Saturday, June 7, 2008

In November, the Choice Is Simple: Empire or Republic.

Forget the party labels, forget the names, forget the issues; this November the choice for the American people is pretty simple and stark: Empire or Republic. That’s right; when the American people go to the polls in November, they will be choosing between the further consolidation of militarism and empire, as exemplified by John McCain and his policies, and the arduous job of trying to reign in the centrifugal forces which have spun the Republic close the point of no return.

If the victory of Barak Obama over Hillary Clinton can be boiled down to one single issue, it is the standing of the two candidates on the decision to go to war in Iraq that has made the crucial difference. In essence, Obama owes his victory to the anti-war movement, whose litmus test has been the 2002 joint resolution that opened the path for George W. Bush to initiate hostilities towards Iraq, and which didn’t waver in the face of the various controversies that Obama faced during the primary season. What this means is that Obama can count on a pretty solid group of voters spanning from the anti-war left to the libertarian Ron Paul right whose common goal is to reign in the most blatant imperial tendencies which have been destabilizing the world and the United States both politically and economically in the last half a century.

It is no secret that today, the military-industrial complex, has become the most powerful special interest group in American society. As a matter of fact, it is very hard to really understand its full weight given the secrecy that surrounds anything that has to do with the military. Neither the people, nor the Congress fully grasp the pervasiveness of what President Dwight Eisenhower described as “the huge industrial and military machinery of defense”. More than forty years after Eisenhower’s farewell address the military-industrial complex has reached the level of a state within the state, with it’s own distinct laws and regulations, accountable to no one but the executive.

With over 3,500,000 U.S. troops and more than 737 military bases spread in more than 130 countries around the world, one could easily say that the United States has been an empire for quite some time, but the choice that the American people face today is still quite fundamental in this regard. For the first time in the more than one hundred years of American empire building, the American people will have a say by electing a candidate that could be held accountable by its anti-empire building base.

The American people, after all, have never reaped the benefits of the American empire with the exception of being able to join the armed forces, now the largest entitlement program on earth, and exchange their free will for steady pay, good housing, free medical benefits, education or, basically, the very things that Republican politicians so assiduously impute as the shortcomings of the European-style democracies. But the bulk of the benefits of empire end up, by design, in the coffers of multinational private defense corporations whose sole purpose, as stated in their charters, is to maximize their profit no matter what the consequences are for the nation and the world.

John McCain is, by all counts, the poster boy for the military-industrial complex and his election will further embolden the Pentagon and possibly seal the fate of the Republic. While it’s true that American foreign policy has been largely indifferent to party affiliation up until the Clinton presidency, the actions of the Bush presidency have finally shed whatever was left of the “good empire” narrative that has permeated American foreign policy discourse since its inception. And it is for this reason that John McCain makes no qualms about the need to continue down the path set by the Bush administration of total disregard of the rule of law both nationally and internationally.

Barak Obama, on the other hand and by virtue of his constituencies, represents that portion of the American electorate that still believes, albeit more and more naively so, that all is not lost; that security and freedom are not antithetical and that to allow for one to trump the other is to admit that the founders of the American Republic were not that smart after all. It will be very hard for Obama to deliver on the hopes of his supporters given how entrenched the military-industrial complex is today, but it is something that must be done if we want to even begin to think of how to allocate and prioritize our resources in a manner that is humane and that can address the most pressing problems our world is facing.

The unofficial nomination of Barak Obama as the candidate of the Democratic party for the U.S. presidency, and the outpouring of international support for this victory are a sure sign that we may be ready for a decisive shift in the way we set our priorities both domestically and internationally. And while the road ahead will be bumpy and full of unexpected twists and turns, a new direction in the way America conducts itself in the world can be set. Ultimately, it is up to Obama to keep faith to his promises, but, if elected, his base will have the important task of holding him accountable so that the hopes for a better and peaceful tomorrow won't be misplaced.