jump to navigation

Is America a Republic or an Empire? March 22, 2013

Posted by Dr. Robert Owens in Politics.
Tags: , , , , , , , ,
1 comment so far

Over the years in this column I have written about the American Empire.  I have advocated jettisoning the Empire to save the Republic.  This topic has sparked debate and controversy even among the most dedicated readers.  Usually the argument runs like this, “America is not an Empire, never has been and never will be,” or “America’s far-flung military deployments are not the garrisoning of an empire it is instead a forward defense of the homeland.”

In my most recent column along these lines, aptly entitled, “Republic or Empire?” in several publications there was spirited debate about whether or not America could be called an empire.  Some people seemed to take offense at the very idea.  Others who usually agree with my political stands find this and my other foreign policy positions such as bringing our troops home, concentrating on defending America, and equitable trade with all unacceptable.  I present and promote these foreign policy positions as requirements for restoring limited government. It is my belief that as long as we are involved in endless war there is no real possibility to re-gain control of our government, our budget, or our future.

What I propose to do in this column is examine the hallmarks of empire and ask my readers to honestly ask themselves, “Is America a republic or an empire?”

First, it makes no difference whether it is the President, the Paramount Chief, an Augustus, the First Citizen, the Dear Leader, the Great Helmsman or der Fuehrer.  It doesn’t matter if it is an executive branch, a Politburo, a Central Committee, the Cabinet, or the collective leadership.  Whatever form it takes, an empire is always dominated by a highly centralized executive power.

America was designed not to be an empire but instead to be a federal republic made up of a central government and state governments which were the precursors and creators of the central government.   This central government founded upon and constrained by a written constitution originally presented the world with something new, a national government made up of divided co-equal powers.  The Congress to make the laws, the executive to enforce the laws, and the judicial to judge if the laws conformed to the Constitution: the guiding light and touch-stone of American limited government.  This worked well to establish and maintain a republic but it would not foster nor perpetuate an empire.

Thus the Constitution established the framework of what became known as the system of checks and balances.  Only congress could make laws, but the President could veto them.  Congress could over-ride a president’s veto, but the Supreme Court could declare laws unconstitutional making them null and void.  The president is in charge of foreign policy and is the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, but the Congress controlled the purse and could cut off funding.  Upon petition the Supreme Court could declare the actions of the president unconstitutional yet the president could appoint justices to the Supreme Court.

Did this work perfect?  No, there were always swings one way or another.  There have been powerful Supreme Courts such as under Chief Justices Marshall or Warren that changed the complexion of the country.  There have been powerful Congresses such as the one from 1865 to the mid 1870’s that virtually ignored presidents and set policy.  There were powerful presidents such as Jackson or Lincoln.  However the pendulum always swung back and forth.  If you examined all three institutions there was one thing missing.  Where was the sovereignty?  Who was the nation?

In the highly centralized state, which is an empire whether personal or national, the leader or leadership operates according to the sentiments of the Sun King, Louis XIV of France who said, “I am the State.”  During the birth of the American system, our Founders had spent more time debating this than any other aspect of the government, who would be the sovereign power.  They had just fought and defeated one tyrant and they did not want to exchange one for another.  They didn’t trust the sovereignty of the nation in the hands of an executive because of the long and bloody history of Europeans with absolutism and divine right.  They didn’t trust an assembly after their recent history with the tyranny of the British Parliament and their Stamp Act, Quartering Act and other attempts to bring the colonies to their knees.  They couldn’t place it in the hands of the Supreme Court for that body would be merely judicial.

Instead they came up with a new idea in the world.  They placed the sovereignty of the nation in the hands of We the People.

The Constitution is designed to empower the people not the government.  Though today it is stretched and interpreted to give the government the power to do whatever it wants whenever it wants originally it was constructed to limit government.

We the People could vote the Congress in or out, we could choose our own president, and if the Supreme Court said something was unconstitutional that we wanted we could change the Constitution using a mechanism embedded within the document itself.  For the first time no leader or oligarchy owned the state, instead the state belonged to the citizens.

What do we see in America today?  We have a president who says, “We can’t wait for an increasingly dysfunctional Congress to do its job. Where they won’t act, I will.”  When Congress after deliberation decides not to pass the Dream Act giving amnesty to millions, the President uses an executive order to make it law by decree.  When the Congress refuses to pass a cap-and-trade law that many believe will hamstring our industry and hobble us in the race with other nations, the president orders his EPA department to enforce it anyway.  Without consulting Congress the President takes us to war against Libya and deposes a government.

