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Once the base for the empire is gone, even a small war can tip it. The Sardaukars are still milling around and the long shadows of former wars are enough to keep the empire going until they loose.

The base of the US empire is clearly economic and if it is gone, the Irag war might be all that is needed to finish it. Iraq becomes to the US empire what Afghanistan was to the Soviet empire.

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by A swedish kind of death on Wed May 16th, 2007 at 07:43:43 PM EST
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What's interesting about the US position is that it could--with sufficient direction and energy -- turn the country around quite quickly. It would need a couple of things. First, as rdf pointed out in an excellent comment over at ProgressiveHistorians,
much US militarism these days is (implicitly) promoted as Keynesian economic stimulus. If we cut back on useless or destructive military projects we would toss many people out of work. There is no room in the political spectrum to discuss whether this stimulus could be applied to other sectors instead.

This is spot on. My only follow up questioned why is there no room in the political spectrum for advancing alternate stimulus packages? (outside, of course, that we are ruled by troglodytes) I think that's where activists need to start pushing, re-funnel much of the government defense spending into alternate energy solutions (desperately needed), subsidize a nationwide 'solar/wind initiative' for new and older homes, create the next e-vehicle and revamp our transportation infrastructure, make every government building energy self-sustaining by 2050, grow AmeriCorps and the Peace Corps dramatically, pay off our UN dues, etc...  We can quibble about the details, of course, and I know folks like Starvid would argue for nuclear, but just getting the discussion centered on redirecting funds towards broadly speaking C02 free technologies would be a massive improvement. Any of these ideas would contribute funds directly to private and public sectors in the US which would pour money back into the economy.

As for the military? Let the USAF hold a bake sale to pay for their next F-22, as they used to say...:-) The dependence on military spending economics is what's killing us at bottom, if those resources were redirected toward R&D to make self-sustaining CO2 free technologies highly marketable, we could solve global warming, and sell the technology out to the rest of the world at a profit-- the American way, afterall.

But it's a long shot, really. Given where we are. On the poll, I only gave us a %25 chance--and even that is probably a shade too optimistic--though I would love to be proved wrong.

by delicatemonster (delicatemons@delicatemonster.com) on Wed May 16th, 2007 at 10:04:27 PM EST
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This doesn't work because it doesn't square with the US narrative of aggressively potent machismo.

The right especially believes that it's living in a fantasy world where all it has to do is swagger into town with its massive weaponry and the rest of the world acknowledges it not just as heroic winners, but as saviours.

Iraq is just one more example of policy being dictated by a stale collection of old men who really believe this is how it works.

You can't retool the economy without retooling the national psyche. And since the mythology more or less goes back to the first days of the US, that's not an easy thing to do.

Narratives only usually seem to get retooled when people get a nasty reality check that tells them what they used to believe was wrong. And even then, people usually jump in the direction that saves patriotic face rather than dealing with the new reality like adults.

It would take an exceptional leader to change the direction of the narrative. And there would be a significant proportion of the population who would hate him (or her) passionately for trying to make them give up the guns and big toys.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu May 17th, 2007 at 05:33:11 AM EST
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Iraq is just one more example of policy being dictated by a stale collection of old men who really believe this is how it works

I am not entirely convinced it isn't working. They have regained an access toehold to the resources of Iraq, and better than that in the Kurdish region. Despite their claims to the contrary a balkanization of the country is a likely outcome and perhaps one they wanted all along. The bushistas who started this mess will be crucified but the conditions to access and exploit most of the resources will remain.

by Fete des fous on Thu May 17th, 2007 at 11:34:39 AM EST
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There are two separate issues here. One is whether or not military resource grabs work. And they do - at least up to a point. Especially when the goal is to create instability, which seems to have been what happened in Iraq.

But there's also the narrative, and that's clearly nonsense, as it was in Vietnam and in so many other places.

I'm not sure how cynical the leaders are. Bush keeps making interesting Freudian slips which suggest that he knows it's all a joke and that he's really the sales manager, not the CEO.

But a lot of popular support - such as it is - for the right comes from that macho rescuer here-comes-the-cavalry narrative.

Many Americans will tell you that it was the US that saved Europe from the Nazis - even though it was the Russian campaign that effectively destroyed at least half of the German army, and even though Eastern Europe was sold to the Soviets at Yalta.

And that was partly because the Western faction was too spineless and inept to take more of a stand during the negotiations.

So I don't know if it's a Straussian two-level system of rhetoric for the proles and realpolitik for the pols. Or whether they truly believe their own PR.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu May 17th, 2007 at 08:08:53 PM EST
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I agree my remarks are not central to your point. Concerning resource grabs in Iraq, I am not sure I can imagine the details but it seems they had little to lose considering Saddam's designs w.r.t. the reserve currency and partnership in the development of the 2nd (1st?) largest oil reserve on the planet, in the midst of Peak Oil. Access to much of the resource could be retained even if the US was forced to eventually withdraw.

The spokespeople can appear to believe in the P.R., yet it seems improbable that much is left to chance or incompetence in the running of the empire.

by Fete des fous on Fri May 18th, 2007 at 02:47:59 AM EST
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