What's the USA Future: Democracy or Empire?
How much of our national resources should be devoted to military affairs? This is a taboo question as far as the politically astute go. Democrats avoid the subject like it was a plague because they know if they even ask the question, conservatives will use this opening to question the "national security" credentials of Democrats. And Democratic strategists believe that if Democrats even raise the question, it will almost guarantee a McCain win because it just goes to show that Democrats are not committed to keeping Americans safe.
So it seems fitting that the question has been raised by non-other than a one-time leader of a failing empire. Mikhail Gorbachev warns Americans that this is an essential question to ask at this point. Why?
Major policy problems today cannot be solved without America - and America cannot solve them alone.
Even the domestic problems of the United States are no longer purely internal. I am referring first of all to the economy. The problem of the huge U.S. budget deficit can be managed, for a time, by continuing to flood the world with "greenbacks," whose rate is declining along with the value of U.S. securities. But such a system cannot work forever.
And what does he hold responsible for this affair?
No one can offer a simple fix for America's economic problems, but it is hard not to see their connection to U.S. foreign policies. Over the past eight years the rapid rise in military spending has been the main factor in increasing the federal budget deficit. The United States spends more money on the military today than at the height of the Cold War.
Yet no candidate has made that clear. "Defense spending" is a subject that seems to be surrounded by a wall of silence. But that wall will have to fall one day.
The present administration, particularly during George W. Bush's first presidential term, was bent on trying to solve many foreign policy issues primarily by military means, through threats and pressure. The big question today is whether the presidential nominees will propose a different approach to the world's most urgent problems.
I am extremely alarmed by the increasing tendency to militarize policymaking and thinking. The fact is that the military option has again and again led to a dead end.
We are at a cross-roads. We have to decide that we will pay anything to be safe (something empires do before they go broke) or to find another way to make ourselves whole.
Today the United States produces about half of the world's military hardware and has over 700 military bases, from Europe to the most remote corners of the world. Those are just the officially recognized bases, with more being planned. It is as if the Cold War is still raging, as if the United States is surrounded by enemies who can only be fought with tanks, missiles and bombers. Historically, only empires had such an expansive approach to assuring their security.
So the candidates, and the next president, will have to decide and state clearly whether America wants to be an empire or a democracy, whether it seeks global dominance or international cooperation. They will have to choose, because this is an either-or proposition: The two things don't mix, like oil and water.
So perhaps those Democratic strategists that think we don't have to have this discussion right now need to reconsider. We are on the path of collapsing just like our archenemy did a few decades ago. We might need to find a way to wake the American public about this threat so they too can have a voice in the outcome. It really is about guns and butter.