These are the actions of an executive out of control.  Under the original American system if anyone would have asked, “Who speaks for the people?” the answer would have been the House of Representatives because they were elected every two years and were thus closest to the people.  It wouldn’t have been the Congress as a whole because under the original system the senate was chosen by the various state legislatures and was designed to represent the states.  It was the House which spoke for the people.  Today it is the President who uses the bully pulpit magnified by a subservient press and a thousand government media pressure points and outlets saying in effect, I have a mandate from the people.  I am the embodiment of their will.  I am the state.

The next hallmark of an empire we will look at is that domestic policy becomes subordinate to foreign policy.  The American President is constitutionally in charge of foreign policy so there is no better place for the holder of that office to act without any restraint.  Treaties must be ratified, so our presidents began in the 1940’s to forge personal agreements with the leaders of other countries that had all the force of treaties with none of the messy Senate confirmation required.  Using their power as Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces modern presidents have also used their authority to start wars as in Kosovo and Libya, to sign cease fires as in Korea, and to commit America to the support of dictators and tyrants through deployments and equipment transfers, all without any Congressional oversight.

If we ask ourselves, has domestic policy really become subordinate to foreign policy think about whose infrastructure are we being taxed to rebuild?  In Afghanistan and Iraq our money and our companies are building new schools while ours fall apart, we are building new roads in Afghanistan while we watch our own bridges crumbling.  We give billions to countries and governments that despise us.  We borrow money to give it away and then sometimes borrow it back all in a bizarre dance balancing foreign interests at the expense of We the People.

Another hallmark of an empire is that the military mindset becomes ascendant to the point that civilians are intimidated.  Think about the Defense budget.   In 2012 it was over 600 billion dollars.  Does anyone believe Congress or anyone else really knows where all that money is going?  The size, scope, and unbelievable waste in the defense budget stagger the imagination.  However, to even question the defense budget will immediately get someone labeled as an isolationist who wants to gut our defense and surrender to the enemy.

Many people will argue that we are in a war and that during war of course the defense budget will be bloated.  Can you remember any time since 1942 that we haven’t been in a war?  Yes, there were the brief days of the “Peace Dividend” under Clinton after the Soviet Union dissolved which actually became the rational for increased defense spending.  And during those brief days of peace back in the 1990’s we fought a war and enforced a decade long no-fly zone in Iraq, attacked Serbia, sent troops, planes or other assets to Zaire, Sierra Leone, Bosnia (numerous times), Herzegovina, Somalia, Macedonia, Haiti, Liberia, Central African Republic, Albania, Congo and Gabon, Cambodia, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Tanzania, Sudan, Afghanistan, and East Timor.  And this was our only decade of peace since the 1940’s, and to question any of this is considered tantamount to treason.  We must ask ourselves, “Has the military mindset become ascendant to the point that civilians are intimidated?”

Perpetual war for peace has led the peaceful American people to be ensnared in the clutches of the military-industrial complex as president Eisenhower warned it would in 1961.

All empires develop and maintain a system of satellite nations.  When we hear of this we immediately think of the old USSR and their slave states in Eastern Europe.  Advance the idea that America has satellite nations and people become irate.  “How could you say such a thing about America?”  Look at our so-called allies.  Do they fit the description as satellite nations?  A satellite nation is one that the empire deems is necessary for its own defense.  It is also one that feels it cannot stand alone and wants the empire’s protection.

That is the deal.  The empire commits to protect the satellite and the satellite agrees to stand with its back against the empire facing a common foe.  Add to that the fact that we supply money and material to build the national defenses of our satellite/allies as well as economic aid and a preferential trade system.  Think about these ideas and decide for yourself whether or not America has satellite nations ringing the heartland of the empire.

Another hallmark of empire is that a psychology or psychosis of pride, presumption, and arrogance overtakes the national consciousness.   We are all familiar with the twenty-first century incantation of “Too big to fail.”  That was applied by our bailout happy leaders to their pet banks and companies during the opening days of the Great Recession.  It is also an apt description for the way in which most Americans view our position as the most powerful nation on earth or as the silver tongued talking heads like to say, the world’s sole superpower.  Since the end of World War One the United States has been the unchallenged mega power among the western block of nations.  Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union we have towered like a colossus over the rest of the world.  In the memory of most people now alive it has always been this way.

