No Possibility of Change

It appears at this moment that this fall’s presidential race will be between Barack Obama and John McCain. Some folks over at, in the tradition of Murray Rothbard, are trying to portray Obama as the clear lesser of two warlike evils — and he probably is, all things considered. But I’m not sure he’s significantly less of an evil than McCain is, especially in matters of war and peace. Or regarding the American world empire.

Salon had an interview earlier this week with Samantha Power, author of A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide, a journalist who has become a foreign policy advisor the Obama. She clearly is a member of America’s liberal foreign policy elite — she believes strongly in U.S. power, U.S. virtue and an America-centered world. Granted, it is a view of the world that places international cooperation and the United Nations at its center, but it is the same nonsense that has the UN as an articulation of certain kinds of American — and thus civilized — values. Her ideas and ideals are those of the idiots at Brookings or the Council on Foreign Relations.

If this is example of Obama’s foreign policy thinking, then it means that the nonsense of the last nearly 18 years will continue. (The United States has been at war almost continually for that time, and as I have argued elsewhere, for almost all of the last 60 years.) And that means war and empire will continue. Humanitarian interventions are still war, which means Americans will still be bombing countries and killing people, will still be acting as a powerful, world managing imperial nation-state. John McCain may be openly threatening to bomb Iran, but I am not convinced that Obama won’t rattle that saber too (he has in the past), given the Democratic Party’s commitment to Israel, the historical animosity of some Democrats toward Iran, and their commitment to the perpetuation of American military and economic power. Too many people, Power included, have decided that “something” needs to be done about Iran. That almost guarantees that something will be done.

There is no good, kind, decent, humanitarian, or socially responsible way for the United States to wield the power it has. It is not possible, no matter how the do-gooders of the social democratic left yearn. Empire is empire, with all that implies, and even “good” empires are based on violence, subjugation and humiliation. I wish it were possible for the United States simply to lay that power down, to bring all soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines home from everywhere. I want very much to live in a normal country rather than an empire. But we are addicted to our empire — it gives American life, nationalist and internationalist, liberal and conservative, a strong sense of meaning and purpose. Americans are not Swiss or Uruguayans, and we don’t know how to live if we aren’t running the world, saving it from itself or beating it into submission for its own good. An Obama presidency won’t change that fact.

So, the only way this power goes away is through collapse.