Take a look at the size of the defense budget in America today as a percentage of federal spending.
In 2015, it accounted for 53.71% of the entire budget. Now, try to image what would happen to our economy if that spending was stopped and not immediately replaced by other federal spending. See the problem? We may have been warned by President Eisenhower about the military industrial complex. However, the thing he forgot to tell us was that the military industrial complex had already won and that we as a nation are dependent on military spending, which is dependent on continuing crisis, wars, and garrison duties around the world.
In other words, when our most idealistic sings give peace a chance while they are giddy in their idealism, if we chose to follow their advice, it will lead us all to depression.
What is the result of all this?
The Empire has swallowed the Republic.
How can we know that? What guide is there to evaluate if this is so?
Garet Garret, that great critic of the New Deal revolution which changed America forever outlined the characteristics of empire:
(1) Rise of the executive principle of government to a position of dominant power
(2) Accommodation of domestic policy to foreign policy
(3) Ascendancy of the military mind
(4) A system of satellite nations for a purpose called collective security, and,
(5) An emotional complex of vaunting and fear.
There are other versions of this metric used to recognize an empire.
1. Imperial boundaries – there is a distinction between imperial and non-imperial space.
2. Dissolution of equality – subordinates are considered to be “client states” or “satellites.” In other words, international relations are not between equals, but between a “center” and a “periphery.”
3. The existence of most empires has been due to a mix of chance and contingency – most empires do not arise due to “will to empire” (imperialism) or a grand strategy, but rather a series of circumstances that lead to increased power and control of people and/or territories.
4. The capacity for reform and regeneration – an empire does not need to necessarily hold to the qualities of the original situation in which it was conceived. Often they become independent of the values/qualities of the founder(s).
5. Inability to remain neutral in relation to the powers in its sphere of influence – empires will retaliate if there is an attempt at independence or non-participation on the part of its subordinates.
Ask yourself, are any of the current crop of presidential candidates from either side of the government party talking about ending America’s crushing commitment to empire?
If we would bring our troops home, use them to guard our borders, and hold them in reserve to protect our genuine interests, we would have all the money we need to do anything we want.
Whichever guide for recognizing an empire you choose—one of these or any of the many others available—America transitioned long ago from a peaceful nation of farmers, shop keepers, and mechanics into a worldwide empire projecting power for many reasons, few of which have anything to do with either our vital interests or our security. We have garrison troops in over one hundred nations. We are spending billions building infrastructure for people who burn it down while our own nation crumbles.
We are spending ourselves into the poor house for nations that hate us. Which brings us back to the problem imagined in the beginning of this essay: what would happen to our economy if that spending was stopped and not immediately replaced by other federal spending?
The answer to this question is found in a fundamental need in the American psyche: the need for a mission. Today, our mission is portrayed as being the world’s unipolar hegemon involved in everything everywhere–a role completely inappropriate and incompatible with a free republic. History is littered with the dust left behind by republics that have tried it and found themselves becoming slave states with imperial dictators on their way to being debtors who collapse in economic ruin. Look at Athens. Look at Rome. If they could not avoid this, how can we?
I know many will try to broad brush these thoughts with the stain of isolationism or America First. For one, I am not advocating for isolation because I advocate for peace and trade with all. And secondly, I don’t think there is anything wrong with Americans thinking of America first.
Here is my solution. End our occupation of Europe and Korea. Stop the endless war in Afghanistan. Close every military base in the world that does not directly protect the Homeland. Build effective walls on our borders and use our returning troops to garrison them. Instead of providing military aid to other nations, refit, retrain, and retain our own military so that it is unthinkable that anyone would challenge us.
And what shall be our new national goal?
Let us dedicate ourselves to once again becoming not only the preeminent, space-faring nation, but also the nation that sets its sights on the active exploration and colonization of the Solar System. I believe if we build the Starship Enterprise in earth orbit, no one would dare becoming the target for its phaser banks. The technology that would evolve from a renewed move into space would expand our lives and offset the cost.
Today, we are a dysfunctional republic masquerading as a functional democracy. Tomorrow, we may be an operating oligarchy with the veneer of a republic. Following this trajectory, how long will it be until we are a third world hellhole that used to be the United States of America.
As Garet Garret, told us “There are those who still think they are holding the pass against a revolution that may be coming up the road. But they are gazing in the wrong direction. The revolution is behind them. It went by in the Night of Depression, singing songs to freedom.”
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