by Jon Basil Utley
WASHINGTON, DC - As Washington and China move towards possible war, an
Australian has forewarned Americans about how the British Empire lasted so long.
England, observes Owen Harries in the Spring 2001 National Interest, was the
"only hegemon that did not attract a hostile coalition against itself. It
avoided that fate by showing great restraint, prudence and discrimination in the
use of its power in the main political arena - by generally standing aloof and
restricting itself to the role of balancer of last resort. In doing so it was
heeding the warning given it by Edmund Burke, just as its era of supremacy was
beginning: 'I dread our own power and our own ambition. I dread being too much
Notes Harries, "I believe the United States is now in dire need of such a
Instead of understanding such warnings, however, America is forging a world
alliance against itself. Russia is now allying with China and India and Iran
against American hegemony. Much if not most of the Muslim world fears and hates
American policies, if not Americans. Europe is going neutral and America's Asian
allies want no part in a conflict between China and America. New embassies are
built like Star Wars' fortresses and the U.S. Navy has fearfully cut back shore
leave in much of the world.
How did the "world's only super power" become so isolated and afraid for its
The "Wolfowitz Doctrine" is named for No. 2 man at the Defense Department
and key Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld confidant Paul Wolfowitz - former director of the
Johns Hopkins School for Advanced International Studies, known for his support
of NATO expansion and the attack on Serbia.
As the New York Times summed it, Wolfowitz's doctrine argues that America's
political and military mission should "ensure that no rival superpower is
allowed to emerge. With its focus on this concept of benevolent domination by
one power, the Pentagon document articulates the clearest rejection to date of
collective internationalism." Its core thesis, described by Ben Wattenberg in
the April 12 Washington Times, is "to guard against the emergence of hostile
regional superpowers, for example, Iraq or China. ... America is No. 1. We stand
for something decent and important. That's good for us and good for the world.
That's the way we want to keep it."
Unfortunately, many foreigners compare it to the old General Motors claim,
"What's good for GM is good for America." Even though there is truth to the
claim of Americans' fundamental decency, since Athenian times democracies have
been unable to run empires. Foreign policy is made in response to sensationalist
TV news and domestic politics, not with a view to national interests, but rather
for money and votes for the next election. Witness NATO expansion with all its
negative consequences for Russian relations and resultant high-tech arming of
China. It was promised in the Midwest by Clinton during the 1996 campaign to
gain votes from Americans of East European descent.
Imagine how long the Roman empire would have lasted if there had been a
Visigoth or Egyptian lobby pushing its agenda on Roman foreign policy. The Roman
Empire resulted in the end of the Roman republic and freedom. The English empire
failed when the electoral franchise grew so much that voters could thwart the
elites' rule. Still, many conservatives - who argue that the government can't
run a nursery - have fallen for the concept that it can run the world.
Further confusing American interests, there are also elements in Washington
that look at real or imagined threats abroad with great favor. The old
military-industrial complex has grown to become the overwhelming
military-industrial-congressional establishment. Its power is reflected by the
difficulty of closing unnecessary bases and the wasteful weapons purchasing
process, as evidenced by ordering weapons before they are fully tested, e.g. the
ill-fated Osprey helicopter, manufactured in 42 states and congressional
districts. Yet we imagine wars without casualties, with exciting "bang bang" for
TV, and with no hurtful consequences for our homeland. Foreigners are not going
to oblige us, but more likely will wage wars of terrorism from unknown quarters,
possibly even with horrendous biological weapons which are fast being developed.
Ruling the world is not even a "conservative" position. "First," writes
William Ruger for Reason, "it is a policy that will threaten rather than
preserve many of America's traditional values, such as individual liberty, small
government and anti-militarism. As most historians point out, war and preparing
for war are the soils that nurture the growth of state power, burdensome
taxation, conscription, and militarism. If American conservatism should stand
for anything, it should be the goal of limited government. Yet the primacist
policies (of empire) here guarantee the opposite: a leviathan." The first "cost"
of empire will be the loss of many of our own freedoms and prosperity.
