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[Nettime-bold] Gwynne Dyer on The Short-Lived American Empire
Bruce Sterling on Fri, 7 Mar 2003 03:24:01 +0100 (CET)

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[Nettime-bold] 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: Nancy_Murphy {AT} gbn.com
Date: Thu Mar 06, 2003 04:25:08 PM US/Central
To: gwynnedyer {AT} gbn.com
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