These days, it's getting very difficult to understand just what American foreign policy is all about. Under the direction of George W. Bush, the United States of America has adopted a severe, militaristic attitude toward the rest of the world.
Bush informed the world in his characteristically simple and certain terms: You're either with us or you're against us. What Bush never bothered to tell the world is what being "with us" or "against us" really meant. Many nations saw enough of Bush to be afraid of being "against us", but just what was Bush planning for the nations that he could pressure into being "with us"?
The Bush Administration gave a similar message to Americans. It was time to stand united. It was time for Americans to stop asking questions. As Bush said in the closing days of his re-election campaign, his plan for America and the world depended upon everyone showing unwavering resolve in support Bush. At times, it seemed that uncertainty itself was Bush's most hated enemy.
Bush has asked the entire world to follow him on faith. It's no wonder that people are left wondering exactly what Bush's plan was. Bush never thought that he owed it to anyone to explain what he was up to.
Well, there are some people, in America and in the rest of the world, who have been happy to follow the commands of George W. Bush on faith alone. We are not among these people. Faith in Bush has led his followers into disaster after disaster. We're looking for answers.
George W. Bush is not providing answers now, and he probably never will. So, if we want answers, if we want to understand what Bush has made of American foreign policy, all we can do is look at the facts that are available, and come to some educated guesses where America is now headed.A Most Irregular Geography
For the sake of this article, the facts I'm most interested in are geographic. Where Bush has led us can tell us a great deal about where the Republicans are planning to take us in the future. A quick glance at this geography gives a glimpse at a deeply frightening future.
So far, the wars of the Bush family have led us to occupy three nations in southwest Asia: Kuwait, Afghanistan and Iraq. In addition, George W. Bush has ordered the Pentagon to draw up war plans designed to overthrow the governments of Syria and Iraq, replacing them with governments friendly to America. These war plans are not just the product of idle Internet rumors. They exist in fact, and have been reported upon by reputable news agencies.
Now, to a lot of Americans, Syria, Iraq, Kuwait, Iran, and Afghanistan are just vaguely exotic-sounding places. Many Americans could not find even one of these countries on a map of the world. It may be because of the geographic ignorance of so much of the American public that so few Americans have yet to begin questioning what the Bush family and the Republican Party that they dominate is really up to.
Take any world map, and color in the nations of Syria, Iraq, Kuwait, Iran and Afghanistan, and you'll get something that looks like the map below:
The chunk of territory that would result from the full implementation of Bush's military agenda would be a new empire of the like unseen in the Middle East since the fall of the Ottomans. This empire would stretch all the way from the Mediterranean Sea to the western borders of Pakistan and China.
Perhaps the nations currently occupying this territory would retain sovereignty in name. Perhaps they would each be governed in different ways. However, in the direction that Bush's plans seem to be taking us, each one of these nations would be securely under America's control.The Risks of Our Future Empire
The dangers in the pursuit of such an empire are many. Most obviously, the already-thin American military would be forced to expose itself in an even larger area of hostile foreign land.
The proximity of all these nations to the largest reserves of oil left on Earth, under and around the Caspian Sea, would cause them to be an attractive target to other powers in the area. Besides the oil-rich Arabs, the Chinese, the Russians and the Europeans are all very close by, and non-Arab muslims could easily unite against an America foe in their midst. If the United States were to attempt to grab and occupy this stretch of land in Asia, it could very easily ignite a new world war.
The most frightening aspect of such a war is that so many nations with nuclear weapons would be involved. China, Russia, Europe, Israel, Pakistan and India surround the empire. Besides that, Iran, which we would have to take over to implement Bush's plan, is within weeks of building its own nuclear weapons. Even if the Americans are not themselves responsible for igniting a war among these parties, any pair could start a war on its own, and we would be compelled to take part in the war because of our occupation of large stretches of land in the area. Indeed, this danger already exists. Control over Iran and Syria would merely exacerbate the risk.
At home, the consequences of building Bush's Asian empire would run throughout our system. We could not support the prolonged war necessary to the effort without amplifying the draconian cuts that George W. Bush has already made to our social network. Education and health care would have to become minimal, and our nation's elderly citizens would be thoroughly neglected. Our domestic infrastructure would quickly crumble, and we would suffer through an economic depression that would make the Great Depression of the 20th Century seem like a mere blue mood.The Price of Hyper-Morality
What's so odd is that the very Republicans who rattle on so about fiscal responsibility do not seem at all bothered by the costs of this emerging empire. To them, it is the result of a moral crusade. Because it is an issue of absolute morality for fervent Republicans, it is to them beyond questioning and beyond price.
The greatest price of this emerging empire, therefore, would be the last shreds of American rationalism. In American, the new culture of empire is a culture of deep and absolute faith. As has been shown in the last few years, that faith is unbreakable even by the most dramatic of failures and deceptions by the empire movement's leaders. For the followers of the empire plan, increasing hardship breeds increasing resolve.
It is for this reason that I worry: For two years, it has seemed to American progressives that the Bush Administration could not possibly launch new wars against Syria and Iran. To do so would be completely unreasonable, given the circumstances. What we progressives fail to account for is that George W. Bush's supporters rally to their president most strongly and become most extreme precisely when it seems that their agenda is most unreasonable.
Every month, the widening gap between reality and the Republican interpretation of reality is causing the Republican movement for empire at home and abroad less rational and more religious in nature. Across America, Republicans are expressing their adulation of George W. Bush in increasingly messianic terms, speaking of their belief that Bush is a modern day prophet who has been sent by God to lead America according to God's word.
For many Americans, Bush is less President of the United States than high priest of the United States. In their minds, when Bush speaks, God speaks.
So, when God himself commands the American people to build an empire in "the Holy Land", who is the increasingly faithful American public to disobey? Bush, and God, will deliver them through any adversity, they believe.
Now that America has become a real estate agent in the Middle East, there are risks to any course of action. We have already triggered a surge of radicalism among the "enemy" people, the followers of Islam in Asia. We will be stung.
The best choice before us is the choice of lesser pain. To remain in Asia requires America to expand its holdings. To leave Asia requires America to give up what holdings it has, and allow Islamic militants to feel a momentary sense of triumph.
However, as America learned when George W. Bush declared "Mission Accomplished" in May of 2003, the feeling of triumph is not the same thing as triumph itself. In an inherently flawed military misadventure such as the Iraq War, the only way to win is to cut one's losses.
The only victory now possible for America in the Middle East is the victory of a clean escape. As alluring as the dream of a holy crusade for empire is for many Americans, an equal number of Americans are working with dedication to return America to a path of principled self-control.
An American empire in Asia is the logical outgrowth of current foreign policy, but it is not inevitable. The chaos of 2000 and the stark choice of 2004 are part of an ongoing internal struggle within the United States that is as great as the struggle preceding the Civil War. Only a fool would predict which vision will prevail, and there is yet time to step back from where we stand, at the brink of messianic imperialism.
Join the struggle. It's going to be a very interesting ride.
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