Occasionally we turn to the editorial pages. Perhaps we are feeling guilty about something and in need of punishment. Or maybe we are just looking for a laugh. On this latter quest, we are usually disappointed. We have not seen a column by Thomas L. Friedman for months.
But opening up yesterday’s International Herald Tribune we found a editorial by James Carroll of the Boston Globe. It is worth reading. Carroll describes America’s curious obsession with “national security.” We have wondered about it too. America’s national security is the least endangered of any national security in the entire world. The United States has the world’s biggest military, by far… and has forward bases all over the world. It is protected by two immense oceans and the tightest border checks outside of North Korea. The security of individual Americans may be in danger… not much from foreign governments or freelance terrorists, but certainly from home-grown criminals… but the nation is as secure as any nation ever has been. It has no enemies capable of launching a substantial attack. The pentagon is clearly the goliath of modern armies; even if the whole world ganged up against it, it would only be an even fight.
While America’s own national security is safe, it regularly puts other nations’ security in danger, in the name of its own ‘national security.’ Why?
“Military power… functions in America the way state religion has functioned in other societies,” writes Carroll. “The Pentagon is the temple of this religion. It has dogmas, rituals, high priesthood, saints, cults of sacrifice, sacred language and a justifying narrative… what theologians call “salvation history.”
When John McCain warns of “taking a holiday from history” he is speaking the language of the pentagon and cultivating America’s delusion of danger, says Carroll, who finds the whole thing remarkable and depressing.
But here at Markets and Money, we see it as just another sideshow in the Big Picture. America operates a huge empire. And an empire is essentially a military enterprise. It depends on the support of the masses, of course, who need to feel under constant threat of barbarian invasion to justify the huge expense of it.
Americans, as we pointed out in our book, Empire of Debt, never got the hang of empire. They send their centurions all over the world to provide stability and order, but they forget to charge for it. They do it at their own expense… which quickly becomes a losing proposition. Today, the pentagon’s imperial agenda is bankrupting America… but no candidate for the White House – save our invisible friend, Dr. Ron Paul – has bothered to even mention it.
Americans have great respect for their military power… and count on it to keep them on top of the world. The people feel proud, and believe their success – even their survival — depends on their military power, not their economic power.
“Yet ‘national security is bogus,” writes Carroll,” – part ghost story with which the nation scares itself at bedtime, part nightly prayer with which it then goes to sleep.”
He does not say so, but the empire is not bogus. It is real. And Americans are fearful because they are afraid it is peaking out. They are right. Old empires must die to make room for new ones. The world must turn. Change happens, whether you want it or not. And the military man, backed by the mob of half-wit voters, will want to fight it. That is when the bedtime dream becomes a nightmare.
Markets and Money