It perhaps tells us a good deal about the imperial mentality now settling into the crania of many Americans that few people seemed to detect any irony in the Washington Post headline last Thursday: "President Details Vision for Iraq." [By Dana Milbank and Peter Slevin, February 27, 2003]
Why the president of the United States should be possessed of any "vision" whatsoever about the future of Iraq or any other foreign country is not explained.
But of course the explanation should be obvious enough.
The explanation is that the United States is now entering into yet another phase of its imperial age. For all the talk about whether we "should" or "should not" become an empire, the truth is that we have been one since at least the First World War and actually started becoming one some decades earlier.
The Cold War era completed the transition from Republic to Empire, though even then most Americans still had the decency to deny it. But the post-Cold War era, when we had one last chance to chuck imperial pretensions and mind our own business, has seen the imperial mantle more or less tattooed into our national skin.
The coming crusade for "democracy" in Iraq merely confirms it.
In his speech to the American Enterprise Institute[read, listen, view] in Washington last week, President Bush explicitly denied the imperial ambitions that many critics of his policies have begun to suspect. "The United States has no intention of determining the precise form of Iraq's new government," he pronounced, and "We will remain in Iraq as long as necessary and not a day more."
But then no one who understands the nature of the New World Order and the new imperialism on which it is based thinks otherwise.
Imperialism today rejects such old-fashioned stunts as planting the flag on foreign shores and establishing formal political control over territory that doesn't belong to us. The very crusade to export democracy, global capitalism, and the transnational pop-culture glop that binds them all together into a unified system of hegemony doesn't need such formalities as flags, borders and separate nation-states.
What imperialism needs today is the military power to crush whatever groups challenge it and the economic and cultural power to manipulate how mass populations think and behave—precisely what the president discussed last week.
"We will deliver medicine to the sick" and "three million emergency rations to feed the hungry," and we will stock food distribution centers and take care of refugees too.
Without question there are genuine humanitarian motives in all this, but those who plan and implement such programs also know that such assistance is at least as effective a means of control as the missiles and planes that will overthrow Saddam.
Mr. Bush was quick to make a case that Iraq could achieve a democratic form of government just as Germany and Japan did earlier under U.S. auspices. What he ignores is that Iraq is neither Japan nor Germany.
Japan had experienced nearly a century of Westernization prior to its occupation by U.S. troops in 1945 and had not only a parliamentary form of government under the emperor but also a powerful industrial base and a population that knew how to build and operate it. Germany had much the same, even more so.
Iraq has none of the above, and neither presidential oratory nor the war Mr. Bush is licking his whiskers to wage will help it get them.
The truth is that if democracy did come to Iraq, the country would explode into the very ethnic, religious and regional blocs the administration is even now trying to juggle against the interests of other regional states.
Even as Mr. Bush boasted of the "democracy" he spies in the Iraqi future, Washington tried but failed to cut a deal with Turkey to stop Iraqi Kurds from setting up their own government and thereby threatening to destabilize the Turkish state.
In a genuinely democratic Iraq, the Kurds would have their own state.
Nor would a democratic Iraq and Middle East be anywhere near as pro-American as the semi-feudal despotisms that now rule the region.
If the mass demonstrations supporting Osama bin Laden after 9/11 proved anything, it was that the people who live there are not exactly America's friends. Nor are they pining for the Westernization of culture, economy and government as Mr. Bush seems to imagine.
What is striking about the president's speech and about all the plans that periodically creep out of the Pentagon, the White House, the State Department and other U.S. agencies is that at no time has it occurred to anyone to ask whether the people of Iraq really want what we have to offer them.
Then again, in the thoroughly modern form of imperialism that lurks behind Mr. Bush's shiny rhetoric, there's no reason whatsoever why anyone should ask them.
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[Sam Francis [email him] is a nationally syndicated columnist. A selection of his columns, America Extinguished: Mass Immigration And The Disintegration Of American Culture, is now available from Americans For Immigration Control.]