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How Is the Empire?

2011 March 8

Lol, General.

Mere days after accusing Afghans of burning their own children in an attempt to exaggerate claims of civilian casualties, Commander of US Forces in Afghanistan David Petraeus has been caught on camera joking with Defense Secretary Robert Gates about launching an attack on Libya.  Sen. John McCain, for whom joking about bombs is old hat, appeared on ABC’s This Week, where he proposed turning the much over-praised General’s knee-slapper into foreign policy, arguing for a US-enforced no-fly zone aimed at crippling Muammar Gaddafi’s air assault on the revolutionaries fighting for his ouster. Alternating between callous glibness and a humanitarian façade while recommending expanding the number of countries in which the United States is militarily involved? We’ve been here before.

Figures predictably joining those delightful fellows under that particular gabardine include Christopher Hitchens and Joe Lieberman, whose foreign policy recommendations are about as welcome as Charlie Sheen’s 10 Steps Toward a More Wholesome Life. President Obama’s line on Gaddafithe emptily deontic formulation that the Colonel “must leave,” something which Obama never said of America’s ally, Egypt’s Hosni Mubarakwas so much too soft for the hawks that they even trotted out Paul Wolfowitz to bolster their call for an American invasion of Libya.

Never mind that the Libyans have made it clear that American intervention in their revolution is unwelcome: when an empire feels its hegemony in a region threatened by the restless natives, it expands, expands, expands.

For a taste of what war with Libya would look like, Americans need only inspect the situation in the last country whose invasion and occupation the American imperial expansionists successfully championed. Iraqis have begun treating the American puppet government in their country just as their fellow Middle Eastern onzards have been treating the region’s other repressive, incompetent regimes, taking to the streets in order to protest unendurable living conditions.  It would additionally seem that Iraq, in its adoption of what Wolfowitz and the rest celebrate as American-style democracy and freedom, has become beset by American-style factionalism and political gridlock.  If protests in Iraq continue to grow, what will Wolfowitz’s line be on Iraqi self-determination and liberation? Up until now, it has seemed suspiciously reliant on a belief that Iraqi freedom is a product best Made in the U.S.A. Now we get to say the same thing about Libyan freedom too.

In the other empire-mongers’ triumph-case, Afghanistan, the state of affairs is even more ominous. The West was recently shockedbut shockedat Hamid Karzai’s reticence to accept America’s not-immediately-forthcoming apology for having slaughtered nine Afghan children. What is unclear is whether this hesitation should be attributed to a cynical attempt of Karzai’s to be seen among the Afghani citizenry to stand up to the Great Satan, at whose teat he has so ferociously sucked, or perhaps to a genuine offense taken at Gen. Petraeus’s sick-making conspiracy theory. Even as the Afghan situation descends again into chaos, exacerbated by the American surge there, the word from Sec. Gates (Costello to Petraeus’s Abbot) remains one of pushing elongation of the occupation and intensifying the increasingly mysterious mission there.

Advocates of American military involvement in the Libyan revolution should be monitored for developing positions on Saudi democratic movements. Onzard fever seems to be creeping up on the denizens of that fair country, America’s most important proxy state in the region next to Israel. The latter, for its part, has offered for all to see a distillation of its modus operandi: fanatical Jewish settlers smashing Palestinian car windows and firebombing a house in the West Bank in retaliation for the demolition of structures at an illegal, unauthorized Israeli settlement. Meanwhile, the Israeli government recently appealed to the US for $20 billion in military aid; Benjamin Netanyahu at least is aware that the fiscal crisis in the U.S. is largely ginned up by Noquistian conservative politicians who are intent on cutting valuable social services.

But there is never a budget crisis when it comes to the militarythe talks of cutbacks here confining themselves to “non-defense discretionary spendingbecause the empire is sacrosanct. When news recently came through that China was increasing its military spending by 12% to $95 billion, no one mentioned the context: if America increased hers by 12%, it would be by $82 billion.

As Venezuela’s increasingly distasteful Hugo Chavez offers to “mediate” the situation in Libya, as though it were a squabble, rather than a revolution on display there, let us hope that Obama embraces not the advice of Lieberman, McCain and the comedy duo at the Defense Department, but of Andrew Bacevich, who urges a different approach in Newsweek: “Sit on your hands.”

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