Wednesday, April 13, 2005

The American Empire

I have just finished reading Niall Ferguson's Colossus: The Rise and Fall of the American Empire. It is a very provocative book that challenges conventional thinking. For example, conventional thinking holds that America is not an imperalist power. Yet Ferguson demonostrates very convincingly that America is an imperalist power, after all, it consumes 40-45% of the world's defence spending, American troops are stationed all over the world, it has significant cultural power (Hollywood, Resturants like McD's etc), and its levels of wealth are higher than Britain ever was at the height of her power. Americans may have an anti-imperalist mindset, yet they are nevertheless imperalists themselves. Rather than ending their imperalism, Ferguson argues they should embrace it. As Max Boot says, "Afghanistan and other troubled lands today cry out for the sort of ernlightenend foreign administration once provided by self confident Englishment in jodhpurs and pith helmets". This is the sentiment of the book. Check out this good review titled 'Right Man's Burden' and this interview with Niall Ferguson. My main problem with the book is ethical. As an historian, he never addresses the morality of Empires. He writes about the obvious benefits that Empires can bring to less propserous & stable parts of the world (e.g. Africa) but he never talks about the great human sacrifices necessary to carry out such missions. For example, he talks about the spectacular success of Germany and Japan after World War Two and calls it good because on a utilitarian basis it is. Yet from the perspective of the US it was a complete failure. As Ayn Rand says, the US "was left with an enormous national debt, augmented by the grotesquely futile policy of supporting former allies and enemies to this day". His problem lies in the assumption that Americans have a duty. This is why he suggests the draft. That is something I cannot accept. As I wrote in a essay 4 years back, "Conscription is an unmitigated outrage that involves public enslavement, the prohibition of individuality, unconditional obedience, and self-sacrifice that inevitably leads to disastrous consequences. The draft is a relic of the past that can only suit a totalitarian society. The history of conscription is a testament to its undesirability and alone provides ample empirical evidence for its rejection". His acceptance of the morality of the draft clearly shows how far apart my thinking is from his. Chris Matthew Sciabarra has written a brillant article which deals with libertarian theory in relation to many ideas coming out of the American foreign policy establishment (e..g Neo-conservatism).

Btw, I realise I havent posted in a while. I moved houses (pictures to come for friends/family) and therefore the Internet was down. I'll try to catch up :)


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