Those aren’t his premises!

American empire

Jonah Goldberg doesn’t like America being called an empire. This seems to be the crux of his argument:

Your typical empire invades countries to seize their resources, impose political control, and levy taxes. That was true of every empire from the ancient Romans to the Brits and the Soviets.

One could have an interesting discussion of whether or not America actually does impose political control. Mr Goldberg himself implies that we should not leave Iraq because its “democracy is fragile.” Is not imposing democracy imposing political control?

But it’s more interesting to agree with his premises and follow his argument.

His premises are: 1) historically, most empires invade countries to advance their own interests; and 2) the US does not invade countries to advance its own interests (though it seemingly endlessly invades other countries).

This would seem to (obviously) raise the question of why the US invades so many countries.

Unfortunately, he has no answer, though he does reiterate that, “To say we did these things simply for plunder and power is an insult to all Americans, particularly those who gave their lives in the process.”

But to say we did them for no apparent reason or interest is more insulting, no?

– the blogger known as “Foseti” (he’s on my blogroll but you should also check out the original post for some good comments)

Dear Foseti,

Normally I would just drop into your comment box and object to your normally incisive analysis, but I haven’t blogged in awhile so I thought I’d turn this into my own post for some easy material. Anyway, the central problem with your original post is that Goldberg never says the U.S. doesn’t invade countries to advance its own interests. He is silent on the matter of exactly why, as you put it, we do invade so many countries. Now, since I’m personally quite sympathetic to the arguments of the neocons, including the infamous Max Boot (who thinks we should be willing to describe our efforts around the world in imperial terms) I would argue that for the most part there have been basic strategic/national security interest reasons behind all of our recent invasions. I’m sure you and many of your commenters would disagree but you can hopefully understand there is no contradiction between saying, like Goldberg, that the U.S. doesn’t invade countries to maintain a traditional empire but we do invade for reasons having to do with our national security. A good example would be Afghanistan — we wanted to get Osama, the Taliban wouldn’t give him up, so we said we are invading to get him and to end Taliban rule so they won’t be able to use the country as a safe harbor for terrorists.


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5 Responses to Those aren’t his premises!

  1. Pingback: Randoms of the day « Foseti

  2. spandrell9 says:

    So the US army stays 10 years in Afghanistan. 10 years.
    And 8 in Irak.

    You invade countries to prop up your military industry. If the US gov’t had national security concerns at heart, you’d have a 100 feet high wall surrounding Mexico, and Islam declared a federal crime deserving death. But instead you have AA for Muslim soldiers.

    • Fake Herzog says:

      Interesting…so you think we entered WWI, WWII, Korea and Vietnam to “prop up” our military industry? Seems too simple and reductive to me and assumes that leaders don’t care about public sentiment, the draft (obviously when we still had it), geo-political concerns, etc., etc.

      On the other hand, you raise perfectly good arguments for why, perhaps, we shouldn’t have waged the Global War on Terror in the manner we have. A different response to terror would have been to implement some of your suggestions (although they seem somewhat hyperbolic) or more realistically, the suggestions detailed in these posts:

      • spandrell says:

        The pressure groups that decided WW1, WW2 etc. were different from the ones who are moving the Pentagon today. Motivations for wars Pre-Vietnam is a topic also that deserves close examination, but still.

        How much money has been spent in Afghanistan/Iraq in the last 10 years? To accomplish what? Beats me how they can be considered nothing else than massive pork.

      • Fake Herzog says:

        Here’s the thing — if your theory is true, why not just spend money on the military and not go to war? Or sell our military hardware, where all the pork potential is located, to our allies (which we do to some extent already)? For that matter, if we really just wanted to funnel money to the military/industrial complex, we could have sold Saddam lots of weapons going back all the way to 1991 — he was our ally in the 80s against Iran and we could have said, “fine, you want Kuwait, go ahead and take it but spend your oil money on our weapons and then go to war in another 10 years against Iran”).

        Something else has to be evoked to explain U.S. foreign/national security policy besides “pork”…

        P.S. Thanks for stopping by!

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