Thursday, March 16, 2006

The Critique and Analysis of my 'Confronting Empire' course

The false predication divulged throughout the class of “Confronting Empire” has circulated a wide misnomer of the actual meaning of ‘empire.’ From Winthrop to Horsley, this course has brought forth a very original and confounding hypothesis which essentially suggests that America has grown into its “imperial” place in history due to the seeds of “Christianity” and its divine mission for greatness. From Chris Hedges illuminating the malignant precepts of America’s imperial condition and its addiction to war, to David Harvey demonstrating the inevitable failure of the capitalist neo-liberal policies abroad, the conclusion of this course was reached before it began. That is to say not once in this course was their ever a goal to disseminate the growing need for the US policy abroad as it stands today. An empire, by nature, suggests negative connotations where one political entity dominates another political entity; a belief I do not hold about the United States. I believe fundamentally that we are in fact a global superpower, with vast influence beyond our borders.

The moral structure of America can be traced back to when our country was first set in motion by the Puritans and the utopist ideals of John Winthrop. Yet what is the current state of affairs within America in terms of religion? While the current politicians in the White House actively seek to endorse and utilize religion as grounds for many domestic policies, I see no distinction in the framework of Bush’s foreign policies that have led me to believe we are embarking on a religious crusade in the Middle East. Even as our “national project” sets its course to determine the fate of some countries, is it not something which can be looked upon as altruistic, even if it does fail?

My own understanding of liberal values falls in accordance with where our society is currently; a free market, representative democracy, while not perfect, yet exactly what our Constitution outlined our state to become. Who and when did people decide that the American situation looked bleak? Through optimism and a restriction on laissez-faire economics, we overcame the Great Depression, which at the time was spoken about as if it was the end of our republic. Today, Harvey is espousing this same nonsense, even when our country is in the process of attaining more and more amounts of wealth and higher percentages of GDP than any other country in the world (with possible exception of China). The alternative of this national project laid forth by Barbara Epstein is a nonviolent resistance to US policies and advocated for “peace, non-intervention, ecological preservation, feminism, and gay and lesbian rights.” She is described as being “driven by a vision of an ecologically balanced, nonviolent, egalitarian society, [that] engaged in political action through affinity groups, made decisions by consensus, and practiced mass civil disobedience.”

Yet what are these resistant groups, like Epstein’s, essentially driving for? They are in essence driving a selfish political agenda, just as the politicians in power strive for their agendas, to shape or mold the world in their own moral clarity. In Epstein’s case, she seems to be confused that we do not live in a socialist country and that if she wanted to change anything, she would only be successful were she to overthrow the government in a violent manner. Tocqueville so eloquently distinguishes between these two philosophical systems as he states “while democracy seeks equality in liberty, socialism seeks equality in restraint and servitude." Whether or not you agree with the national project’s continuing goals and aspirations for promoting liberal values here and abroad, we all must agree that it is in fact a machine and the only way to take it down is by force. Non-violent resistance, as Professor Block proclaimed, is in fact almost completely hopeless.

The moral lens which we propose for other countries to view through as well is a worthy attainable mission. The messianic and pretentious accusations of America’s liberal ideals proliferated throughout the globe is stale and unfounded. How has Bush justified Iraq based upon religious grounds? The basis of war was on moral superiority and a notion of a threat deemed imminent to the American people, which had garnered support and effective analysis from CIA Director George Tenet who claimed they did have WMDs. We will not go around setting up democracies in other parts of the world, with Wolfowitz out of the administration, Rumsfield wielding no power, and Bush leaving office in 2008 (not to suggest Bush is a neo-conservative, just that he is heavily surrounded and influenced by them in his cabinet).

