Dissidents and critics of the powers that be are often accused of being negative – tearing things down, undermining, never offering a positive alternative vision. Now, I happen to disagree with this. I believe that people who work in waste management – clearing away the garbage, the poisons, the crap – are just as important to the life and health of a community as, say, an architect who makes the community beautiful, or a teacher who educates the young, or doctors who heal the sick and so on.
But – it so happens that I do have a positive program to offer, a viable, workable, practical approach to many of our problems. This is what my program offers:
What's more, this program requires no social upheaval, no political turmoil, no violence – no revolution from either Left or Right. It can be accomplished entirely within the existing political and economic system. It needs no new government powers, no new bureaucracies, no new taxes.
All it requires is simply this: Bring America Home. End our worldwide military empire.
As I noted the other day, ending America's imperial wars and dismantling America's global military empire – and its global gulag -- would save trillions of dollars in the coming years. Not only from cuts in direct military spending, but also from the vastly reduced need for "Homeland security" funding in a world where the United States was no longer invading foreign lands, killing their people, supporting their tyrants -- and inciting revenge and resistance.
This would release a flood of money for any number of new domestic initiatives, while also giving scope for deep tax cuts across the board. Working people would thrive, the poor, the sick and the vulnerable would be better off, businesses would grow, opportunity would expand, the care and education of our children would be greatly enhanced, our infrastructure could be repaired and strengthened, our environment better cleansed and cared for. The end of empire would also mean an end to the horrendous economic distortion wrought by our war-profiteering industries. Other businesses would inevitably come to the fore, economic activity would be spread more evenly across more sectors.
In short, people could keep more of their own money while government spending could be directed toward improving the quality of life of all the nation's citizens.
Now, this is not some pie-in-the-sky dream. We all have our own ideas and beliefs about what consitutes the good life, or the best kind of society. And in a post-empire America, there would be plenty of scope for heated debate on all kinds of issues; ideological conflicts, 'culture wars,' partisan wrangling, would go on. And of course there would still be injustice, corruption, and much suffering in society. So we're not talking about a utopia.
But – it would be a better society than it is now. It would be more humane, more just, more secure, more peaceful, more sustainable, more prosperous than it is now. And all our culture wars and political conflicts would take place in a healthier context, in a freer land, where the focus is on "the pursuit of happiness," not the "projection of dominance" around the world.
This alternative is entirely achievable, by ordinary human beings. It requires no miracles, no god-like heroes or messianic leaders to bring it about. We could easily dismantle the empire – carefully, safely, with proper planning and deliberation – over the next 10 years.
So that's my blueprint for a better future: Bring America Home. It's not revolution, it's not rocket science, it's not dogmatic or doctrinaire. You could support this and still be a Democrat or a Republican, a Baptist or a Marxist, a Muslim or a Jew, a Libertarian or a Green, an environmentalist or an industrialist, a physicist or an alchemist, a soldier or a pacificist – because it's not about trying to build the perfect society, it's not about promulgating, promoting -- or imposing -- a wide-ranging agenda or particular set of policies. It's about taking a single, simple step that will automatically make life better than it is today – for Americans, and for the rest of the world.
Of course, as I noted to Scott, although this vision is itself very reasonable, practicable, doable -- heck, downright serious, moderate and bipartisan, even, as we are told we must be in order to "get things done" -- what is perhaps utopian is the idea that our political and media elites would allow this message to be heard. As I put it in that earlier piece (with a few additions here):
But [a post-imperial] society is precisely what our elites cannot -- or, to be more accurate, will not -- imagine. Because, yes, it would "erode" their "influence" around the world -- to some extent, at least. Although they would still be comfortable, coddled and privileged far beyond the dreams of ordinary people, they could no longer merge their individual psyches with the larger entity of a globe-spanning, death-dealing empire -- a connection which, although itself a projection of their own brains, gives them a forever-inflated sense of worth and importance.
So they will fight tooth and nail, with every weapon they have -- and they've got 'em all -- to resist any message that threatens their "cabin'd, cribb'd, confined" minds. They will, as they have always done, trivialize, marginalize, mock, dismiss and demonize anyone who even questions the wisdom of maintaining a global empire of up to 1,000 military installations in more than 100 countries -- and the bloated, belligerent war machine required to support and expand this global military dominance.
They will also, as they have always done, use the ancient imperial tactic of "divide and conquer," setting the opponents of empire against each other: "Ooh, you're a liberal, how can you cozy up to a reactionary like Ron Paul?" "Oh come on, you're a conservative; you want to jump in bed with a commie America-hater like Noam Chomsky?" And so on and so forth.
But that is one thing in favor of a single-minded approach. No one has to "marry" anyone else politically; no one has to embrace every tenet or belief that an anti-imperialist ally might hold. You simply have to say: "All of us, regardless of our other views, believe this truth to be self-evident: dismantling the empire will bring immediate and enormous benefits to our nation and to the world."
And the plain fact is that America's military empire is unsustainable. It is going to be diminished, degraded and finally lost, one way or another, at some point or another. The only question is whether Americans want to control that process themselves -- to dismantle their empire carefully, responsibly, and beneficially, on their own terms, in a way that would renew the nation's prosperity and opportunity -- or if they want to see it collapse around their ears, in blood and ruin, blighting their lives and the lives of their children for generations.
And speaking in strictly political terms, a one-plank program that guaranteed lower taxes, more jobs, more security and all the other benefits enumerated above sounds to me like a winning hand. It's certainly one worth laying on the table.
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This story was published in the Baltimore Chronicle on February 25, 2010.