Why imperial states require state hegemony at home, not just abroad
Part V of Julian Drury’s American Empire Series
Benjamin Franklin once said that “Those willing to sacrifice their liberty for security deserves neither.” Not only is this statement hauntingly correct, but it seems that America today is choosing not to follow Mr. Franklin’s age old advice.
In the 21st century, the world has become wrapped in a unipolar world order dominated by the United States. Some would argue this is changing, and indeed they may be correct in some ways, but in terms of the military might and the reach of its business complex, no other nation on earth rivals the power of the United States.
The United States has managed to impose somewhat of a Pax-Americana on the world for twenty years. However, if history has shown anything, in order for a superpower or empire to maintain any form of mass hegemony on its neighbors, it must inevitably silence any dissenting voices at home.
The United States is indeed the superpower of earth today. Empire is a good word for the trajectory of American policies and America is presently doing a good job of masking this imperial attitude overtly. Aside from imposing a system of supremacy abroad, in order for an empire to flourish, a certain hegemony by the state must also be established at home as well. The United States adheres to this rule.
America’s government has slowly been infringing on America’s civil liberties. No, I’m not talking about guns or healthcare or anything of that nonsensical nature. I’m talking about real liberties that will truly have negative consequences for future Americans; wiretapping phones, tracking one’s location with use of mobile technology, reading one’s emails and correspondence, as well as powers of searching and seizing a person or his belongings without a court order or warrant.
These are powers that have been building up for the past few generations, and have expanded under Democratic and Republican presidents alike. Since 2001, the powers of government to violate the constitution have become far more overt. Laws such as AUMF and PATRIOT give the government (especially the executive branch) the ability to conduct all the activities I listed. President Barack Obama has even expended upon these precedents after promising to reverse them.
Obama recently had to defend the increased surveillance powers the government is invoking at a press conference concerning the NSA and its “PRISM” program of using internet and phone companies to hack and spy on Americans both domestic and abroad. Granted, yes the majority of these powers were in place since the Bush Administration, but Obama’s Administration has not gone out of its way to dismantle these policies.
Obama himself ordered the expansion of the drone program, and has even given “legal” justifications for the killing of American citizens abroad without a trial. Obama signed into law the NDAA of 2011 which held a clause within it that stated the government had the authority to arrest and detain U.S. Citizens without due process and can detain them under military authority indefinitely. As mentioned earlier, the types of policies Obama is allowing are based upon precedents expanding over decades.
What is even more disturbing about this is the fact that the American people are going along with these policies without question. If the government of France said tomorrow that they were going to pass the same laws that give the same powers as the current American government gives itself, there would be probably a million people in the street. Hell, the French managed to get 100,000 people on the street just to protest gay marriage. But here in America, we have had these laws for well over a decade and most people go about as if there’s nothing to worry about.
This is not surprising though. Most superpowers and empires in the past have normally had the ability to coerce its people fairly easily into supporting the types of policies we see today in America. Britain for example was able to sway the vast majority of its intellectual and lowers classes into believing their colonialism was just, and the few that did oppose it were monitored heavily. Rome too had a very similar state of affairs. America has been able to convince its population rather well that the imperialistic expansions of the state are well justified, and anyone who doesn’t agree has the possibility of being watched. I said possibility, not certainty.
The temptations that power brings can reverberate throughout a nation. Now we thank the press for aggressively asking questions about the nature of our government spying programs, yet where was the press ten years ago when these laws were passed in the first place?
What we see is America embracing these imperial policies through its own belief in moral superiority. Most Americans claim they don’t trust the government, yet they allow them the ability to be able to hack their emails and phone records. In fact, most Americans tend to be rather trusting of giving their government power to which they don’t deserve. The nature of hegemony requires coercion of enemies abroad, but also the coercion of dissent from within. One thing is for sure, power has no shortage of enemies… Unless the people are kept in check.