Monday, February 3
The US is ignoring an important lesson from history - that an empire cannot survive on brute force alone
Madeleine Bunting, The Guardian, February 3, 2003

There are plenty of things to keep Tony Blair awake at night these days, as his grey, haggard features after last week's diplo-marathon indicated. In his nightmares of the Pentagon cooking up new hare-brained schemes and dirty bombs on the underground, a new anxiety must have begun to niggle - those domestic commentators who have started being so horribly nice to him. He's a "great statesman" now, one of the "greatest prime ministers"; it's when things are getting really bad - you're dying, for instance - that people start being this nice.

It is easy to criticise Blair's foreign policy. It's very easy to see that going to war with Iraq is at best unwise, at worst crazily dangerous; it has little justification, it sets a dangerous precedent and has no clear objective. What is far less easy and a deeply dispiriting task is to consider how the European centre-left responds to the new world order that this crisis starkly reveals. American imperialism used to be a fiction of the far-left imagination, now it is an uncomfortable fact of life.

How is the centre-left to accommodate the US's newly aggressive imperialist mission emboldened by a 9/11 licence from its electorate? Afghanistan was simply the starter, Iraq an antipasto in what could turn out to be one of those interminable feasts - course after course until a pot-bellied US reels punch drunk from the table.

With US imperialism openly discussed on both sides of the Atlantic, the debate centres on three critical questions: will the empire corrupt and/or bankrupt the republic; by what administrative techniques should it exercise power; and is it basically benign? The first prompts one of those defining moments in a nation's understanding of itself
- what is the US will for imperial power, and what price is it prepared to pay in living standards and civil liberties?
Guantanamo Bay, the debate over the use of torture, and growing government spending deficits are a foretaste of what lies ahead.
But the key unknown is, can a consumer culture support empire? .... (more)

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