The Cost of Hegemony

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New York City was the home to the world's fare in 1939.  The event talked about years afterwards at the time exhibited the life of tomorrow, the beginning of the Americans thought to be the great society.  By 1939 Americans had ten years of economic depression, which continued to linger on.  They increasingly were becoming anxious about the war brewing in Europe and our country's possible involvement. A bright sunny future, including the introduction of television brighten their outlook.

 

As the eventual war began to wind down in 1944 Americans starting talking about a post war period.  A return to the 1930s was greatly feared.  The talk of a great society surfaced again, including by FDR himself.  In a nutshell the promise held that any engaged and contributing American could expect financial safety, security and prosperity. Later in the mid 1960s the great society was altered to include African Americans.

 

While parts of the great society vision have certainly come true and remain so, much of the vision has been or has become a dismal failure.  There are many reasons but our government's never ending quest for world hegemony is one of the major failing points.

 

In 1945 before the ink on the Japanese surrender papers had dried and while young men were still coming home in body bags the next "monster" was being hatched.  The Nazis and Nips (as they were called) were immediately replaced by the "commies" or "ruskies."  America in the eyes of a few needed a constant enemy.

 

Since 1945 we've had few years of peace even though WW2 was to be the war to end all future wars.  Eisenhower understood the implications and warned us in 1961 as he left office.  Little attention was paid to his meaning. JFK was thought to have intentions of reigning in the military state in his second term but never lived to see a second term.

 

This never ending quest for world dominance initially span the cold war, the massive arms race, the Korean and Vietnam Wars as well as the skirmishes of the 1980s. Eventually 45 years later communism fell and the enemy was dead.  Throughout the 1990s the conflicts and skirmishes continued as well as the spying and regime change.  Most Americans were in bliss to what its government was doing to invoke and maintain hegemony.  1991 saw a brief war which was the genesis of the war machine coming back to life after Vietnam.

 

September 11, 2001 changed the dynamic.  America had a clear new boogeyman and this one was far more menacing than the commies.  Since then its been non stop war and conflicts as the US has planted itself inside the Middle East.

 

All told these near 75 years have costs trillions.  If the US had simply built a military adequate to protect its borders and allowed others to do what they see fit in their own lands think of what could have been saved or put to use maintaining and upgrading America.  Would we have (real) full employment?  Would have the American Dream and social mobility remain the hallmark of American exceptionalism?  Would we be a country more at peace with ourselves?  Would we be the country leading with 21st technology, infrastructure and education?

 

In short, would more of the great society had come true and remained true. Have we squandered trillions trying to rule the world, with little success?  Would we be a nation with a war chest of cash and little debt?  Every year we hand over with on and off budget more than a trillion to the war machine.  That's well more combined than the next seven countries.  Are those seven countries that much of a threat?  Since it only takes one high grade nuclear weapon to destroy the world why do we have so many? 

 

The great society launched in 1939 premiered a better world and for us a better country.  We as a nation have the drive and talent to make the dream into reality but we've been sidetracked.  We've sunk precious and limited resources into fighting invisible and vague enemies.

 

The great society now dies and with it the dreams of what this country could have been.

Comments

Dino Manalis Added Mar 6, 2018 - 11:25am
Foreign meddling is constant in the U.S., but Washington also likes to meddle in other countries, it's normal.
Jeff Jackson Added Mar 6, 2018 - 11:25am
Yes George, we have spent trillions that, if having been given to the people of America, we would all live a life of luxury. As it is, only so many can get rich off the government, and that number is fewer and fewer. It is truly sad that an economy as robust as ours, even in our darker years, should have such poverty. Like you, I fear that we will eventually face creditors that will no longer issue us credit, and we will end up like Greece, which is facing a severe crisis.
Add to that the fact the Greece had "public servants" people in public service jobs that retired after a scant twenty years, and spent the next forty or so years on a very comfortable public pension. We, as a nation, keep thinking that we can spend money we don't have. Eventually the bill comes, and you have to pay it. We have college students begging to be relieved of all debt, which, if it happens, I want all the money I paid to be returned to me as well, since I worked and paid for all mine.
Putting off the inevitable only makes the outcome worse, and it is getting worse all the time, and the countries we have spent billions on will never pay back a cent of it. 
Bill Kamps Added Mar 6, 2018 - 11:26am
How much is enough, is always a great question when it comes to the military.  While it is a good thing to have the strongest military in the world, it is hardly necessary to spend more than than the next 10 countries combines, eight of which are allies.
 
Looking at it another way, we spend 10x what the Russians spend. Of course they are not meddling all over the world, usually they only get involved with issues near the borders.  Syria is actually a pretty far reach for them.
 
The large military invites politicians to use it, when we dont have a clear idea of what we want.  What exactly do we want in Afghanistan?  of course there are lots of conspiracy theorists with their ideas.  Saying stupid stuff like we are not there for nation building, and we dont negotiate with the Taliban because they are terrorists, begs the question for conspiracy theorists because there really are no other options.
 
We over throw leaders in other countries, without any idea what will happen next, I guess because we can. 
 
I would not advocate reducing the military to the bare minimum needed to defend our borders, because that would invite a lot of unstable activities around the  world.  However, it could easily be cut by 25%, and it would still be easily the most powerful in the world.  We have 13 air craft carrier groups.  No other country has more than one, and none of them compare with the capability of ours.  We couldnt "get by" with only 9 or 10, for example?
Don Added Mar 6, 2018 - 12:08pm
Thoughtful article George.  Thanks.
The Burghal Hidage Added Mar 6, 2018 - 12:21pm
We would have done well to heed the warnings of Washington and Jefferson as to the perils of foreign entanglements. I will grant you that much treasure (and blood) has been spilled in these conflicts, but in the overall picture this amount is negligible in it's contribution to our debt. That you can attribute to the never ending expenditures of entitlements promised with each new iteration of the "great society", or whatever the latest name is tagged to the nanny state.
 
Communists or any of their derivatives were and are an enemy, a legitimate threat and not just a bogeyman. That having been said, trying to check them militarily in every corner of the globe is just foolish. The same can be said for any other variety of threats, past or current. 
 
Good article George. Thanks!
George N Romey Added Mar 6, 2018 - 12:57pm
Thanks for the comments. The US is lucky that 2 of its borders are surrounded by vast oceans. One border by a very friendly country. Even Mexico as problematic as its become isn’t going to mount a military attack against us. I think the military budget could be cut by over half.  Remember about half of what goes to the Pentagon and Secret State isn’t even in the budget. The Pentagon is missing trillions in funds.
Tom C. Purcell Added Mar 6, 2018 - 1:18pm
Thumbs up, George.  I like your perspective on that era of American History.
Doug Plumb Added Mar 6, 2018 - 2:12pm
You are right George.
 
re "Since it only takes one high grade nuclear weapon to destroy the world why do we have so many? "
 
Maybe nukes are as real as the tooth fairy. Gotta keep them in the news by making more and more, keep everyone in fear.
Katharine Otto Added Mar 6, 2018 - 5:30pm
George,
The pervasive sense of disillusionment makes our wars unwinnable.  It seems the US no longer sees itself "fighting for" anything.  It is merely "fighting against," most of all, itself.  
 
I do believe our debt-backed dollar takes a toll on the national psyche.  When you start at the bottom line and go down from there, it weighs heavily on hope for any kind of brighter future.
 
It would be nice if the military could be re-purposed to come home and do something useful.  The military does a few things right, but I don't believe fighting other peoples. wars is one of them.  
 
And Burghal, I don't know where you get your information, but wars have done more to bankrupt nations and increase the US national debt than anything else.
 
By the way, George, good, nostalgic article.
George N Romey Added Mar 6, 2018 - 5:56pm
Thanks Katharine. The Middle East alone has churned through $6 going on $7 trillion. That’s about a third of the debt alone. In 2001 the Pentagon (Rumsfeld) was called to account for $2.3 trillion missing right before 9/11. He could not. That missing amount surely has widened.
The Burghal Hidage Added Mar 6, 2018 - 6:06pm
I stand by what I said, you can believe what you wish. It doesn't change George's premise, which I am mostly in agreement with.
The Burghal Hidage Added Mar 6, 2018 - 6:09pm
from what source do we obtain these numbers? are any of them fully trustworthy? I seriously doubt it, so none of us know for certain. But there is no denying that entitlements combined with debt are a ticking time bomb - however it was spent
Pardero Added Mar 6, 2018 - 7:37pm
George,
Another great article. Thank you very much for this.
I salute all of the well-spoken commenters, too. 
Don Added Mar 6, 2018 - 8:31pm
Apparently we maintain nearly 800 military bases in 70 countries and territories.  Why?
The Burghal Hidage Added Mar 6, 2018 - 9:18pm
Agreed Don...bring 'em home, to hell with those people. 
 
The Burghal Hidage Added Mar 6, 2018 - 9:18pm
let 'em mind their own sandbox
George N Romey Added Mar 7, 2018 - 9:10am
Don why? SOS, money in the pockets of a few at the expense of the many. Also a sign to any country that tries to abort our hegemony-the US will destroy you. We’ve been doing so since the Spanish American War.
Autumn Cote Added Mar 7, 2018 - 9:35am
Please note, the more timely and personal responses you offer, the more likely your articles will remain popular and commented upon.  Also, the more likely I'll publicize your articles to a wider distribution list.  As always, many thanks for your participation with Writer Beat.
Even A Broken Clock Added Mar 7, 2018 - 9:51am
George, foreign intervention is so deeply engrained within the DNA of the United States that I think it is clinically impossible to extricate it from our nature.
Exhibit 1 - Barbary Pirate war (1801-1805) Whether right or wrong, the US applied military force in support of its merchant shipping in the Mediterranean.
Exhibit 2 - Monroe Doctrine (1823). The US asserts a right to prevent other nations from imposing colonial states in the Western Hemisphere. This could be viewed as providing the justification for the Spanish American War at the end of the century.
 
I would like to see us reduce our foreign adventurism, but am fearful that nothing will ever be done to change our status quo.
George N Romey Added Mar 7, 2018 - 10:05am
EBAC only after the dollar crashes will the hegemony stop. Or nuclear war in which case it won’t matter.
Bill Kamps Added Mar 7, 2018 - 10:25am
I would like to see us reduce our foreign adventurism, but am fearful that nothing will ever be done to change our status quo.
 
Unfortunately this is largely what the US voters want.  When Trump suggests increasing the defense budget no one complains.  While it is expected that Congress will go along with it, the  voters arent really complaining either.   We often see the macho attitude that we have to be the biggest and baddest.  Which is fine, but we dont have  to be the biggest and baddest x 10.
 
Assuming we think it is useful, I think the hegemony could be maintained at far less cost, if we would just be a bit more smart about when we get involved.  The places and circumstances where we get involved couldnt be more useless to the security or prospertity of the US.  Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya were no direct threat to the US, of little economic value, and very costly places to get involved.  In these cases the situation is no better than before we got involved and arguably worse.
The Burghal Hidage Added Mar 7, 2018 - 10:28am
Well said Bill
Pardero Added Mar 7, 2018 - 10:28am
We have always been at war with EastAsia.
Bill Kamps Added Mar 7, 2018 - 10:47am
What is a bit frustrating is that we pick places to fight where we arent able to use our advantages, and where even if we "win" we haven't won much.  At least when Putin went into the Ukraine and the Crimea he got to keep a useful  port.  
 
What does a win in Afghanistan look like?  we have been there ten years and still cant describe what a win looks like, and when that may happen.  We could not pick a place with worse logistics, everything has to be flown in or carted over the Khyber Pass from Pakistan who themselves are a thorn in our side giving safe harbor to the Taliban.  No port to unload large amounts of food, fuel, ammunition and supplies.  After ten years US personnel have to take a helicopter from the air port to our compound because driving is too dangerous.  Why are we still there?
 
Our advantages our our air power,  Navy, and our technology.  Unfortunately the last several wars we have fought like Viet Nam, Iraq, Afghanistan, have descended down into a fight between our guys with rifles against their guys with rifles fighting on terrain that gives advantage to those who are in small groups, moving on foot.  Seriously? these are the places we CHOOSE to fight?  Even worse we decide to fight people with nothing to lose.  Good grief!
George N Romey Added Mar 7, 2018 - 10:59am
Bill it’s no longer about winning. It’s about a very long term engagement because that’s very good for the MIC. The days of WW2 are over.
Bill Kamps Added Mar 7, 2018 - 11:05am
George, Im sure there are better places for the MIC as well.   Viet Nam was good for the MIC, the Gulf War, but I dont see how they benefit much from Afghanistan. 
George N Romey Added Mar 7, 2018 - 11:09am
Bill it’s just not weapons. It’s everything from food service to private protection detail. Lots of hands in the till.
Doug Plumb Added Mar 7, 2018 - 12:58pm
Its a ball of shit rolling down a mountain of shit and its getting bigger as it rolls down. We are at the bottom waiting for it, refusing to acknowledge its existence, or employed moving obstacles from ots path.
opher goodwin Added Mar 7, 2018 - 2:02pm
I think the spending of those trillions has succeeded in spreading American influence around the world. It has made a small minority exceedingly rich.
The Burghal Hidage Added Mar 7, 2018 - 2:55pm
The preceding judgement brought to you by the makers of the East India Company. The East India Company: If it isn't British then we're not making any money!
The Burghal Hidage Added Mar 7, 2018 - 2:57pm
Yes Pardero -  caught you above in thread. forgot where we discussed, but in a case of speak of the devil: news today that the Breeders are offering their first release in 10 years! After just mentioned yesterday.
 
Sorry for stepping on your thread George
Pardero Added Mar 7, 2018 - 3:20pm
The Burghal Hidage,
The Breeders, too?
Belly is reunited and touring. Will have a new album shortly.
I got to go earn a few bucks, now.
Excuse me too, George.
George N Romey Added Mar 7, 2018 - 9:42pm
I’m watching Max Keizer on RT and there’s this banner from YouTube telling me RT is funded in whole by the Russian government. I’m still laughing. If I’m watching RT America it’s because I’m not a fool taken in by our government propaganda machine,
Stone-Eater Added Mar 8, 2018 - 1:27am
George
 
That hilarious joke about Russian meddling while the NSA and CIA are doing same a hundred times more frequently should be ended by now.
 
No hegemon or empire lasted in history. The US will go the same way no matter how much they think they're the best and "god" is on their side.
 
Both are illusions. And illusions never last....
wsucram15 Added Mar 8, 2018 - 5:20am
Well we had our day, everything else is illusion. 
Speaking of control and manipulation...George they are trying to lift banking regulations again..isnt 1,6 trillion in profits enough?  I guess we are past halftime relief with the banking community.
Pardero Added Mar 8, 2018 - 7:03am
George,
Sometimes I think ZeroHedge and RT are the only ones that are not fake news.
George N Romey Added Mar 8, 2018 - 7:08am
The joke is on Google. Those with a brain have figured out its a mind game and moved to real new sources. BTW RT Russia in no way controls the content on RT America.
 
The mindless bots will continue to watch either Fox or MSNBC. Like sheep waiting in a pen for slaughtering.
Pardero Added Mar 8, 2018 - 8:30am
Lift banking regulations again? 
If the banksters take huge risks and lose a lot of money, no problem. The taxpayers will pick up the tab. If the banksters make money, it is all theirs. They can't lose. A good gig if you can get it.
 
Stone-Eater Added Mar 13, 2018 - 4:34pm
George
 
If your regime would have rebuilt the infrastructure and invested into education and health instead of uselessly feeding the MIC you'd live as close to paradise as can be.
 
And that racism problem would be gone. Why ? Because no poverty = no racism. Everybody gets his turn, and envy is out of the game largely.
Stone-Eater Added Mar 13, 2018 - 4:36pm
,,,,but 320 million people don't have the power to kick a few hoodlums out. That says a lot about their methods of control.
George N Romey Added Mar 13, 2018 - 5:11pm
SEF we have the power. One sure way just default on consumer debt. The elites which have built this system of debt peonage to benefit them would crumble like a cheap fender.  But see some of the WB comments about the audacity to default on a “signed contract.”

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