Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The Logic of Empire

An interesting article that was recommended to me from a friend provides interesting rational for why we went to war in Iraq. It also ties in to some of the best reasons I've heard yet as to why we've supported Saudi Arabia for so long - a country at once both one of the world's most ruthless dictatorships and also the primary source for Wahhabi Muslims (one of the most ultra-conservative, anti-pluralistic sects of Islam whose major goal is to convert or kill all non-Wahhabists, be they Sunni, Shia, or non-Muslim).

Fascinating reading. I really recommend you read it through when you get a chance, then come back to read the rest of this post.

I don't buy into some of the tenets of this article, but there are a few that resonate. It makes an economic argument that goes back to the time tested fundamentals of "follow the money," which is about the truest maxim there is for finding root causes for puzzling human behavior. It presents the cost versus return to the U.S. for its recent military actions in a much more convincing way than I've seen published before. It also helps me understand the possible motivation of Dick Cheney in so aggressively pushing this course of action, and it explains why Iran is starting to rise to the surface as the next major "rogue power," while North Korea remains on the side burner, the return to totalitarianism in the former USSR is brushed aside, and China is our best pal.

Is the U.S. and empire? I suppose that depends on your definition. Certainly the U.S. uses economic bullying and blackmail to get other countries to act in line with the administration's desires. (And if that doesn't work, the use of force has been known to be tried on occasion). But rather than use the term empire, I think a better analogy is a corporation.

I think a capitalist sovereign state acts much in the same way as a capitalist corporation, whose sole purpose is to maximize the return to shareholders. Being a shareholder in the U.S., I'm not necessarily opposed to this sort of action. I have to admit, I like having a standard of living that allows me to sit back in my Herman Miller chair pontificating via blog to an empty hall on my hot shit laptop. (It's good to be the king...)

But as with corporations, some behaviors lead to long term customer relationships, and some lead to dissolution when the customers go elsewhere. The corporation in its most extreme form, if viewed as an individual, would be diagnosed as psychopathic.

It probably wouldn't hurt to do a little dolphin friendly tuna fishing every now and then, even if just to keep the world's consumers from taking their business elsewhere.

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