I think the questions engendered by the concept of Pax Americana are vital to the continued health, strength, and future of our nation. Do we truly live in such a changed world that we must entirely jettison every reason and precept of the American Revolution and our Founding Fathers in favor of a neo-British-Empire (our new American Empire) with exactly all of the same excesses, abuses, and problems that our forefathers rebelled against?
I don't think the average American is even aware that we have over 6,000 large, complex, and wildly expensive bases worldwide. While many of them are here in the states to protect our borders and train our forces, literally thousands of them are not. These are not temporary bases in response to an existing security threat. These are permanent military installations in over 130 countries and growing all the time. Most nations where we run these small colonial "footprints" (as our current leaders like to call them) are understandably scared to death of opposing the American hegemony and asking for their sovereignty back.
The once independent, non-Imperial 'United States' have only recently been building this Empire. Before WWII, almost none of it was in place. Every decade since, our rhetoric and action have increasingly accelerated towards Empire. Perhaps a modicum of increased defense was required in the changed world, but I would argue we've gone much too far and we're headed the wrong direction.
Many of my friends and colleagues welcome this recent turn of events. "Somebody has to force the world to be a safe place," they argue. "Who better than us? I am sure," they contend, "that we are better than anybody else to consider the worlds' best interests as we send our military out to enforce democracy."
Those ideas, however, are wrong in so many ways! If you are Mormon and reading this, than I am certain you can see the philosophical parallels to what we believe to be one of the fundamental differences between the Savior and the Devil. The Savior upheld the universal necessity of free will, while the Devil proposed a radical new hierarchy wherein morality would be forced with [what he argued was a negligible] loss of freedom and autonomy.
Ron Paul talks about the sovereignty of nations. He reminds us that we expect other nations to respect ours and we should respect theirs. He has considerable – and I believe well-informed – philosophical doubts about the success of forcing value changes at the barrel of a gun versus inviting changes in values through consistent example and action.
I can see how there might need to be a reasonable debate about how much of the Empire to dismantle. And how quickly. It is similar to the debates on nuclear and chemical weapon reduction in the 1980's. At one point it was reasonably estimated that the US alone had the current capacity to annihilate the entire planet some 1300 times over. Consequently, it was the considered wisdom of compromises and open debate that the nuclear stockpile could be seriously reduced without leaving our nation either vulnerable or weakened. Much redundancy was maintained for judicious reasons. But, as I understand it, the perhaps 'overzealous' expansion of our nuclear stockpile was indeed slowed to combat the innumerable unintended consequences that we had discovered. We had gone past even the point of 'diminishing returns' to the place where too many nukes were actually becoming more of a liability than a strength.
In considering our global Empire, what we should certainly not do is continue to ratchet up the pre-emptive wars and foreign military bases without some pause for consideration of what we have in place already. Admittedly, assessing the state, scope, and influences of our Empire is increasingly difficult. Many of our overseas bases and installations are 'off the books' so to speak. Even non-classified installations are often prepared with intense secrecy and disinformation – with our 'national security' cited as trumping both the right of our regular citizens and even our duly elected Congress members to be involved with the building of base-colonies on foreign soil until after they are complete. (I could probably write a book on the number of purposefully inaccurate DoD/Intelligence community reports to Congressional leaders that have ended up being exposed in recent decades – and remember that's only when they got caught so that normal people like me could even be aware of it.)
But, regardless of how they get their start, once these bases are in place they wield considerable influence over the nations they exist in. To argue otherwise is simply foolishness.
We have few "traditional colonies" in the world today. That method of colonialism is no longer acceptable in the modern world. But the whole concept of 'Pax Americana' recalls to my mind these words of wisdom from Alexander Pope:
Vice is a monster of so frightful mien,Many of the official agency reports coming out of our Federal institutions these last few years openly telegraph our new plans to radically and hastily increase our numbers of foreign military bases. Generally this is cited as being in the interest of what is clearly an expanding definition of 'national security.' Furthermore, much of the rhetoric coming from our current administration warns of impending first-strikes against nations that have not, indeed, attacked our soil – or anybody at all, in most cases.
As to be hated needs but to be seen;
Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face,
We first endure, then pity,
– Essay on Man. Epistle ii. Line 217
When, exactly was it that we repudiated everything our Founding Fathers stood for in their revolution against Empire? And if we decide, as some have suggested, that it was sometime after our victories in the 'Good War' – and remember, I don't have a problem with our battles against the Imperial Japanese or the Imperial Germans – have we discovered any unintended consequences to our own expanding Empire that we need to re-examine? Please comment.