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Lessons From Afghanistan: The Need For Empire


“Now the main foundations of all States, whether new, old, or mixed, are good laws and good arms… you cannot have the former without the latter, and where you have the latter, are likely to have the former…”

Machiavelli, The Prince, Chapter XII


 

To keep my introduction brief, I will omit a treatise on the absolute failures of the Biden Administration in regard to leaving Afghanistan. I will, however, quickly add that I hold this administration to be one composed of cowardice, decorated in disgrace, and built on a foundation of incompetence. This administration is an embarrassment.


Read an opposing viewpoint: It is Time to End the Empire

Now, with that off my chest, I would like to say that in reflecting on this catastrophe in Afghanistan I know many different people have a litany of opinions on what went wrong, who is responsible, and what we should learn. In regard to the first, I believe that most conservatives and liberals who see this clearly are correct in detailing everywhere this situation went awry, and how it could’ve been properly executed. I believe my aforementioned statement reveals my answer to the second question.


I do believe, however, that I differ from many with respect to the last question: It is time we emancipate ourselves from the idealistic, isolationist trance we have fallen victim to, and accept the fact that America is an empire and would do well to start acting like one.

Many conservatives will appeal to the Monroe Doctrine and state that they prefer it over the Truman Doctrine. While I greatly revere James Monroe and his doctrine for international relations, this is no longer the world of James Monroe. As William McKinley stated in his last speech,


Modern inventions have brought into close relation widely separated peoples and make them better acquainted… We travel greater distances in a shorter space of time and with more ease than was ever dreamed of by the fathers. Isolation is no longer possible or desirable.

Yet, in looking at the Monroe Doctrine it is clear to see that its purpose was to promote what was best for the United States in the realm of international relations at the time. The fourth tenet of the Monroe Doctrine held that any “attempt by a European power to oppress or control any nation in the Western Hemisphere would be viewed as a hostile act against the United States.” As a consequence of this, in response to the French building a puppet kingdom in Mexico in the mid-19th century the U.S. amassed troops on the Rio Grande to demand they withdraw. At the time, the Monroe Doctrine was seen as working in the interest of the United States. We simply were not a world power at the time, and acting as one could have potentially cost us our beloved Union. Thus, we were isolated from the affairs of Europe. That is, until they extended to the Western Hemisphere. Interfering on the Western side of the pond was a direct threat to U.S. sovereignty. Thus, when the French were meddling in the Western Hemisphere, we did not hesitate to send troops to the Rio Grande.


The Monroe Doctrine and the Truman Doctrine are both brilliant because despite their striking differences, they promote what I like to call the Protection and Preservation Doctrine. They seek above all else to protect the American People and preserve the Constitution in the best way possible considering the circumstances. In short: they perpetuate the Union.


The Protection and Preservation Doctrine now calls for the United States to accept its place as the foremost power in the world and act like the Empire it already is. Thinking we can simply withdraw troops from their posts around the world is the product of idealistic fantasies, and dead bodies lie in the wake of idealistic fantasies. The Biden administration wished the world could be one way, then reality hit it between the eyes and now 13 U.S. troops are dead and 18 are gravely injured. While there are many isolationists who disagree with Biden’s methods, their thinking is rooted in the same fallacious presuppositions as the President’s.


To begin with, I would like to explore the purpose of the U.S. Federal Government in respect to international relations detailed by Hamilton in Federalist No. 23. He states,


The principal purposes of the Union are these --- the common defense of the members; the preservation of the public peace as well against internal convulsions as external attacks; the regulation of commerce between the States; the superintendence of our intercourse, political and commercial, with foreign countries. The authorities essential to the care of the common defence are these --- to raise armies; to build and equip fleets; to prescribe rules for the government of both; to direct their operations; to provide for their support.

He then goes on to state that these powers should be unlimited and that for these duties to be carried out by the Federal Government, “the means ought to be proportioned to the end.” I believe that all well-meaning people who take international relations seriously can agree that the end is the safety of the American people and the preservation of the Constitution (explained above in what I call the Protection and Preservation Doctrine), yet where I contend with most people on this issue is in holding the means by which we do this must be found in an American Empire.


