Thinking about the American Empire

Welcome to Perils of Empire.  This blog will explore the American empire, an informal network of military bases, oil field alliances, and aggressive trans-national corporations that exerts a disproportionate influence on the political and economic life of many other countries.  For a more elaborate discussion of the perils associated with the American empire, please order my book: Perils of Empire: The Roman Republic and the American Republic.

In this first post I want to point out that Michael Klare, author of Blood and Oil: The Dangers and Consequences of America’s Growing Dependency on Imported Petroleum, has a new book out about the new international energy order.  He points out that the energy producing nations in the word — Iran, Russia, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and five other countries — are growing wealthy because of high energy prices.  In turn, countries like the United States, which distains alternative technologies and even higher milage automobiles, are going to become poorer.

I am very disappointed that this issue has not really been addressed during the presidential campaign.  I don’t count McCain’s proposal to waive the gas tax as a serious contribution to this problem — in fact it signals a disturbing lack of interest in the nature of the challenges we are facing.  The candidate from New Mexico, Bill Richardson, had a strong platform about alternative energy and energy independence, but he was not much of a political salesman.

The beauty of this situation is that one policy — moving away from the consumption of gasoline and the use of alternative technologies — addresses the long term problem of global warming, soothes the constant itch to go to war to secure oil supplies, and halts the immediate dislocations of rising gasoline prices.  If I were running for president, I would be making a big deal of this solution to our inter-connected problems.  That would be a way to show the public that I had a real vision about how to create a path out of our current mess.

Here is a thought (Note: this is an example of how I look at the Roman Republic to gain insights about the American Republic).  At the end of the Roman Republic, as society was crumbling into civil disorder and then civil war, no one could think of a solution to the multiple problems being generated by the city-state’s empire.  Every reform and change was blocked by a group of super conservative senators and consuls who refused to give up their economic priviledges.  As a result, individuals campaigned for a few specific reforms, but no agreement could be reached on how to fix the system.

The U.S. has been lucky, in times of crisis and peril to the Republic we had Roosevelt leading us through the Great Depression and Lincoln leading us through the Civil War.  What if lesser men were elected at those times?  What if a lesser man or woman is elected in 2008?  I believe that great men or women are only able to alter history if the right kinds of political and economic trends are available for them to take advantage of, but I also think that time and again throughout history, if a man who is not up to the job is in the leadership position at a time of national peril – then very bad things can happen.

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