February 09, 2009

Fascism, Empire, America

Leftists never tire of labeling anything and everything they don?t much like as ?fascist??a tradition that?s now been taken up by 3rd generation neocons who wax profound about how Hillary Clinton has inherited the legacy of Benito Mussolini. But the fact that professional ?anti-fascists? are wrong, and probably acting in bad faith, shouldn?t stop us from pointing out political ideas that are, well, actually fascist. Though, of course, the kind militarist statism Tony Blankely has on offer is fascism American-style?that is, fascism bereft of all its seductive qualities like bombastic balcony speeches, quasi-pagan rituals, and snazzy uniforms. Under a ?Grit? regime, we?d all be compelled to patrol the deserts of Afghanistan and teach public school students about the values of universal democracy. Totalitarianism that ain’t very tempting. 

But what I find most remarkable about Blankley?s project is not so much the brazen use of state power but the degree to which he misunderstands America?s ?national dominance,? as well as the mindset of most Americans.

If you walked up to your Average Joe, or even someone who reads the paper and is fairly well informed, and mentioned that you think we should shut down all our international military bases, your interlocutor would scold you for such irresponsible talk and warn of the global chaos that would ensure if such a horrendous policy were enacted. Some might actually believe this, but most, I think, simply can?t imagine an alternative universe in which America is not a global Hyperpower with a presence everywhere and a military institution that fills the rest of the world with awe, envy, and fear. We Americans have a right to empire, and why should we give that up!?!

But none of this means that Americans are even close to being willing to take up the imperial burden?and, in many ways, the kind of national service program Blankely lays out might actually be necessary if we are to continue to be a global power.

The ability to have a Big Bad Empire is a ?right? much like Americans assume they have a “right” to rack up loads of credit-card debt and don?t think there will be many major consequences if the government goes trillions of dollars in the red for the foreseeable future. No one expects the bill will ever be due. 

The Empire itself is an ?Empire of Debt,? as Willaim Bonner and Addison Wiggin have described it. Unlike with the empires of yore, Americans don?t enslave and exploit their subjects, nor extract resources from the colonies and sell back finished products, as with the more benign 19th-century British version. Instead, Washington demands that its imperial subjects save a good portion of their income and lend it to Americans at interest so we can finance our latest collective shopping sprees and take on massive budgetary and trade deficits. We?re selling the world T-bills to pay the interest on other T-bills, which were sold to pay the interest on other T-bills, which were ? ad infinitum, ad nausea.

Blankely might think that this amounts to ?national dominance,? but that?s only because he?s unable to grasp just how absurd an arrangement the American Empire actually is?and why it will come crashing down, sooner rather than later, due to national bankruptacy and not a lack of ?grit.?

George W. Bush displayed a much keener intuitive grasp of the real nature of the American Empire, and the American people, when shortly after 9/11 he announced, ?Fight Terrorism, Go Shopping!?     

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