Friday, July 08, 2005

Useless Power

Charles Featherstone of LRC had another fantastic commentary yesterday, which I somehow missed. For all its belligerence and bluster, he says, the Empire is already crumbling:
America's Army, Navy and Air Force have become useless instruments. Our soldiers can occupy, our planes can bomb relentlessly and with precision, our ships can patrol the seas, but who fears us now? Five years ago, when the glow of the War to Liberate Kuwait and air offensive against Yugoslavia still made American arms appear invincible, perhaps the governments and peoples of the world trembled at the thought of the United States military. But today, when a few thousand insurgents can tie down, tire and incapacitate that Army, what is there to left to fear?

Some governments may still quake at the thought of air strikes and the destruction of government "capital" and "investments" they would bring. But a people determined to resist us can look at Iraq and take heart – yes, we can be beaten. It's not all that hard.

[Paul] Harvey is right to fear defeat. In many ways, we have already lost.

When our whole approach to fighting "terror" is to inflict pain on people until they behave they way we want, what do we do when they can take all the pain we have to give? How much more pain are we willing – or able – to inflict until we realize the pointlessness of it all? Or until conscience confronts us?

And how many hydrogen bombs are we willing to use? One? Two? A dozen? A hundred? And if people still resist, or are driven to resist, what then? Shall we destroy the entire world?

We have unleashed our power upon the world only to discover that it is terribly finite, a great deal more limited than we hoped and imagined. Hundreds of billions of dollars spent on bombs, tanks, planes, soldiers, and every passing day we are less and less able to bend the world to our will.

A whole arsenal of useless power.

Those who engineered the rise of the American Empire in the mid-1990s wanted it to be both feared and loved. Bush II decided to dispense with love; "Oderint dum metuant" really did become the Imperial motto. But now the fear is almost gone, and hate is all that remains. Now what?

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