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Monday, January 26, 2004
Empire & Frum
John Hawkins' interview with former Bush propaganda producer David Frum gives great insight into the empire being created by the "war on terror."
George W. Bush has said so many ridiculous and stupid things during his time as a national political figure that I can't help but wonder just how cynical he and his speechwriters must be for so willingly taking advantage of the public's general inability to think critically about they hear. But now, after reading this interview, I can't help but think that I might be wrong on this. Perhaps they aren't very intelligent or good at noticing logical inconsistencies for even as Frum attempts to refute the idea that the United States wants an empire, he says that an empire is exactly what the U.S. wants:
The last thing America is, is an empire. My counter example is; we very badly needed and expected to have Turkish support in the war on Iraq. The Turks didn't give it and that put a spanner in some of our planning. Now, imagine if this were the Romans. Imagine if the emperor Trajan were planning an operation in Mesopotamia and the Cappadocians told him he couldn't use their territory. He would have lined the highways with crucified Cappadocians. That's what empires do, they do not say, "Oh, we'll respect what your parliament says and come from another direction".A lot of (at least ostensible) confusion in the world, and in this case, results from different definitions of a particular term. If having an "empire" means controlling every aspect of the possessions of the Empire, then the U.S. does not appear to be seeking an empire. (Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri's Empire (Harvard University Press, 2000) and Chalmers Johnson's Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire (Henry Holt and Company, 2000) provide two very different alternate treatments of the term.) If it means not allowing countries to do these things that weaken the empire's position in the world, as it can quite reasonably be defined, then Frum's own statement suggests that the United States is building an empire.
Autonomy and sovereignty are respected except when doing otherwise benefits the Empire.
Frum gives two examples of this in the interview. He says he favors a "Palestinian state" but only one that doesn't conflict with the interests of the U.S. And he opposes European unification. The frogs, Frum writes, "have their own ambition to build a kind of European superstate as a counterweight to the United States. That's partly for reasons of national vanity and partly to protect their not very competitive national economy. This would be a terrible mistake for Europe. We need to rethink the traditional American position of almost unreflective support for unification. We have to understand that the wrong kind of European reunification can create real problems for the United States."
It is not in our interest so it must be mistake for those involved. And if it isn't inherently, we will make it one.
But perhaps I should just take Hawkins' word on the matter. In what Frum calls "a brilliant piece," Hawkins -who as far as I can tell has no War State power of any kind- argues that the U.S. is "not an 'empire'" and has "no desire to become one" because "[o]ur ancestors came to America in the first place to GET AWAY from everyone else in the world."
I'm sure Ethan Edwards felt the same way.
To Frum's credit, he does acknowledge in the interview that U.S. support for dictators does have costs. Of course he does not consider the option of eliminating support for these countries without trying to control them. Intervention apparently is a given in the “war on terror” and the construction of an empire that dare not speak its name.