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Dreams of Empire fade into the dawn of a new day

July 23, 2008

"As even casual students of history will recall, a clear sign of the Roman Empire's decline was its shift from citizen-soldiers motivated by duty to mercenaries motivated by profit." retired Lt. Col. William J. Astore

The century-long quest for a global American Empire has ground to a painful, final halt in the sands of Mesopotamia, as many other dreams of Empire across history have done before. In its final push, however, it may have instead killed the American Dream.

For the dreams of Empire are the dreams of only a few: the privileged and powerful who have little allegiance to any country. Their dreams do require armies, however, for empires are always funded by economic exploitation backed with military power. Of course, the dreamers of Empire never serve in any army themselves that chore is left to those who are less fortunate but more patriotic.

For most Americans, the difference between Iraq and Iran is simply the spelling. We might be curious, but we don't really care what Arabs and Persians do in regards to each other. We're more concerned with our own borders to the south, it's about immigrants pouring across the Mexican border while up north, it's about how where we can cross the Canadian border to buy affordable medicines.

The American Dream has nothing to do with being the world's greatest superpower. The dream has always been to own a home, raise a family, do work that fulfills and rewards us for our efforts. Our dreams are about having friends and owning nice stuff, about great vacations and early retirement. The average American never goes to sleep at night wishing that America could dominate the globe.

But we sanction the efforts of those who do dream of Empire. We pay for them in money and blood, and we act as if it's our destiny to make them real even when those dreams are not our own.

The drive for empire-building has its roots in the foundation of America itself. It's personified by Thomas Jefferson, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, who sought to weave the massive, unknown landscape of the North American continent into a union of federated states.

Those early dreams were not global but continental in scope; they sought to build a land from sea to shining sea. It required killing and displacing native peoples from shore to shore and fighting wars with Spain and Mexico to make it a reality, but we've always been able to justify paying for the cost of Empire with the blood of Others.

The original American dream was achieved on the day that gold was discovered at Sutter's Mill in California. There was no stopping the flood of migration that Americanized what was left of the Spanish occupation and marked a trail for the railroads to follow.

The dreams of a global Empire began with the rise of the American barons. From timber and gold and silver to railroads and steel and oil the families that seized control of our national resources also created a social and political environment that allowed Presidents McKinley and Roosevelt to take the U.S. military overseas in search of lands to occupy.

At the close of the 19th Century we finally began to resemble the Roman Republic that inspired many of America's legal and political structures. Among the similarities were cheap skilled labor, a largely content middle class and great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few hundred extended families. Like the early era of Rome, it was a pretty good arrangement until the rich developed an appetite for more of everything while the rest of America developed a taste for Presidents who acted like Roman Emperors.

Two World Wars later America had its Empire almost in hand, but that hand was no longer American. In fact, it was no longer even human. It was a corporate tentacle, a thing with a mind of its own, lacking any human motives aside from profit and growth. From the end of WWII right up until today, that corporate drive to build a global economic empire has driven American foreign policy. American citizens have paid for that policy with their tax money ever since that day. More than 100,000 American soldiers paid for it with their lives.

And now we've hit the same Middle Eastern wall that Britain and the Soviet Union and other have crashed into before. Those collisions caused empires to fail because fighting the local insurgents sucked up all the money the government could raise. Our would-be provinces of Iraq and Afghanistan are just as unwilling today to be ruled from Washington as they were from London and Moscow in the past.

Earlier this month Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki made it clear that the Iraqi people want American troops out of their country. They insist, at the very least, on a timetable for withdrawing US troops and they refuse to allow Israel to use Iraqi airspace to bomb Iran.

Even our own puppet in Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai, isn't willing to let us use his country as a staging ground for an attack on Iran.

"Afghanistan does not want its soil to be used against any country and Afghanistan wants to be a friend of Iran as a neighbor which shares the same language and religion," Karzai said earlier this month. He complained that foreign troops don't coordinate operations with Afghan forces to avoid civilian casualties, which has cost more than 700 innocent Afghanis their lives during the first six months of this year.

