A reader fisks me bad:

"We invaded to liberate, not to control".


Of course this is about control, and always has been. Oil, Israel, Iran. Remaking the Middle East. Securing Bush's place in history as the Conqueror of the East, the only man man enough to take the recalcitrant desert barbarians by the scruff of the neck and bring them to heel.

Empire? We've been a continental empire (some would say a hemispheric empire) since at least the Mexican-American War, an international empire since the Spanish American War, and a global empire since the end of WWII, with our eastern march at the wall in Berlin and our western march at the DMZ in Korea. Democracies can be empires too. Ask the Athenians (and ask them about the Sicilian Expedition while you're at it).

What do you mean, empire is not in our blood? We ARE the Roman Empire -- at least, the Western Roman Empire. Russia, of course was the Eastern Roman Empire. The Cold War was the contest to see which would prevail. We won. Now we retake the provinces of Judea -- our Holy Land, which we've been trying to re-take for a thousand years  -- and Persia and Afghanistan, the farthest extent of our ancient Greco-Roman influence.

I agree with Ferguson: our problem is not empire -- it's incompetence.

No, I have not become a neo-con -- but let's be realistic: beyond the drive to re-take the East, there's all that oil. We need it. They have it. Therefore we must control them. It's that simple. It's not even a moral question, it's just biology: where the energy source is, the strongest will congregate. It's not a matter of "corporate profits" -- although it is that too. It's a matter of survival. Obama will not leave Iraq either. You watch.

Fisking, fisking: one, two, three::

"What I fear is that the Bush administration and many neo-conservatives are claiming one thing, while planning for another..."

What? Hello? Are you serious? This has been going on since September 12, 2001. And explain to me, how is "claiming one thing, while planning for another", not a lie?

"...and after the last eight years, the trust level is low."

Ha, ha. If they'd just found those pesky old corroded WMD stockpiles from 1991, they could have held them up in triumph -- "See? We told you so!" -- but Saddam, that wily old fox, stole a march on them there. And then there was that insurrection thing. And Chalabi didn't turn out so well either. No, the problem is not empire. It's simple competence.

"I fear they want a permanent presence in Iraq to reassure Israel; and to pursue the option of war with Iran."

Is this a joke? Are you pulling my leg? I fear not. You really are just figuring out they always meant to have a permanent presence?

"I fear the bases are there to detain, contain or attack the regional Shiite power, Iran, and to reassure the regional Sunni powers that the US military will protect them."

I'm sorry, i don't mean to be sarcastic, but -- doh! Yes, of course -- Afghanistan to the East, Iraq to the West: we have ancient Persia surrounded. Only one of us can control the ancient East. We've been at war with Iran for that control for decades. What do you think all this has been about? Iraq, Hezbollah, Hamas?

"If this is the agenda, please let us know."

They did. You weren't listening.

"Let the American people examine and debate it."

Sure. Like they debated the Mexican-American War, the Spanish-American War, WWI, WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War. Debate all you want. That's not how these things are decided -- if you can even say they're decided at all. (In fact the Vietnam War was the only war we've ever actually "debated" -- or at least struggled over -- and that led to the great Boomer schism you detest so much. See any irony there?)

"Have McCain own this position rather than refer to it as a premise as if we already know what it is."

But we do. We do.

(Photo: Alexander Nemenov/Getty.)

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