President Obama wishes to use the armed forces of the United States to punish Syria and its president, Bashar Assad, for using poison gas on its own people. Once again America’s leader(s) are preparing to use military force against another sovereign nation far away from our own borders.
I would guess that this is not too surprising as this nation was born during a world war – the Second Hundred Years’ War, which lasted from about 1689 to 1815. It was fought on land and sea and spanned the oceans of the world. During this war we became independent, invaded Canada, fought naval battles in the Atlantic, Pacific and Mediterranean and landed forces in North Africa. During the next century, we fought wars to span the American continent, annexed a third of Mexico and, in emulation of France, Great Britain and Germany violently established an “American Empire” with holdings in the far Pacific, Central America and the Caribbean. We also put down an internal rebellion at the cost of 600,000 dead.
During the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, we have fought two major world wars, several “limited” proxy wars with the USSR and China and been involved in many other conflicts. Some of these conflicts have been justified because others have attacked us (Pearl Harbor and 9/11) and others (Grenada and Tonkin Gulf), maybe not. Reasons and perceptions vary, but in every case, violence and death were the result.
Ancient Assyria and Persia, Alexander and Trajan, Gustavus Adolphus and Wellington, all would recognize our actions, reasons and rationalizations as those of an imperial power working to safeguard itself and to extend its influence. We are, and have been since our inception, an imperial power. We do not, however, acknowledge that we are such. We acknowledge it neither to others nor to ourselves and our children. We are the good guys. We defend the underdog. We are not Assyria or Rome; our leaders are not like Ashurnasirpal II and Shalmaneser III or Caesar and Nero.
Really? How many people have died as a result of our actions? How much good have we really done? How many places have we fought to establish “Truth, Justice and the American Way” only to have them turn to ashes?
Perhaps it is time to pull back from the brink and re-think about what we are doing,
Perhaps it is time to practice what we preach to ourselves and our children.
Perhaps we should not attempt to be the world’s policeman and moral guardian.
Perhaps Imperium is not for us.
Perhaps Mr. Obama is having second thoughts and hopes Congress will stop him from crying “Havoc,” and letting slip the dogs of war once again.
Perhaps we should support our troops by bringing them home.
Perhaps. Perhaps. And, then again, perhaps.