American politicians who want to keep U.S. troops in Iraq are ignoring the will of the Iraqi people. The only reasons left for staying where we aren't wanted is to protect our access to Iraqi oil supplies and to keep our new military bases in Iraq. But the American people won't keep supporting a "blood for oil" policy when the price of that oil keeps going up, and they don't care any more about empire-building than they did sixty years ago.

They don't care because they can't afford to everyone but the wealthy is too busy trying to make a living in hard times to contemplate America's Manifest Destiny. The concept of a global empire based on politics and military power now sits on the ashheap of history, where it belongs.

It's about to be joined by the corporate dreams of economic empire as well. As energy prices skyrocket and the countries of South America and Asia reassert national control over their own resources, global corporations are losing the power they once held to shape the policies of nations and states.

You and I and every other consumer on the planet are paying the price for the failure of Empire's Dream, but it's a price well paid. For Americans, the end of Empire brings an opportunity to restore the Republic and regain our Commons with new technologies and new policies. That moment of opportunity will come in November, when we can clear out all corporate puppets from the House of Representatives and much of the Senate. We can elect a President whose vision is focused on the needs of the average citizen instead of the desires of a military-industrial complex that thought it could rule the world.

We can close down the hundreds of military bases we have scattered across the face of the planet. We can sit back and watch as corporations move their economic bases to China while we restructure our own economy. And we can wish those corporations well as they try to assert some influence on Chinese politicians, who look at the world in very different ways than we do here in the West.

The key to all of those changes is in our own wallets and purses. The day that Americans stop buying mass quantities of cheap crap that we don't really need is the day that we will fully reclaim our national heritage. That day will dawn as we stop letting our children demand the latest new toy every week; as we stop collecting material goods that fill out homes and soon just collect dust; and as we start buying local products to support our neighbors.

We've always had that power in our hands, but we failed to exercise it. Now comes our chance; as the Dreams of Empire reveal their flaws in the nightmare of modern reality, we can fully awaken to realize our own true potential. We can begin to pursue once again the American Dream of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness that gave birth to this country two centuries ago.

We only have two options before us, really. It's either reclaim the Republic or continue down the path of Fascism that we've walked for too long. It's time to make your choice... The century-long quest for a global American Empire has ground to a painful, final halt in the sands of Mesopotamia, as many other dreams of Empire across history have done before. In its final push, however, it may have instead killed the American Dream.

For the dreams of Empire are the dreams of only a few: the privileged and powerful who have little allegiance to any country. Their dreams do require armies, however, for empires are always funded by economic exploitation backed with military power. Of course, the dreamers of Empire never serve in any army themselves that chore is left to those who are less fortunate but more patriotic.

For most Americans, the difference between Iraq and Iran is simply the spelling. We might be curious, but we don't really care what Arabs and Persians do in regards to each other. We're more concerned with our own borders to the south, it's about immigrants pouring across the Mexican border while up north, it's about how where we can cross the Canadian border to buy affordable medicines.

The American Dream has nothing to do with being the world's greatest superpower. The dream has always been to own a home, raise a family, do work that fulfills and rewards us for our efforts. Our dreams are about having friends and owning nice stuff, about great vacations and early retirement. The average American never goes to sleep at night wishing that America could dominate the globe.

But we sanction the efforts of those who do dream of Empire. We pay for them in money and blood, and we act as if it's our destiny to make them real even when those dreams are not our own.

The drive for empire-building has its roots in the foundation of America itself. It's personified by Thomas Jefferson, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, who sought to weave the massive, unknown landscape of the North American continent into a union of federated states.

Those early dreams were not global but continental in scope; they sought to build a land from sea to shining sea. It required killing and displacing native peoples from shore to shore and fighting wars with Spain and Mexico to make it a reality, but we've always been able to justify paying for the cost of Empire with the blood of Others.

The original American dream was achieved on the day that gold was discovered at Sutter's Mill in California. There was no stopping the flood of migration that Americanized what was left of the Spanish occupation and marked a trail for the railroads to follow.

The dreams of a global Empire began with the rise of the American barons. From timber and gold and silver to railroads and steel and oil the families that seized control of our national resources also created a social and political environment that allowed Presidents McKinley and Roosevelt to take the U.S. military overseas in search of lands to occupy.

At the close of the 19th Century we finally began to resemble the Roman Republic that inspired many of America's legal and political structures. Among the similarities were cheap skilled labor, a largely content middle class and great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few hundred extended families. Like the early era of Rome, it was a pretty good arrangement until the rich developed an appetite for more of everything while the rest of America developed a taste for Presidents who acted like Roman Emperors.

Two World Wars later America had its Empire almost in hand, but that hand was no longer American. In fact, it was no longer even human. It was a corporate tentacle, a thing with a mind of its own, lacking any human motives aside from profit and growth. From the end of WWII right up until today, that corporate drive to build a global economic empire has driven American foreign policy. American citizens have paid for that policy with their tax money ever since that day. More than 100,000 American soldiers paid for it with their lives.

And now we've hit the same Middle Eastern wall that Britain and the Soviet Union and other have crashed into before. Those collisions caused empires to fail because fighting the local insurgents sucked up all the money the government could raise. Our would-be provinces of Iraq and Afghanistan are just as unwilling today to be ruled from Washington as they were from London and Moscow in the past.

Earlier this month Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki made it clear that the Iraqi people want American troops out of their country. They insist, at the very least, on a timetable for withdrawing US troops and they refuse to allow Israel to use Iraqi airspace to bomb Iran.

Even our own puppet in Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai, isn't willing to let us use his country as a staging ground for an attack on Iran.

"Afghanistan does not want its soil to be used against any country and Afghanistan wants to be a friend of Iran as a neighbor which shares the same language and religion," Karzai said earlier this month. He complained that foreign troops don't coordinate operations with Afghan forces to avoid civilian casualties, which has cost more than 700 innocent Afghanis their lives during the first six months of this year.

American politicians who want to keep U.S. troops in Iraq are ignoring the will of the Iraqi people. The only reasons left for staying where we aren't wanted is to protect our access to Iraqi oil supplies and to keep our new military bases in Iraq. But the American people won't keep supporting a "blood for oil" policy when the price of that oil keeps going up, and they don't care any more about empire-building than they did sixty years ago.

They don't care because they can't afford to everyone but the wealthy is too busy trying to make a living in hard times to contemplate America's Manifest Destiny. The concept of a global empire based on politics and military power now sits on the ashheap of history, where it belongs.

It's about to be joined by the corporate dreams of economic empire as well. As energy prices skyrocket and the countries of South America and Asia reassert national control over their own resources, global corporations are losing the power they once held to shape the policies of nations and states.

You and I and every other consumer on the planet are paying the price for the failure of Empire's Dream, but it's a price well paid. For Americans, the end of Empire brings an opportunity to restore the Republic and regain our Commons with new technologies and new policies. That moment of opportunity will come in November, when we can clear out all corporate puppets from the House of Representatives and much of the Senate. We can elect a President whose vision is focused on the needs of the average citizen instead of the desires of a military-industrial complex that thought it could rule the world.

We can close down the hundreds of military bases we have scattered across the face of the planet. We can sit back and watch as corporations move their economic bases to China while we restructure our own economy. And we can wish those corporations well as they try to assert some influence on Chinese politicians, who look at the world in very different ways than we do here in the West.

The key to all of those changes is in our own wallets and purses. The day that Americans stop buying mass quantities of cheap crap that we don't really need is the day that we will fully reclaim our national heritage. That day will dawn as we stop letting our children demand the latest new toy every week; as we stop collecting material goods that fill out homes and soon just collect dust; and as we start buying local products to support our neighbors.

We've always had that power in our hands, but we failed to exercise it. Now comes our chance; as the Dreams of Empire reveal their flaws in the nightmare of modern reality, we can fully awaken to realize our own true potential. We can begin to pursue once again the American Dream of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness that gave birth to this country two centuries ago.

We only have two options before us, really. It's either reclaim the Republic or continue down the path of Fascism that we've walked for too long. It's time to make your choice...