Friday, November 25, 2005

Sic Semper Tyrannis 

Via Zemblan patriot J.D.: Writing in The Nation, Jonathan Schell argues that 21st-century America has long faced a choice between two conflicting destinies: are we to be an empire, or a republic? But the imperial dream is swiftly collapsing. "It is not that a great power has been brought down--although the casualties of the war, American and Iraqi, have been tragically real--but that a world of fancy and fraud has been exploded by facts":
For some time I have been suggesting here that the aim of Republican strategy has been a Republican Party that permanently runs the United States and a United States that permanently runs the world. The two aims have been driven by a common purpose: to steadily and irreversibly increase and consolidate power in GOP hands, leading in the direction of a one-party state at home and a global American empire abroad. The most critical question has been whether American democracy, severely eroded but still breathing, would bring down the Republican machine, or whether the Republican machine--call it the budding one-party global empire--would bring down American democracy. This week, it looks as if democracy, after years of decline, has gained the upper hand.

The choice was and remains: empire or republic? Just a few years ago the "sole superpower," the new Rome, master of the "unipolar" world, seemed to many to be bestriding the globe. Some, like columnist Charles Krauthammer, were reveling in the triumph of "the American hegemon." "History has given you an empire, if you will keep it," he said, traducing Benjamin Franklin, who had said at the Constitutional Convention that the United States was a republic if you can keep it . . . .

As happened in the Vietnam era, the war came home. The Administration's disrespect for law led to law-breaking. Somehow, the law-enforcement system in and around the Justice Department has retained enough independence to serve as a check on abuses of executive power. Indictments have been brought, and others are likely to follow. The mechanisms whereby the foreign debacle has led to the domestic setbacks for the Administration are complex, but the broad outlines are already clear: The failed empire, in the shape of its failed war, has driven down the President's support to the point at which others, cowed until now, feel free to attack him. The institutions of government and the economy, drawn like iron filings into the magnetic field of power, failed at first to check the Administration. But the public, represented by opinion polls, has stepped in, and the institutions are following. Not since the Soviet Union fell fourteen years ago have we witnessed a greater reversal of fortune.

Unmaking the conglomeration of unaccountable power built up around the Republican Party in recent years will hardly be the work of a week, and the outcome is anything but certain. But if the effort succeeds, historians may one day write that the fake American empire was the Achilles' heel of the real one-party state.

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