The word empire is often held in a negative light; certainly, no politician would use it. In fact, most run away from the word (along with any hint at “imperialism”) because they possess the fortitude of a cardboard box and the backbone of a slinky. Quite frankly I do not believe that politicians should pay more than an ounce of attention to popular opinions on international relations. The people at large know practically nothing concerning foreign affairs, and our elected officials are placed in office after vowing their allegiance to the Constitution, not the passions of their constituents.


Where in the enumerated duties of the Congress in Article I, Section 8 is “appease the wanton whims of the masses” to be found? Perhaps it was placed in the military duties of the Executive detailed in Clauses 1 and 2 of Article II, Section 2? You will be found wanting for the rest of your life if you look there because nowhere in our Constitution is any idea of “popular sovereignty,” for popular sovereignty is a farce--a Rousseauean phrase designed to allow the despotism of licentiousness to masquerade as freedom of the people. We do not live in a direct democracy for a reason. When it comes to foreign affairs, we need the best of us to make decisions that will often be unpopular. As Machiavelli, the apostle of realism, rightly states in Chapter XVII of The Prince, “A Prince should therefore disregard the reproach of being thought cruel where it enables him to keep his subjects united…”


In regard to foreign affairs and protecting and preserving the Constitution, our elected officials should do what is best for the country, not what the people want. We have a perverted view of the purpose of Congress, and thus what I am saying is deeply despised by my fellow conservatives. Conservatism has been seen as the philosophy of “small government.” This is a shame, for conservatism is far more profound than this, and statements like this not only contradict it, but render it incompetent and pathetic. I stand with Alexis de Tocqueville where he states in Chapter VII, Book IV, Volume II of Democracy in America,


It is both necessary and desirable that the government of a democratic people should be active and powerful: and our object should not be to render it weak or indolent, but solely to prevent it from abusing its aptitude and its strength.

We need a strong and effective foreign policy if we are to preserve and perpetuate the Union, and this requires a strong and effective national government that is clothed in constitution and the rule of law. We also need politicians to stop pandering to the fanciful affections of the masses. I see the duty of our representatives in this Republic to be those described by Edmund Burke, “... that he is in parliament to support his opinion of the public good, and does not form his opinion to get into parliament, or to continue in it.” We need the best of us to rule according to their best judgments.


In regard to this empire, I of course, am not speaking of a colonial empire, nor one where we govern other nations. I am speaking of an empire of military bases and troops stationed around the world.




Above is a map of the British Empire at the height of the Pax Britannica (1900). Below is a map of where the U.S. had military bases as of 2016.




So, to think we aren’t already an empire is simply ridiculous. We are; we just have the privilege of living in a time in history where we don’t need colonies to promote our interests, and thank God for that.


The American Empire I am advocating for is not one based on satisfying our humanitarian appetite, it is solely about promoting our interests, protecting our way of life, and preserving the Constitution.

Since our departure from Afghanistan, the Chinese have recognized the Taliban as the legitimate government. We have allowed a horde of barbarians who despise the United States, and harbor other barbarians who also hate the United States, to become the leaders of what was perhaps our best strategic position in the Middle East. We had an air base for operations in an allied nation that neighbors both Pakistan, who hates our ally (and member of the Quad Alliance, a paramount friend in the fight against China) India, and Iran, who hates us. Now we have lost all of this. Imagine the power we would hold over the Middle East if we wouldn’t have left Iraq, or if the Trump administration wouldn’t have severely weakened our presence in Syria.


Now, the Middle East is up for grabs and the Chinese, the Russians, and the Iranians are all drooling over the progress they will make in advancing their interests—foremost of which is the destruction of the United States. The Russia-China-Iran alliance is scarily similar to the 1882 Triple Alliance (Germany, Austria-Hungary, Italy) with China clearly playing the role of the Germans. Kaiser Wilhelm II sought to contend with the British for world domination. Thus, he started to construct a navy to do so. Imagine if Great Britain would not have come out of what is described in Twentieth-Century Europe: A Brief History, 1900 to the Present as its “splendid isolation” to contend with the Kaiser. Instead, they formed the Anglo-Japanese Alliance and the Triple Entente (France, Russia, Great Britain), and Germany lost the first World War.


Currently, Xi Jinping may be attempting to mimic the Kaiser and contend with us as the foremost world power. To start, China has been reported to be building 14 new silos for nuclear weapons. Also, according to the Wall Street Journal, in 2010 the U.S. Navy had 68 more ships than the Chinese navy. Today, it has 63 fewer ships, a swing of 131 ships in 10 years. To make matters worse, the piece also reveals that the United States is losing air dominance:


The Air Force is also following the Pentagon’s “divest to invest” lead. Combat aircraft procurement is down 22% from 2021. The force wants to retire 137 aircraft, more than double the number it plans to buy. After the retirement of 17 B-1s last year, the Air Force’s bomber inventory is at a level top officers have called the bare minimum. Ammunition procurement is down more than 40%. China in recent years has focused on procuring advanced aircraft and has the world’s third-largest air force. In addition, China has an extensive ground-based conventional missile force, including the DF-26, known as the ‘carrier killer’ which is capable of striking Guam.

I should probably also mention the $400 billion agreement that China and Iran came to in April this year in which Iran gets lots of cash and China gets lots of oil. These countries have ambitious goals for the world that they see as clay to mold into whatever fashion they wish. If we aren’t careful, they most certainly will. This is why we need an American Empire: because our opponents, who actively seek our demise, will create theirs if we do not. As Machiavelli states in Chapter XIV of The Prince,


Between an armed and an unarmed man no proportion holds, and it is contrary to reason to expect that an armed man should submit to him who is unarmed, or that the unarmed man should stand secure among armed retainers.

I am simply asserting that we would do well to be the armed man. With the American Empire asserting its power around the globe, we can respond to, and quell, threats immediately when they arise. We will also keep threats from arising if those who seek our end know that their actions will be responded to with haste and that we will not sleep until justice is served the American way.


Critics will say, “Well sure you make a good point, but are we to expect our troops to stay in these places in perpetuity?” Well, yes. Honestly, I am of the firm belief that to ask anything less of our military is a disgrace to our armed services. What happened to dying for one's country? What happened to piety? Our men and women in the military are heroes sacrificing for their country; they are well aware that the call to protect our way of life and Constitution comes at a cost. While wars are costly, there is hardly any death in the occupation once the war is over. See Afghanistan, South Korea, Japan, and Germany for example.


In closing, I hope that it has been made clear that the end of American foreign affairs is that of the Protection and Preservation Doctrine: to protect the American way of life and to preserve the Constitution. I also hope it has been clear that the means to which we attain this end is through empire. This is the world we live in, brutish though it may be. We cannot afford to continue pursuing idealistic, isolationist illusions. We cannot wish into existence some Utopian world where we can detach ourselves from everything happening around us. If we do so, we will perish. I hope the lesson we learn from Afghanistan is that we need to recognize that it is not our place to wish some ideal, abstract world into being, but to recognize reality for what it is and act accordingly. Currently, it is one in which our enemies seek to destroy us and if we do not act to build an empire, they will. As Hamilton brilliantly states in Federalist No. 11,


Let the… States, bound together in a strict and indissoluble Union, concur in erecting one great American system, superior to the control of all transatlantic force or influence, and able to dictate the terms of the connection between the old and new world!

Aristotle claims in The Politics that the “state comes into being to secure life itself and continues to exist to secure the good life.” We have a good life here in the United States; we have a Union; and we have a marvelous Constitution. We must give the states the means to secure it: an empire.//



Micah Veillon


 

Read an opposing viewpoint: It is Time to End the Empire

 

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