Tocqueville argues in “Democracy in America” that the US will eventually face a democratic despotism somewhere down the road. He also goes on to say “It would seem that if despotism were to be established among the democratic nations of our days, it might assume a different character; it would be more extensive and more mild.” It seems as though Tocqueville defines the very heart of what democracy is as the reason it will one day become despotic in rule over the people. He says “Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd…” His analysis seems to overlook one major aspect of our Constitution; that no where in the supreme law of the land does it say ‘democracy,’ as we were founded upon a republic. In Federalist Paper #10 Madison proclaims “…democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths." If you juxtapose both of these statements it is clearly evident that they are strikingly similar.

So how then can Tocqueville critique something which was never created and in fact dismissed by our creators themselves? The fact of the matter is that our country is not headed towards ‘democratic despotism.’ If we are merely sheep, as Tocqueville seems to conclude, then why do politicians seek re-election by pandering to the masses and taking positions due to public opinion polls? The evolution of our democracy has indeed generated a form of ‘imperial presidency’, yet I have a difficult time accepting that the American people do not dictate the policies of this country, in some form or another. Our moral liberalist standards are cohesive with a responsive government which establishes the will of the people and the notion of legitimacy through fair and equal elections.

The model in which I have continued to argue is the sustaining status quo. America is not in an oppressed and oblivious state in my mind. Horsley’s Jesus and Empire confounds me in the deepest way. He’s main argument is that many Americans today think of us as the new Rome. According to Horsley this should be unsettling to Christians because Jesus was among those who the Roman Empire subdued. He traces the roots of America back to our founding and equates the covenantal principles with something that could be in accordance with Jesus’ covenant, and that we are steering from our path of social justice. What still bewilders me is his need for equating Rome to America. They are not even remotely the same, besides the fact that they are superpowers of their time. Horsley writes, “Since September 11, 2001, however, we can no longer rest comfortably with such domesticated pictures of Jesus. We can no longer ignore the impact of Western imperialism on subordinated people and the ways in which peoples whose lives have been invaded sometimes react." How can he say “subordinated people?” America does not acquire lands for the sole purpose of riches and territorial superiority. America does not subjugate and colonize overseas to enslave masses and culture. America does not shun away at a disaster half way around the world because it’s not in our interests; we give humanitarian aid, medicines, supplies, progress, technology, and higher economic standards of living with countries that open barriers of trade with us.

One major reason why we are not like Rome can be seen in mere statistics. America spends roughly 4% of it’s GDP on military expenditures. The Roman Empire spent close to 25% on its military dominance. America does not have a culture which embraces the propagation effort of our ‘imperialism’ rather you have the antithetical sentiment coming from writers, actors, and musicians of our day. According to Horsley, just because the US has military bases stationed in another land for control of potential foreign threats, that we somehow are “imperializing” the nation we have a mere presence within. We do not dictate the policy of Japan, like Rome did to Macedonia. We do not rule Germany like Rome ruled Judea. It is beyond irresponsible then to compare and contrast these two empires without first, defining empire, and then distinguishing the natural differences.


Adrian LaTrace Jr said...

"Through optimism and a restriction on laissez-faire economics, we overcame the Great Depression,"

Also through the utilization of many socialist programs as well. The government really had a big influence on the workforce at the time and as you know, many of these old programs still exist today. Not to say that I believe they still apply to the modern, 21st century American worker, but still, they are there/

Freedomnow said...

Thats exactly it, Mike.

By using the incorrect label "empire" these professors and pseudo philosophers that promote these college courses are not all concerned with education.

This is pure propaganda with a political agenda and contains no educational value at all.

It is similar to a researcher hired by a corporation seeking to promote their products. They will then utilize biased research through the compilation of incomplete data (excluding any data not friendly to its agenda). The conclusion is already determined before the research has begun and is disguised as science.

Your criticism of those who accuse the US of waging a religious crusade is very enlightening because it is our enemies that actually use such tactics.

The Democracy we helped to install in Afghanistan and Iraq reflects the religious preferences of their Muslim majorities.

Such crusader comments are not only wrong, but are the result of a campaign of misinformation coming from Western professors and "intellectuals".