Yet many conservatives are showing a passion for confrontation with China
nearly comparable to that in England before World War I, when street
demonstrations demanded war with Germany. Indeed another parallel can be drawn
for America. England's efforts to prevent Germany from gaining its "place in the
sun," its "Wolfowitz Doctrine," led to the end of the British Empire and its
"superpower" status, even though it "won the war." After 1914, for nearly half a
century, most Englanders then lived in poverty.
In many ways China's ascendancy today is comparable to that of Germany back
then; so also did the English think that World War I would be over fast and
without great pain. And for what? Answering those "crying Wolfowitz," Craig
Smith points out in the May 15 New York Times, China and Taiwan are actually
thriving together - not the image one gets from many "conservative"
To preserve our own freedoms and best serve the rest of the world, our
foreign policy should be non-interventionist, non-threatening and
non-militaristic. With economic strength and a politics of fairness and
non-intervention, we can prosper and keep our own freedom. We don't need an
empire and empire won't bring us security. America is simply incapable of any
other consistent foreign policy.
America should be a beacon, because it can't be a competent policeman.
[Mr. Utley is Robert A. Taft Fellow at the Ludwig
von Mises Institute. He was formerly a foreign correspondent in South America
for Knight Ridder Newspapers, has written for the Harvard Business Review and
Washington Post, and was formerly a director of Accuracy in Media, a
contributing editor to Conservative Digest and affiliated with many
"Democracy in America was never the same as Liberty in Europe. In Europe Liberty was a
great life-throb. But in America Democracy was always something anti-life. The greatest
democrats, like Abraham Lincoln, had always a sacrificial, self-murdering note in their
voices. American Democracy was a form of self-murder, always. Or of murdering somebody
else... The love, the democracy, the floundering into lust, is a sort of by-play. The
essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic, and a killer. It has never yet melted."
-- D.H. Lawrence, Studies in Classic American Literature
"Values You May NOT Want To Teach Children",
The Wisdom Fund, September 12, 1996
[When Bush speaks of freedom as God's gift to humanity, does he mean the First
Amendment freedom of Larry Flynt to produce pornography and of Salman Rushdie to
publish The Satanic Verses, a book considered blasphemous to the Islamic faith? If
the Islamic world rejects this notion of freedom, why is it our duty to change their
thinking? Why are they wrong?
. . . The great moral and cultural threats to our civilization come not from
outside America, but from within. We have met the enemy, and he is us. The war for
the soul of America is not going to be lost or won in Fallujah.
Unfortunately, Pagan America of 2004 has far less to offer the world in cultural
fare than did Christian America of 1954. Many of the movies, books, magazines, TV
shows, videos and much of the music we export to the world are as poisonous as the
narcotics the Royal Navy forced on the Chinese people in the Opium Wars.
A society that accepts the killing of a third of its babies as women's
"emancipation," that considers homosexual marriage to be social progress, that hands
out contraceptives to 13-year-old girls at junior high ought to be seeking out a
confessional Ð better yet, an exorcist Ð rather than striding into a pulpit like
Elmer Gantry to lecture mankind on the superiority of "American values."--Patrick J.
Buchanan, "What Does America
Offer the World?", Antiwar.com, May 19, 2004]
[The father of Nick Berg - the US civilian beheaded in Iraq - has sent a message of
support to the Stop the War Coalition.--"Berg father backs anti-war
stance", BBC, May 19, 2004]
[While the circumstances surrounding both the video and Nick Berg's last days have
been the source of substantive speculation, both Simpson and Nordby perceived it as
highly probable that Berg had died some time prior to his decapitation. A factor in
this was an apparent lack of the "massive" arterial bleeding such an act
initiates.--Ritt Goldstein, "Berg beheading: No
way, say medical experts", Asia Times, May 22, 2004]
[But then, it's an article of faith in our public discourse that we wage war
differently from our enemies. At present, we luxuriate in our moral superiority over
thugs who behead the innocent, but all along we have deemed ourselves civilized
warriors in Iraq. We have based that opinion on our methods, which permit us to deny
the death we have wrought, and our motives, which let us justify it.
. . . we must admit that the killing of an unknown Iraqi child by the push of a
button miles away is no less immoral than the televised slaughter of an American
adult by a butcher's knife.--Michael Takiff, "They Behead; We Do It With Smart Bombs", Los Angeles
Times, July 4, 2004]
Copyright © 2001 Jon Basil Utley - All Rights