To most people the way it has been is the way it shall be.  We speak of embracing change and of realizing that change is the only constant but few can really think that way.  The familiar seduces us into thinking that the momentary circumstances of today are the unshakable foundations of tomorrow.  To the children and grandchildren of the greatest generation the world will always gaze in awe at the great American eagle soaring above the world.  Our navies rule the waves, our masses of fighters, bombers, and drones can reach out and touch any corner of the globe, our troops are the best trained, best equipped, and best led armies the world has ever seen, so such a mega power could never fall.

So it seemed to the inhabitants of Rome the eternal empire.  So it seemed to the British when the sun never set upon the union jack.  And so it seems to us.  Even though a rag-tag group like Al Qaeda defies our attempts to destroy them and continues to grow and multiply around the world.  Even though the Taliban not only have withstood more than a decade of war they stand poised to reclaim their country as soon as we leave.  Even though our deficit spending and the national debt it creates is leading us to a financial collapse that our own military leaders have identified as the greatest threat to our security, and our leaders only answer is more spending.  This pride, presumption, and arrogance blinds us to the enduring truth of what comes before a fall.

Finally an empire is the prisoner of history.  A republic is not required to act upon the world stage.  It can pick and choose its own way seeking its own destiny as a commonwealth of citizens.  An empire must project its power for fear that if it doesn’t another leviathan will arise to take its place.  A free republic that has maintained its independence is able to decide where and when it will become involved.  An empire is always the leader of a center heavy coalition comprised of the imperial core and the associated or satellite nations.  As such it is the collective security against the barbarian, the other that drives the actions of the empire.

In the parlance of our day it is our turn.  It is our turn to be the policeman of the world, our turn to keep the peace, to guard civilization from the unwashed hordes who seek to turn back the clock and bring darkness into the world.  We are a vanguard of stability in a world beset by chaos, and so were the British and the Romans before them.

Other writers may say something has been left off these hallmarks while others may say some of these don’t apply.  To all I would recommend a study of former empires to see if they agree these properties are found in all of them.  Then ask ourselves, “Are these properties present in America today?”  Once we have completed this process we will be able to answer the question for ourselves, “Is America an Empire?”  If we decide, yes it is, we have to realize that there is a trajectory all empires follow: they rise and they fall.

We might decide that,we as the first empire that is not set-up to plunder wealth but instead to distribute wealth, are different, and therefore we will break the mold.  We will stand while others have fallen.  One look at our debt should persuade anyone that what we have built is as unsustainable as the British, the Roman, or any other empire we wish to use as a standard.

Do you say, “We can’t be an empire because our president is elected.”  So were the emperors of the Holy Roman Empire, so were the kings of Poland. It is the empire that empowers our executive.  Do you say, “We can’t be an empire because we have a Congress.”  So did Athens, Rome, and Britain.  Do you say, “We can’t be an empire because we have freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, why we even have the freedom to own weapons.”  So did Athens, so did Rome, and so did Britain.

While we are yet on the glory side of the fall let us abandon the empire to save our republic.  Let us resign from the great game of thrones, rebuild America, secure our own borders instead of those of Korea, or Afghanistan, and reaffirm our dedication to be the last best hope of mankind: a federal republic operating on democratic principles, securing our God given liberties, providing personal freedom, individual liberty, and economic opportunity to all its citizens.

Dr. Owens teaches History, Political Science, and Religion.  He is the Historian of the Future @ http://drrobertowens.com © 2013 Robert R. Owens drrobertowens@hotmail.com  Follow Dr. Robert Owens on Facebook or Twitter @ Drrobertowens / Edited by Dr. Rosalie Owens

 

Empires Rise and Empires Fall January 4, 2013

Posted by Dr. Robert Owens in Politics.
Tags: , , , , , ,
3 comments

Most of us, even those of us who are the products of America’s collapsed public education system have heard of the fall of Rome.  The greatest of ancient western empires began to fall as soon as the vigorous Republic which had created it was replaced by an autocratic military dictatorship.  A dictatorship which hid behind a veneer of republican forms while devolving into a cult of personality around whichever thug happened to have murdered his way to the throne.  For centuries this once vibrant nation of freemen sank beneath the weight of regulations, taxes, inflation, and tyranny.  For centuries after their power had been usurped by the ever more absolute Emperors there was still a Senate, there were still elections, and there were still courts charged with safeguarding the Republic.

Freedom was extinguished, and the yeoman farmers who had supported the Republic and filled its armies became first tenant farmers.  Then they morphed into an unemployed rabble choking the streets of an imperial capital living on government bread and entertained by government circuses.  The armies of the Empire were not filled by native Romans they were filled with provincials who were granted the coveted status of citizen for serving.  When the expanding decay of the central dictatorship undermined the vitality of the provinces and the culture of helpless subjects swallowed the pride of citizenship, Germans and other barbarians were imported to fill the armies.  By the time Rome fell it was no longer Rome.  The capital had moved to Constantinople in the East and Ravenna in the West.

