this time they are called "Neocons". They not only harbor the view of a near dictatorial executive branch, as Hamilton did, but they have added the absurd and Jocobian pretentious twist that they have received some divinely given right to govern the world. In their insane and delusional brave new world, words do not mean anything and even reality is a mirage to be adjusted according to their own interests or wishes. Indeed, they have discovered within themselves a missionary zeal to spread ("export") American-style democracy and American-style capitalism to the four corners of the globe, irrespective of international law or international obligations under the United Nations Charter, and despite whatever the lucky targeted people think or wish.
For all these reasons, it can be said that the Bush-Cheney administration is more Hamiltonian in scope than Jeffersonian. President George W. Bush has begun to arrogate to himself some of the powers of an absolute monarch, that is, the power to be above the law and to modify unilaterally the democratically adopted laws by Congress. Some of his handy men have by necessity thus developed the theory that an American president can do just about anything, if his intentions are to further national security. For instance, George W. Bush has paved the way for exercising martial law powers, first by de-facto repealing the 1878 Posse Comitatus Act that forbids the deployment of soldiers on American soil for domestic law enforcement, and, second, by signing last October the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (MCA: HR 6166). Through this act, the President granted himself almost-dictatorial powers to arrest and detain indefinitely any American citizen without constitutional protections. He can, indeed, suspend the right of Habeas Corpus of any person he designates as an "enemy combatant", not only in the United States but also all around the world.
In this neocon brave new world, the future is framed as some sort of a “Perpetual American-led War for a Lasting Peace.” It is a world in which the United States can whimsically and preemptively, or even preventively, attack other countries with its sophisticated military gear, anytime one of them refuses to toe the line of American imperial interests. What is hallucinatory in all this is the idea that the Neocons have discovered a new Americentric "theory of the world", when in fact they have only stumbled upon a near exact replica of the 19th Century Eurocentric world of empires and of gunboat diplomacy. In fact, they are dreaming about a pre-1648-Westphalia world, where national self-determination and national sovereignty become a privilege reserved in exclusivity to those nations with the strongest armies. The Neocons' brave new world is really a blueprint for a non-democratic American empire, surrounded by puppet regimes all over the map. This could not be further from the democratic ideal of governments of law, not of men. Since the principles of the Peace of Westphalia date from 1648, it can be said that the Neocons' sick obsession with world domination is only three centuries and a half behind the times.
After Sept. 11 '01, when the rest of the world was in deep sympathy with the United States, the Bush-Cheney administration sould have done several things. –1. It should have worked to reinforce international law, instead of attempting to undermine it. –2. It should have been active in reforming the United Nations to make this essential international body more democratic, more representative and more efficient as a conflict solving mechanism, rather than shunning it aside. –3. It should have adopted a policy of isolating the small violent Islamist terrorists by assisting moderate and reformist elements in Muslim countries, rather than throwing gas on the fire of religious extremism. –4. It should have promoted a Helsinki Accords-like agreement in order to remove fears of illegitimate foreign military interventions, rather than whimsically invading sovereign nations. –5. It should have put forward an international Marshall-like plan to raise education and health standards in these countries, while facilitating productive investments and spuring economic development. –6. And, above all, it should have given the example, in behaving according to the fundamental humanist principles of non-aggression, lawful conduct and international generosity.
That it did none of the above is a tribute to its lack of vision and its lack of intellectual fortitude, not counting its lack of basic public morality.
Rodrigue Tremblay lives in Montreal and can be reached at email@example.com
Also visit his blog site at www.thenewamericanempire.com/blog.
Author's Website: www.thenewamericanempire.com