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The Fearful American Empire

by Franz Schurmann

"Overseas America" Presents Face Of Empire, Not Democracy

(PNS) -- Why didn't President Bush and his neo-con advisers anticipate the ferocious resistance to America's invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq? The neo-cons thought that if, in World War II, Germany and Japan capitulated without generating significant post-war resistance, weaker states like Iraq and Afghanistan would crumble even faster.

But the democracy that prevailed in 1945 is quite different from the one we Americans live in today. Then, the world saw the "great American experiment" as the only force on the globe that could bring justice and peace. But now America has become just another empire with "interests" all over the world. No longer do Middle Easterners tremble before American soldiers armed with both awesome moral power and awesome firepower. They now feel that they are the ones with the moral power.

American democracy used to be a secular creed that believed in the Judeo-Christian God. That creed gave America a moral aura unique among all other great powers. The federal Constitution was its Bible, and its priests were the operatives of its triune political structure in the federal capital. Other countries changed their constitutions when necessary, but not the United States. It only added amendments to the Constitution.

But, with the onset of the Cold War in 1949, America began to lose its aura. After the Soviet Union exploded an atomic device and the Chinese Communists proclaimed their People's Republic of China there was panic in America, personified by Republican Senator Joe McCarthy and his "Communist witch hunts."

Fear was the reaction to these two events. By contrast, after Pearl Harbor the churches were full and Americans were prepared to sacrifice their children for the country.

A few days from now, fear and not fortitude will dominate the Republican National Convention in New York. President Bush has already set the tone when only days after 9/11, he went to New York and proclaimed, "those who aren't with us are against us." Until he ordered those forces to attack Afghanistan on Oct. 7, it wasn't clear what he would do to avenge the 3,000 people who lost their lives.

One reason for the Oct. 7 attack could have been that the reclusive Taliban had just signed accords with China for developmental projects, as reported by John Pomfret in the Washington Post. Bush had only been in office for less than nine months and was inclined toward the "China threat."

According to neo-con theory, China should have disintegrated some time in the 1990s, following the Soviet Union. But already on 9/11 it was clear to the Washington think-tank analysts that China was getting stronger and stronger. That meant China could sooner or later catch up with and or even surpass America.

Fear once again triumphed over faith. And the American empire once again expanded outward as if that would abate the fears that were growing among Americans.

As to democracies, the future is not bright.

The Greek root of the word democracy translates as "the people rule." But in contemporary America today, stupendous outlays for campaigns increasingly restricts political office to the rich, directly or indirectly. Both Bush and Kerry are rich. And if election booths are considered the mark of democracy, then Americans will remember the election of November 2000, where five conservative justices on the Supreme Court alone determined Bush's victory.

In the 1990s, it seemed that democratic waves were breaking all over the world. In 1991, Eastern Europe abandoned communism and embraced democracy. In late 1991, the Soviet Union crumbled. And Communist China seemed rife for taking the ex-Soviet path, especially after the bloody massacre on Tiananmen Square of June 1989.

Francis Fukuyama wrote an influential book, "The End of History," that foresaw a coming world of peace and prosperity. He based his book on the ideas of two philosophers, Immanuel Kant and Georg Hegel, who both lived during the idealistic Napoleonic era. Fukuyama accepted their joint belief that "republics don't go to war with each other." In Napoleon's time, the word republic meant much the same as democracy does today.

But now Russia, under the rule of democratically elected ex- KGB agent Vladimir Putin, is rapidly dismantling one pillar of democracy after another, especially the free media and private corporative property. China is booming under its "socialist market economy," but democracy has not necessarily followed capitalism.

One region of the world where democracy has a dim future is the Middle East. President Bush's Pentagon advisers, who avidly read Fukuyama's book, were convinced that Middle Easterners were eager to be liberated and embrace democracy. Instead, growing numbers of Muslim martyrs are enlisting for "operations."

In the Aug. 1 issue of the Independent, Robert Fisk, a long- time observer of the Middle East, wrote, "When suicide bombers ram their cars into hundreds of recruits outside police stations, how on earth can anyone hold an election next January?"

Why is democracy failing? A simple explanation is that Jews, Christians and Muslims used to have only one primary fear, and that was fear of God. Instead, all three now fear each other, or fear their own peoples. To work, democracy has to be optimistic. But fear is the antithesis of optimism.

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Albion Monitor August 5, 2004 (

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