Saturday, September 27, 2008

Last night's debate and ending the empire

Rome never looks where she treads.
Always her heavy hooves fall
On our stomachs, our hearts or our heads;
And Rome never heeds when we bawl.
Her sentries pass on -- that is all,
And we gather behind them in hordes,
And plot to reconquer the Wall,
With only our tongues for our swords.
- Rudyard Kipling

While listening to Barack Obama trying to out-McCain McCain on being tough on national security, I couldn't help but listen to the discussion through the ears of an Afghani child. Would such a child agree that the U.S. has neglected Afghanistan? Would such a child believe that her life could be made better by U.S. troops?

As Katrina vanden Heuvel points out, Obama has at times risen above the mentality that indiscriminate violence (war) can stop indiscriminate violence (terror). He has
spoken forcefully as the first 21st century candidate---addressing the limits of military force in a world whose central challenges are pandemics, nuclear proliferation, global inequality,and climate change.
But alas, not last night. vanden Heuvel continues:
Instead of playing to the future, forcefully, with toughness and passion, Obama was the young hawk trying to out-hawk the old uber-hawk.

Johan Galtung, the founder of the discipline of Peace Studies, introduced me to a new slogan a few years ago: "Down with the U.S. Empire, Up with the U.S. Republic". If the Democrats were really smart, they would be finding some way to play on this meme.

Here's a great video of Galtung on the greatest threats to humanity (number one is what he calls "hyper capitalism"). Also, this essay that was written shortly after the invasion of Iraq offers some more insights into Galtung's call for an end to empire.

Until some kind of principled opposition to empire in all its forms can be articulated, a vote for the Democratic party will always be a vote for the lesser of two evils. Last night proved that again for me.

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