BY DAVE MIN
Clearly, last Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001 was tragic and horrible, on a scale that most of us had never known before. Words cannot adequately describe the emotions that we as Americans are feeling right now, and I have no intention of trying. But as we try to make sense of these attacks upon our nation, it is inevitable that we will focus upon the causes, to see what we might have done differently to prevent or avoid such a terrible outcome.
J.R. Parker, my counterweight in this tete-a-tete, contends that this incursion into our sovereignty and our sense of security is an inevitable outcome of American imperialism, of our excessive entanglements in foreign affairs. While I do not entirely dispute his depiction of America as empire, I respectfully contend the contrary position is the case: by not engaging enough in foreign affairs, we allowed an unstable and increasingly hostile climate to develop abroad that was bound to strike at us at some point.
For good and for bad, our nation, our culture, is associated almost entirely with a particular brand of globalist free trade. From the days of Admiral Per-ry, to the ratification of GATT, Amer-ica has sought to export its capitalist ideology to the furthest reaches of the world. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, we declared that the free market had prevailed, establishing itself as the one true and righteous governing ideology. Today, Coca-Cola, Starbucks and Levi’s are just a few of the symbols whose worldwide reach and universal recognition illustrate the dominance, the empire, of American culture.
But as we reveled in our wealth and grandeur, we often ignored the severely negative effects of our dominating ideology. All too frequently, the introduction of American ideas and American businesses has led to the discarding of timeless traditions, the erosion and destruction of family and local governance structures, the overnight transformation of peoples into paupers. One need only note the absurdly high rates of disease, starvation and prostitution in recently industrialized countries to see the truth of this. This is not to say that we should, or can, somehow change the nature of our free market economy. As my old friend Bart Minkowski used to say, “You can’t keep a libertarian from babbling about ‘The Fountainhead,’ and you can’t stop the spread of global capitalism.”
But we should recognize that to many people, our nation is inseparable from our capitalist cultural influence, which is inseparable in their minds from the upheaval and misery they have experienced. If our government does not send one soldier, give one dollar of aid or dispatch one diplomat abroad, our country will still be viewed, correctly, as having a profound and direct effect on the lives and governments of the rest of the world. Thus, when we allow turmoil and hatred and destruction to foment outside of our country, it will inevitably seep into our country. When we turn our backs on genocides in Africa and Central Europe, religious oppression in Afghanistan, civil war in Israel/Palestine, we must understand that we are still viewed on some level as responsible, whether we agree with this assessment or not.
I’m by no means advocating invasion of all countries that harbor terrorists, for the same reasons as my friend across the page. But I am saying that an active engagement with foreign affairs is necessary to our well-being. If America ignores the rest of the world, if we are content with simply destroying Osama bin Laden, and continuing with our business, we may soon find that the cancer of terrorism has spread insidiously throughout the world. And no missile defense system or increased level of security will prevent it from striking our homeland.
Do not be lured by the Siren allure of Mr. Parker’s isolationist song, nor cowed by his Chicken Little cries of “Empire!” In a very basic sense, America is already an empire, an empire based in ideology, and there is nothing it can do to change that. Certainly, our enemies and even many of our allies see us in that light. If we wish for security at home, then we must actively work abroad, to remedy the widespread suffering that leads to desperate acts, to contain the acts of hatred and violence that will invariably come here to roost.