Why is that people always get to use the best titles before I get there? (And why do I get so side-tracked when I am trying to write blogs more regularly?)
I had thought about rushing to print with a piece called “Eye Spy” when the revelations made public by Mr Snowden hit the public domain. A man who clearly broke the law, but whose views of ethics and morality seemed to hit a chord with the global public, leading to much justification being put forward in support of his actions. Nevertheless, no matter how much courage the man has in speaking out, I was always taught that you were not entitled to take the law into your own hands. But like so many things, does even that get justified by an “… unless…”?
Clearly snooping on the affairs of others when it is unjustified is – even in our new world of transparency – a disgusting habit. And to try and justify it by rather petulantly saying “Well, everyone else does it” does not actually impress me much. I was also always taught, “two wrongs don’t make a right”.
No wonder America is, or was, called the land of the free. It is free to criticize everyone else. It is free to allow its citizens to run around schools armed to the teeth and kill young children. It is free to say, “we are the arbiters of good taste, and good governance”, and we have the best rules that must be followed by everyone else because we have got it right, and if you don’t follow us then you have got it wrong! And we will punish you, without recourse, but don’t think about calling us to account in return.
Apropos the “land of the free”, I came across an article in The Washington Post from January 2012 that provided in somewhat less emotive terms “Ten reasons the US is no longer the land of the free”. So, I thought, perhaps the comments I have made from time to time in these Blogs that have been critical of the USA that led some readers to believe I was anti-American (conveniently ignoring the fact I am critical of lots of places, if I find something to be critical about), were maybe hitting a raw nerve or two.
Nevertheless I was a little surprised during a discussion I was having with an American friend a couple of weeks back, when he suggested America was behaving just like an Empire of old. And if I accepted that as a theory, then I should note that its “power” was coming to an end. Soon. Caused by the emergence of new economies geographically, some high-handed behaviour domestically, and a growingly vociferous lack of acceptance by many countries – by US allies even - that the USA had the monoply of getting it right. And the power of the US economy, evident particularly since the end of the 2nd World War, was in terminal decline.
Personally I had never thought in terms of the “American Empire” – so I started to look it up and found that many others apparently had thought of it! Stick phrases like “The end of the American Empire” into your favourite search engine and the number of people who have already come to this conclusion may overwhelm you. And there was me, in my total naivety, not even knowing they were one.
So where to now for the American Empire? If history is anything to go by, nowhere that great really.
The British at one time managed to have a huge Empire, which basically denuded many countries of their natural resources and their wealth, leaving nothing much behind by way of “compensation”. Great administrators the British, but look at the old colonies of Africa and how they are managed today – and how poor they are.
Other Europeans, for example the Dutch and the Spaniards, had bits and pieces of Empires, and the Portuguese had the odd colony.
Step further back in time to the Ottoman and Athenian Empires and that most original of the “Classical” Empires - the Romans, from whom the word Empire (imperium) originated. Where are they now? Shadows of their former selves.
Some believe that as we move forward we are in for an “Asian Empire” – and perhaps we are. Note, not necessarily a Chinese Empire, but an Asian one; a more likely scenario, in my opinion, than an African or Latin American one. Maybe an economic empire, which has probably been the overiding hallmark of the American Empire – although Korea, Vietnam, the Cold War, Iraq, Afghanistan and a few others cannot be ignored.
Or perhaps we are missing something here that is much more fundamental. If we go back to the 15th century BC (or the more PC BCE) and the then New Kingdom of Ancient Egypt, ruled by Thutmose III, was huge, and 12 centuries later you had the Assyrian Empire (located in what is now Northern Iraq), followed by the Median and Achaemenid Empires (both Persian). Don’t they say history repeats itself?
So that’s what the Arab Spring is all about! Now we know.