In an article published in 2008, after citing British historian Correlli Barnett's observation that "War is the great auditor of institutions" as an opening gambit, political scientist, professor of history and international relations, and prolific author Andrew Bacevich contends that since 9/11, America "has undergone such an audit and found to be wanting".
Now before we dismiss Bacevich as an unreconstructed bleeding heart anti-war advocate who doesn't understand the realities of the world and the existential threats his country faces, it is important to fully appreciate the man's bona fides. A former senior US military officer whose tours of duty included Vietnam and Europe, Bacevich has arguably forgotten more about America's place in the geopolitical firmament than all of president Obama's advisers combined will ever know. For evidence of this read any one of his books, which include Washington Rules: America's Pathway to Permanent War and Breach of Trust: How Americans Failed Their Soldiers and their Country.
And if that's not enough, well after he described the Iraq debacle as a "catastrophic failure" (and well before others were prepared to do so), his own son, a US army officer, in 2007 was killed by an improvised explosive device (IED) in Iraq. Although it's not known how Bacevich felt about his son's death given the circumstances, it is hard to see how he would have viewed it as anything but a futile sacrifice, like so many other young Americans.
Bacevich is not alone in critiquing his country's foreign policy misadventures. In his 2004 book of essays, Dismantling the Empire: America's Last Best Hope, the late Chalmers Johnson also provided in a similar vein a sobering and persuasive argument for America drawing back from the imperialist ambitions that have characterised its foreign and national security policies over the past few decades. Like Bacevich, Johnson (who passed away in 2010), was an esteemed academic and researcher, and a prolific writer of books on America's role as modern empire, including such tomes as Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire and The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy and the End of the Republic to name a couple. Again, the titles offer an immediate insight into the content and themes readers might expect to encounter therein.
And againlike Bacevich, Johnson was not enamoured of the usual partisan bickering that accompanies America's foreign policy and national security debate. Much like the domesticpolicy debate one suspects, neither author sees Republicans or Democrats as having workable solutions to what is an endemic problem with entrenched historical antecedents, few of which ever seem to be part of the political or broad public debate, especially any defined by mainstream media. Whether it's in his published works or his numerous magazine and newspaper articles, Johnsonleaves little doubt as to what he sees has been driving, and continues to drive, this geopolitical obsessive-compulsive disorder – the profits of waging war. To preserve any lasting vestige of itself as a democratic republic, the empire as it stands must be dismantled. He sums it up this way:
We are on the brink of losing our democracy for the sake of keeping our empire. Once a nation starts down that path, the dynamics that apply to all empires come into play – isolation, overstretch, the uniting of global and local forces opposed to imperialism, and in the end, bankruptcy.
Johnson basically said that if America is to sustain itself as a viable nation economically, socially, and politically, and preserve whatever integrity, standing and influence it currently enjoys among nation states as a truly global leader in the conduct and management of world affairs, it must attend to three fundamental issues.
Firstly, the US needs to dismantle the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) completely, an organisation which he viewed as being both incompetent and dangerous not only to America's own security but global security. For that matter he might well have included a few other modern era 'alphabet' agencies as well. NSA anyone? DEA? HSA?
Secondly, he proposed the curtailment of any further expansion of US global military presence along with the progressive dismantlement of the existing infrastructure. This itself is an interesting proposal especially given that recently our own country Australia has just signed up to a new agreement with the US to increase its military presence here in the top end.
And thirdly, he emphasised America's urgent need to scale back and then eradicate the intertwined military, industrial, security and economic foundations that have both driven and underpinned the growth of US empire for far too long. This was something that even the old warhorse himself president Dwight D (Ike) Eisenhower warned us all about in his oft- referenced 'farewell to arms' address at the fag end on his presidency in 1961. (MIlitary-industrial Complex anyone?)
If these actions are not taken, Johnson argued in his introduction, the "long-standing reliance on imperialism and militarism in our relations with other countries and the vast, potentially ruinous global empire of bases that goes with it", will lead to "…a likely collapse similar to that of the former Soviet Union." Although Johnson rightly observed that this outcome is not inevitable, he noted pessimistically "…it may be unavoidable given the hubris and arrogance of our national leadership."
For anyone following current events from outside the realms of the corporate media's reach – the proxy war with Russia over the Ukraine, the incessant sabre rattling over the downing of MH17, Israel's genocidal incursions into the Gaza strip, the deteriorating situations in Iraq and Syria and the rise of ISIS, the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan, just to name a few of the volatile global ructions to which America is a party to or has some vital stake in – these conclusions should be obvious. The hubris is palpable, and hubris is always the precursor to imperial decline.