The barbarians had long ago supplanted the native Romans and their provincials as the generals and power brokers in the West.  In the East the Greeks had taken control of the military and the culture even though they still called themselves Romans.

In 476 AD when Rome officially fell in the West it didn’t fall as much as it was replaced.  There were no massive charges of barbarians against fortified walls on the Rhine or the Danube.  Those walls had been manned by barbarians for many years.  Instead when the king of the Visigoths, Odacar who was already a Roman general, grew tired of the charade he pushed aside Romulus Augustulus the effete boy emperor taking control of the Western Empire.

When Odacar refused to pay taxes to the remaining Roman Emperor in Constantinople he resorted to a tried and true Roman strategy.  He hired a barbarian to do the dirty work.  Thus Theodoric of the Ostrogoths stabbed Odacar of the Visigoths passing power from one barbarian nation to another.  Once in possession of Rome Theodoric saw no need to hand that prize over to a distant Greek who called himself a Roman but had no power in Rome.  When Theodoric declared himself the King of Italy we mark it as the fall of Rome though the Greeks continued to call their empire Roman for another thousand years.  It seems T. S. Elliot was correct, at least as far as the Roman world was concerned, it ended not with a bang but a whimper.

Looking closer to home the British Empire came out of World War One as the largest empire in the history of the world.  It stretched around the globe controlling thirteen million square miles and 460 million people covering ¼ of the earth’s surface leading the proud imperialists to boast that “The sun never set on the British Empire.”  They were such dedicated conquerors that the Indians had a saying, “Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the noonday sun.”  Nothing would stop them from pushing forward to victory.

However twin victories in Europe’s World War suicide dance combined with a welfare state and the confiscatory taxes it always brings brought Britain to its knees forcing them to voluntarily renounce their empire.  They transformed it into a Commonwealth of Nations with member nations still upholding the fiction of British authority.  However, the amount of real power the Queen or the British Parliament holds in Canada or Australia gives voice to the fall of the empire even if they want to pretend it is still there.

In Rome on the Potomac Boehner’s Plan B becomes Obama’s plan to tax you and me.  After all the huff and buff of a con man’s bait and switch it turns out Washington doesn’t have a spending problem .  No, the problem is we aren’t sending them enough money.  Never fear, elections have consequences and since the ignored corruption of fraudulent voters and whacky voting machines has given Mr. Obama an uncontested victory, he and his Progressive Vandals win, and we American Romans lose.  Our new national motto might as well be “Stand and Deliver.”

The Barbarians have been inside the gates for a long time.  The Kennedy Immigration Bill of 1965 breached the walls and the Progressive indoctrination camps we call public schools combined with an entitlement culture to turn generations of Americans into know-nothing couch potatoes waiting for a government check.

Our worldwide military posts are necessary for the policeman of the world.  Our mounting debt fuels our endless wars for peace and our ever expanding welfare state.  All of which brings us to the crushing taxes and the regulation strangulation that guts our economy of innovation and productivity.  The givers shove the producers out of the way as they waddle to the trough for some more free lunch.  Our leaders are perpetually re-elected demagogues pandering to the lowest common-denominator of the takers. They are Santa Clauses giving away vote buying presents paid for by the unwilling and given to the undeserving.

Like Rome this empire won’t fall it will collapse.  Like Britain we will pretend that the empire exists long after we know the emperor has no clothes.

Our only hope as a nation is to jettison the Empire to save the Republic.  On a personal level we must lead our families in a restoration of the work ethic and a return to moral sanity.  Either we individually spark a revival of what made us great or we sink into the hole dug by moral rot and the decay of ambition.

Empires rise and empires fall; however, though a thousand may fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand; but it shall not come near you.  Because you have made the Lord the Most High, your dwelling place.  No evil shall befall you for He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways.  Trust Jesus, open up before God, and keep nothing back. He’ll do whatever needs to be done.  He’ll validate your life in the clear light of day and stamp you with approval at high noon.

Keep the faith, keep the peace, we shall overcome.

Dr. Owens teaches History, Political Science, and Religion.  He is the Historian of the Future @ http://drrobertowens.com © 2013 Robert R. Owens drrobertowens@hotmail.com  Follow Dr. Robert Owens on Facebook or Twitter @ Drrobertowens / Edited by Dr. Rosalie Owens

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 457 other followers

%d bloggers like this: