C.J. Maloney
April 20, 2011

The Danger of Ending the American Empire

The passage from war to peace is more critical for an established order than the passage from peace to war.

Eric Hoffer (1951)

As I imagine everyone reading this will agree, the American empire our politicians have foisted on the world must be ended, and the sooner the better. The loss of life, the squandering of wealth and the inroads to our liberty engendered by their foolish quest to bring the world to heel all argue for it. Yet, nothing should be started without first thinking it through, and it must be realized that ending our empire brings with it a unique set of dangers. Specifically, we need to be wary about bringing onto our shores a large, standing army.

It’s a blunder of monumental proportions that we find ourselves in this position at all. Our Founders (and all recorded history) warned us against so absurd a notion that America should have, or even needs, a large standing army. Naturally there will be, and always have been, those who argue that a large standing army is necessary for the defense of our country. In the Federalist Papers #25 Alexander Hamilton, always on the lookout for any excuse to augment power, railed against “the impropriety of a constitutional interdiction of (standing armies)” and extolled the wisdom of leaving such a profound decision to “the discretion and prudence of the legislature”.

His excuse was not Al-Qaida or a “Red Menace” but England, France, and Spain, acting alone or in concert against us. The thousands of miles of ocean God blessed us with as a shield against the world’s turmoil was thrown aside as he declared “the improvements in the arts of navigation have…rendered distant nations, in a great measure, neighbors”. This, to say the least, was Mr. Hamilton flailing about for he had earlier written in the Federalist Papers #8“Europe is at a great distance from us. Extensive military establishments cannot, in this position, be necessary to our security.” That last was true in his day, and is true in ours.

From the Egyptian Army’s thuggish behavior in Tahrir Square, to the bloodbath visited upon the workers protesting in Tiananmen Square by the Chinese Army to the unarmed students shot dead at Kent State University by the US Army, the danger to a people’s liberty wherever politicians have at their disposal a large standing army is too obvious to ignore. To “bring the boys back home”, to close our foreign bases, end all the wars and allow the uncountable multitudes of uniformed servicemen and mercenaries to re-enter our borders as an armed compact body is an extremely dangerous proposition and one to be avoided at all hazards.

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Our military must be demobilized overseas, it must not be allowed to re-enter US territory as an armed body. Honed by years of waging (and losing) colonial guerilla wars, having extensive experience in the minute regulation of and heavy handed operations against civilians, the US military would be primed for any outrage, and for those who believe that it would not turn its weapons against US citizens I suggest a library visit to dissuade you of such delusion. How can we believe they would uphold their sworn oath to defend liberty when for decades now they have blithely, and with not so much as a blush of shame, launched war after war without any declaration from Congress allowing them to do so?

We are far past the point of having a small army of citizen soldiers who feel a connection with their fellow Americans, we long ago turned to an all-volunteer military, one which now has formed its own caste, separate from civilian society. We disregarded the warning of Montesquieu that “it would be extremely dangerous to make the profession of arms a particular state, distinct from that of civil functions” (Montesquieu, I,V,19) as “the army will ever despise a Senate, and respect their own officers; they will naturally slight the orders sent them by a body of men whom they look upon as cowards; and therefore unworthy to command them.” (Hyneman, I, 37) And in those words we find, at last, a danger shared by both the workers and the political class of America.

For while the grandees in DC and the state capitals have absolutely nothing to fear from the American people themselves, they do have something greatly to fear from a large standing army recently returned from an overseas empire (now consigned to the dustbin of history), facing unemployment, angry at being “stabbed in the back” and fuming over the useless deaths of so many of their friends. Of course the “People” will be no help in defending a Congress besieged by an angry American army.

It was noted by Alexander Hamilton of those long impressed with the “glory” of their nation’s military, “it is very difficult to prevail upon a people under such impressions, to make a bold, or effectual resistance, to usurpations, supported by the military power”. The commander who turns an American army against Congress will find the road to DC wide open and undefended, in advancing to slay the beast of DC the military would finally experience the “cakewalk” it could never find overseas.

The Russian poetess Zinaida Gippius wrote in 1917 “nobody wants the Bolsheviks, but nobody is prepared to fight for (the Provisional Government) either”. We lie in the same bed, currently. The American people, inculcated to a blind worship of those “who serve” and long habituated to constant encroachments to our liberty (all excused by the necessity of “security” and military exigencies), this combined with the extreme unpopularity of the denizens of Congress makes me ask; who among us would be willing to risk it all in defense of the likes of Pelosi, Clinton, Obama, McCain, and Boehner?

Certainly not me. As for the answer “why” I leave you with a line from Freeman’s Journal (a Philadelphia newspaper) dated December 12, 1787. The writer noted “when people are once slaves, it is a matter of little concern to them who are their masters.” So come to think of it, a “temporary” military junta led by the Joint Chiefs of Staff or the current mess led by Obama & Pals…why should I care?

Whether one faction or the other is sitting on the Federal throne or swinging from a noose, it’s all the same to me.

Sources Cited

Hyneman, Charles S. and Lutz, Donald S. American Political Writing During the Founding Era: Volume One. (Liberty Fund, Indianapolis, IN, 1983)

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Montesquiei, Baron de. The Spirit of Laws. (Prometheus Books, Amherst, NY, 2002)

CJ Maloney lives and works in New York City. All opinions expressed are his alone. He blogs for Liberty & Power on the History News Network website and the DailyKos. His first book is Back to the Land (Arthurdale, FDR’s New Deal, and the Costs of Economic Planning).

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