We went to a delightful garden party in Washington. Everybody had an idea. Some smart. Some stupid.
These were bright, well-educated people. Many had gone to Harvard or Yale. Many held high positions in the government. Others were successful lawyers, businessmen, or entrepreneurs. Some thought the key challenge of the 21st centurywas protecting the environment. Some thought energy scarcity was the most important thing. Still others were worried about saving the European experiment.
What held this diverse group together? Why was your editor invited?
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"We all hate the empire", said an attendee. "It's the only thing that we agree on."
One gave a little talk explaining how America's imperial spending endangers the Rooseveltian social welfare state. After you pay for so many drones and waterboards there is no money left for a New Deal or a Great Society, he pointed out.
Another was concerned that we were all becoming slaves in our own country: "The constitution has been suspended. Habeus corpus denied. The president seems to take pride in approving the kill list' personally, just like Richard Nixon chose the bombing targets, or Josef Stalin selected those to be purged.
"Future historians will have their work cut out for them, explaining how Barack Obama, who promised to bring the Pentagon under control, then became the biggest pusher of America's imperial wars"
Another was worried because the nation was going broke: "I don't care what you say. You can't spend money like this without going broke.
"And the logic of it is completely ridiculous. The neo-cons say we need to project American power in order to protect American power. They say, for example, that we need bases in the Mid-East and we needed to go to war with Iraq in order to protect the vital flow of oil to the US. So they ended up spending something like $3trn in order to protect about $350bn worth of oil imports. That is the kind of math that puts us in the poorhouse."
It's the kind of logic that sends you to hell. Japan's 'co-prosperity sphere' was based on the same imperial reasoning. In order to maintain its power, Japan had to control the flow of energy and raw materials to the home islands. That meant, it had to build up its military machine. Then, it needed more resources to support its military machine!
And so the US swaggers to its ultimate comeuppance.
"The US has set a dangerous course", said another guest. "It is one thing to walk softly with a big stick in your hand. It is quite another to use it to stir up a hornet's nest. Then, the big stick doesn't do you any good. The bees sting you.
"The US has a big stick the biggest, most expensive military in the world. But you can't hit bees with a stick. And they are learning how to attack us. They can make drones which are cheap too. They are learning how to conduct internet warfare too which is also cheap.
"The big stick doesn't help. You can take your big stick and whack a foreign government, but while you've got your trillion dollar military machine swinging its big stick, some small group launches a small, next-generation drone attack and takes out your aircraft carriers. It spends $1m, you spend $100bn. You go broke. And you're dead too.
"Same thing with this internet war that the Obama administration launched. You can swing your big stick, but you can't hit a computer virus with it. When one of these groups -and it could be funded by Russia or China, for all we know -comes up with a killer app' virus, life as we know it in the US comes to a stop. And then the big stick stops swinging too, because it depends on the US economy.
"It's really sad the way this has evolved. Back at 9/11 there was probably only a tiny group of real fanatics who wanted to do harm to the US. Everyone was on our side. Everyone wanted to put the terrorists out of business.
"Now, the US has been killing innocent people and the world doesn't like it. I don't blame them. And I'm afraid the next time there's a 9/11, millions of people all over the world will cheer"
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