Monday, September 10, 2007

Gaze Upon The Face of Empire With Fear and Loathing and Despair

It seems that everywhere the British set up imperial shop during the 1800s is pretty well fucked up now. At best, India for example, things are just starting to get back on track after a good 200 years of tumult that, for a while, seemed to derail the better part of 3000 years of high culture and civilization. If you look around the world at the failed states that export nothing so much as despair you almost certainly see the Union Jack lingering somewhere in that nation's recent history.

In all fairness, the British didn't really know any better. Hey, they were new at the whole empire-thing and the way the history books of the Victorian era read, you would think that under the Romans, things prolly weren't so bad...unless you were a Gaul or a Jew and again, in all fairness, it was pretty crap to be a Jew irrespective of who was in charge. Babylonians, Egyptians, Romans: everybody got a piece of the Israelites. It was almost a prerequisite to being an Imperial State, terrorizing the Jews, that is...

Regardless, the British weren't Jews and I suppose that tromping across le monde, kicking people's asses and stealing their shit seemed like a pretty decent way to make a living until World War II changed all of that. Hitler was intent on building a great German empire though he never really got past the killing-the-Jews part of empire building, despite the honest college try he gave to Poland. After WWII though, the British saw their empire reduced to Scotland and Northern Ireland and as of this moment, Scotland has their Kingstone back and Gerry Adams is no longer given a Gizmo-the-Mowgwai voice on British TV.

The Brits were punted from Palestine. They were punted from South Africa. They were punted from India. They were punted from Iraq and Jordan. Australia, they were bunted; the same with Canada. When Maggie Thatcher gave the old Imperial flag one last wave at the Falkland Islands, it was like watching Danish historians sail the North Sea in reconstructed viking longboats. Today the Brits only remain politically relevant, globally, as the velvet glove covering the jail-house-tatooed hand of the United States.

It is a pity Americans don't like History the way the British do. This is a consequence of our pre-fab, planned communities: there is nothing in these places to link people with their past, so people willfully forget their own history. If Americans did enjoy history, they would take a cue from post-Victorian England and pay attention to the hard lessons the British learned about building and maintaining an empire.

General David Petraeus gave his testimony to Congress today regarding progress in Iraq in the wake of the 20,000-man strong troop surge ordered by Dubya after the Republicans lost Congress last November to Democrats who "promised" a change in the US' policy in Iraq. I don't think a troop surge was the change the American people were looking for, but the Democrats probably banked on their constituents being too chickenshit to take them to task for puss'ing out and, so far, it looks like they placed safe bets.

The surge is working he says. Nevermind that the death tolls today, as of this writing are comparable to the death tolls of October, 2003 (almost exactly four years ago), General Petraeus assures us that violence is down in Baghdad. Nevermind that insurgents in Baghdad have almost certainly skipped town to hide out and nevermind that just as sure as violence in Bahgdad is down, violence somewhere else in Iraq is up. General Petreaus is confident.

"It is possible to achieve our objectives in Iraq over time, although doing so will be neither quick, nor easy," he said.

"Over time" is the operative expression there: "over time." How much time? That, says the Bush Administration, is not a fair question as it presumes a lack of committment. Dubya has made it clear: we need to be ready to stay there til the job's done.

Well, here's the news: the job'll never be fucking done. Either we assume direct control of Iraq and conquer it, the way Anne Coulture says we should or we admit that we don't have the answer to the world's problems, we don't have the will (or the money) to throw away to make sure that oil companies can get their dope from Iraq's oil fields, and we cut our losses and split.

If we are going to split, then it makes very little difference if we leave tomorrow or three years from now...except for the accumulated body count.

If we are going to stay, then we must look at ourselves and ask some pretty hard questions: are we ready to see our fortunes decline and our empire fail the way Great Britain did? The way Napoleon's France did? The way Rome did?


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