The American Empire has been on my mind.
Just yesterday, I was rereading some of my old books which helped shaped my views on the subject when the news broke about how Gen. Mark Milley launched a coup against President Donald Trump. Chalmers Johnson wrote a trilogy of books warning about something like this in the early 2000s.
The following excerpt comes from Chalmers Johnson’s book The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy and the End of the Republic.
“The Spanish-American War not only inaugurated an era of American imperialism but also set the United States on the path toward militarism. In traditional American political thought, large standing armies had been viewed as both unnecessary, since the United States was determined to avoid foreign wars, and a threat to liberty, because military discipline and military values were seen as incompatible with the openness of civilian life. In his famous Farewell Address of September 17, 1796, George Washington told his fellow Americans, “The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is – in extending our commercial relations – to have with them as little political connection as possible.” To twenty-first-century ears, this pronouncement seems highly idealistic and, if perhaps appropriate to a new and powerless nation, certainly not feasible for the world’s only “superpower.” Washington’s name is still sacrosanct in the United States, but the content of his advice is routinely dismissed as “isolationism.”
If you have traditional American views on race and culture and especially antiquated views (non-progressive views) on ideology and foreign policy, you are a “domestic extremist.” This is the jargon that the national security state now uses to demonize Americans who have the genetics of the Founders.
“Nonetheless, Washington had something quite specific in mind. He feared that the United States might develop a state apparatus, comparable to those of the autocratic states of Europe, that could displace the constitutional order. This would inevitably involve a growth in federal taxes to pay for the armies and bureaucracies of the state, a shift in political power from the constituent states of the union to the federal government, and a shift within the federal government from the preeminence of the Congress to that of the president, resulting in what we have come to call the “imperial presidency.” The surest route to these unwanted outcomes, in Washington’s mind, was foreign wars. As James Madison, the primary author of the Constitution, wrote: “Of all enemies to public liberty, war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few.” The Declaration of Independence accused the English king of having “affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power,” and the First Continental Congress condemned the use of the army to enforce the collection of taxes. These attitudes lasted about a century. With the Spanish-American War, the government began to build a military machine – and to tolerate the accompanying militarism – that by the end of the twentieth century had come to seem invincible.”
Ultimately, it wasn’t a foreign war that gave us this. It was the War Between the States. The Confederate side fought against the consolidation of the states and the centralization of power in Washington. Whether it was Jefferson Davis or Alexander Stephens or Robert Barnwell Rhett or John C. Calhoun or Robert E. Lee, the loss of state sovereignty was the central issue for all of them.
“The onset of militarism is commonly marked by three broad indicators. The first is the emergence of a professional military class and the subsequent glorification of its ideals. Professionalism became an issue during the Korean War (1950-53). The goal of professionalism is to produce soldiers who will fight solely and simply because they have been ordered to do so and not because they necessarily identify with, or have any interest in, the political goals of a war …
The second political hallmark of militarism is the preponderance of military officers or representatives of the arms industry in high government positions …
The third hallmark of militarism is a devotion to policies in which military preparedness becomes the highest priority of the state. In his inaugural address, President George W. Bush said, “We will build our defenses beyond challenge, lest weakness invite challenge. We will confront weapons of mass destruction, so that a new century is spared new horrors.”
I always hated this about Donald Trump.
Trump was a militarist. He surrounded himself with these generals and repeatedly took their awful advice. He always had delusions about the generals. He boasted about “rebuilding our military.” He held a huge military parade to show off the military like Emmanuel Macron in France.
Trump’s idea was that he could continue to feed this monster and that somehow he would have the power to rein it in and that it wouldn’t turn on him. “Mad Dog” Mattis exposed this delusion. When Trump attempted to withdraw from Syria, he resigned and had a meltdown. The withdrawal from Syria was walked back. The Pentagon strongarmed Trump and got its way. We are still in Syria today.
Note: As subsequent events would show, the Pentagon and “intelligence community” are a far greater threat to us than anyone in Syria.