January 26, 2004

What Made the British an Empire?

Bruce Rolston brings up more than crucial point in the US Republic/Empire debate in his recent post fisking David Frum. A great many people who declare the US an empire actually do believe that the US is merely on the road and use the formula as a sort of shorthand.

I think that Bruce may be underexposed to moonbats because, unarguably and from personal experience, I can say that there are people who think that the US is an actual empire today. It would be useful to have some sort of way to verbally segregate these people from the "on the road" contingent (who I freely admit is likely to make up a large majority of empire worriers) so they are not easily confused. The moonbats profit from any confusion and they don't need encouragement.

Further down in the article, he talks about the British Empire's distinct lack of crucifixion fetish and the lack of roads lined with executions in progress as object lessons to the colonials. This is all very true but it really begs the question of what were the essential characteristics of membership in the empire and does the relationship between the US and a country like Turkey share any or all of these essential characteristics.

In my own list, I would have to put in first place the lack of a foreign policy. If a territory leaves foreign relations to others as a matter of law, it is no longer an independent state but a member of a larger entity. Another thing that would be high on my list would be a lack of control over your borders. If you can't stop the roman legions from going in and out of your territory as they please, you're part of Rome.

This last point brings us to our first difficulty. Can Luxembourg meaningfully stop the US from crossing? It cannot do it physically, to be sure. Any resistance would largely be symbolic. But that's true for most nations in the world. Is Canada part of the US empire because it could not win a war against the US? Clearly it is not. It would be the legitimateness of the resistance, as recognized by everybody including the US, not its ultimate success or failure that determine whether it is today a member of a US empire.

There is a lot of work that needs to be done in terms of the empire/republic debate. I strongly suspect that Bruce Rolston and I are on the same (republican) side. The moonbats that are out there have the advantage that they are obsessive on the topic and can churn out an awful lot of words. It is no inconsiderable advantage and, I suspect, is what prompted David Frum's original point.

I don't reflexively defend Frum. I think that he's dead wrong on the national ID card and on Palestine. The existence of a thriving death cult is a grave national security threat because there is no guarantee that the object of that death cult will stay limited to other targets (Israel in this case) nor that intellectual arguments in its favor would not spread to the wider world and replicate itself. But on the empire question, I think that his argument is largely with the moonbats, not the more responsible "on the road" crowd. In that anti-moonbat posturing, I would support him.

Posted by TMLutas at January 26, 2004 11:50 AM