Friday, April 30, 2004

Department of Imperial Embrace

A new way to look at American Empire, from a Czech friend of mine (extracted from a longer text and only slightly edited):

I have less and less problems with the fact that we all live in an era of American empire. After all, who could be sure that a different world empire (let's say, Chinese) would be much better. I think it is wise to accept the empire as a reality. Yet where I see the real problem is rather in the fact that despite being the most powerful empire in human history, America behaves not as an empire but as a nation-state. This is the frustrating thing. American majority opinion continues to live in a denial of the fact that America is an empire and, as such, the country should behave accordingly. As much as the Brits once did when voting their government in the time of British Empire, Americans, too, should learn to take into account what impact their vote will have upon *both* domestic and international reality. This is difficult, but if the Brits managed (as Henry Kissinger pointed out in the Washington Times some two years ago), why can't the Americans? One has to have the hope that this will happen one day. (So far, no sign of it.)

Thus we need more American imperialism (this is no joke, Alex), i.e., more conscious awareness in American minds of the fact that, yes, the U.S. is an empire, and therefore its voters should behave accordingly. (However, they cannot do that unless the media teach them so. And it seems to me that the New York Times, at least, has been recently going in that positive direction; not always, yet there are some signs of change; of awareness that this kind of self-contained American politics hurts both the world and America.)

So far, despite the omnipresent boasting of the "America-is-the-best-country-in-the-world" type, most regular Americans still live in denial of the fact that "empire -- that's us."

I do not love any imperialism but, realistically speaking, there will always be some kind of hegemony structure of the world. It's better to accept it than to fight it; what makes me worried, though, is that most Americans have not yet fully accepted the fact.

Yes, there is some wisdom to the proud-to-be-the-empire movement that started in D.C. some time after 9/11. It is a very conservative wisdom, yet I start to believe it may be the only way in which to make Americans more realistic and, by the same token, less dangerous for the world and for themselves. Americans need to turn into adult, i.e. responsible, imperialists.

I believe it is more realistic to expect that Americans (despite their own past as a British colony) may warmly embrace their imperialism -- more realistic than to expect they may reduce their proud patriotism. The heated patriotism is responsible for the lack of realism in the exercise of American global dominance (see, for instance, the way of fighting the recent enemies). Despite many examples to the contrary, America has been -- at times -- quite wise when dealing with domestic issues. Yet its way of dealing with international issues since the time of Germany's reunification (perhaps the last major international event in which the U.S. acted wisely, i.e., both in its own and the world's interrests, by supporting it and pushing it forward even against Gorbachev's and Mitterrand's mild opposition to the idea uf united Germany) is increasingly, and after 9/11 painfully, awkward and often even based on a lack of understanding the world.

So, long live American imperialism -- if and only if it is consciously and responsibly embraced by its very agent: the American political elite AND the American people.