Rise of Mercenaries and Fall of an Empire

July 28, 2007 at 3:51 pm (books, opinions, politics)

I am currently reading “Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army” by Jeremy Scahill. This is one scary book. I am not yet even a third of the way through the book, so I’m not going to hazard a commentary on the back-alley deals our government leaders are making with some people even shadier people than themselves…yet.

What I did want to remark on was a sentence written in just the preface of the book. Scahill writes, quoting Machael Ratner, who is president of the Center for Constitutional Rights:

“To the extent a population is called upon to go to war, there is resistance, a necessary resistance to prevent wars of self-aggrandizement, foolish wars and in the case of the United States, hegemonic imperialist warms. Private forces are almost a necessity for a United States bent on retaining its declining empire. Think about Rome and its increasing need for mercenaries… Controlling an angry, abused population with a police force bound to obey the Constitution can be difficult – private forces can solve this ‘problem’.”

When I read this passage I stopped in my tracks and re-read it a couple of times. Not just because it is an exact description of our country at this juncture (or at least its approaching it very quickly), but because I have had several conversations with friends recently about how I see this time in American history as the downfall of our “empire”. If only our heads of state would pick up a history book instead of “Guns and Ammo” once in a while, they might realize this too. No matter how great or powerful an empire is, it will fall eventually. The need for the U.S. government to hire organizations like Haliburton and Blackwater is a concrete example of the lack of faith and support the American people have in our leaders.

As for the demise of the American empire, I’m not talking solely about how we are perceived and respected around the world, and by our own citizens. Obviously we are losing favor precipitously in those regards. I personally think that the biggest factor in our national downfall is our priorities. We all know how many billions/trillions this war is putting us in debt, but sometimes people don’t think about where that money used to go. It used to go toward all of the sectors that made our nation well respected and a desired location for scholars to flock to. Areas like education, technology and research. Sadly, thousands of people die from terrorism each year, but how many millions die from AIDS, cancer, heart disease, etc? If we’re going for the numbers game, why not throw money at medical research? We’ve heard the news stories about how American school children are quickly slipping in the ranks of science and math proficiency. At the same time, our right-wing Christian leaders are halting new and important areas of technology like stem cell research, and they’re trying to put MORE religion in school and LESS science (evolution anyone?). What’s that sound? Oh yea, that’s the rest of the world laughing at us.

I predict that if the U.S. were to continue along the same track, and I hope it doesn’t, that we will quickly be eclipsed by the likes of China, India, and progressive EU nations in all areas of education, science, technology, you name it. In today’s world, military might will get you oil, but in our technology-driven times, it is the wrong strategy for staying on top. Maybe it is time for a shift. Let someone else police the world for a while.

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