One of the greatest intellectual odysseys of my lifetime was reading most of the so-called “prophets of the Old Right,” who, in the years leading up to the Second World War, offered a searing critique of American interventionist intentions and all the risks to constitutional liberty that these entailed. (Incidentally, one of the best surveys of this all but forgotten circle of talented men is the late Justin Raimondo’s “Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the American Conservative Movement,” written roughly a quarter century ago and still, fortunately, available in electronic form.)
As this splendid column, which appeared recently in antiwar.com, observes, the American Republic, at least, key elements of it, always was predisposed toward imperial ambitions, though these aspirations, thankfully, have have always garnered substantial opposition, which seems to have reached a fever pitch as we near the end of the first quarter of the 21st century.
Honestly, given the last twenty years of U.S. geostrategic setback, is it any wonder that this union finds itself in its currently politically and economically depleted state? For that matter, is it any wonder that secessionist sentiment is on the rise in the country’s largest blue state (California) as well as red state (Texas)?
There are so many ways that 21st century America resembles the declining imperialist powers of the past, not only in the way it deals with its client states but also the way it administers domestic policy.
As self-described “radical-centrist” political commentator Michael Lind has argued, this nation’s northeastern mercantilist class, which harbored imperialist aspirations from the very beginning, has regarded most of the rest of the country as an economic outsourcing zone since this union’s inception. And today these elites retain their increasingly tenuous grasp on power by stoking tribal animosities of ordinary citizens, much as the British elites were accused of exacerbating religious division in 19th century Ireland to stave off Irish secessionist sentiment.
Meanwhile, the decline in the vast American heartland is painfully evident. For the past five years, I’ve seen it firsthand as I’ve returned to my native corner of northwest Alabama to care for ailing parents and then to close our their estate following their passing. Recently, my brother, preparing our parents’ home for sale, discussed the state of the current economy with a local man who was undertaking pest treatment on the house. He expressed surprise that neither of us had been confronted with meth addicts who typically occupy vacant homes, even in fairly upscale middle-class homes.
For now and despite the growing chorus of discontent, the empire lumbers along, but for how long? The demonstration that ultimatley resulted in temporary occupation of the U.S. Capitol,which our oligarchic class and its agit/prop predictably have portrayed as full-scale insurrection comparable to the 9/11 attacks, likely serve only as a portent of what is to come. But for now, the very classes denigrated as deplorable and irredeemable by our Mandarin class and characterized and surveilled by our national security apparatus as budding insurrectionists, in come cases, even enthusiastically, supply a vastly disproportionate share of the country’s enlisted ranks. And this raises the question: In this increasingly class-ridden juncture in history, how long will these decent young men and women continue to play along with this charade?
This remains an open question.