A reader writes:

I think your resistance to "empire" (or its rough approximation in the Middle East) stems from your fidelity to limited government principles. Reading your blog I think there are two undercurrents of our foreign policy that rankle these sensibilities- how our power has corrupted us, and how it is, at the end of the day, an enormous wealth transfer.

Those bases you refer to - in South Korea, Germany, Japan, etc. - essentially amount to the most generous welfare program in world history. Indeed, it's useful to think of our entire foreign policy, from the Cold War through this day as national security welfare: we are the defenders of last resort for the Gulf Monarchs, Israel, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, Europe, etc. We spend billions upon billions of dollars - more than at any time since WWII for god's sake - to defend these nations.

Now, during the Cold War this at least made sense: it was ultimately about our self defense - it deterred Soviet adventurism, reduced the chances that Japan and Germany would re-arm, and allowed the defended nations to focus on economic development, which was considered a bulwark against communism. But today? There is simply no point.

Why else do neoconservatives invoke Hitler at every juncture: their position is so self-evidently absurd that only hyper-alarmism can compensate.

As for the corruption: the fall of the Soviet Union precipitated the largest geopolitical shift in six decades, and twenty years later we're still positioned (and still funding our defense) as if the Soviet Union existed.

The only plausible explanation is that we've become accustomed to wielding global power. We have entrenched interests and an entrenched elite that enjoy the prerogatives of global power. The bleeding heart wing of the Democrats wants us to intervene everywhere their conscience is aroused by man's inhumanity to man, while the GOP wants to swat down any nation with the temerity to reject our presumption to global dominance.

Why else would both Barak Obama and John McCain assert that it is our duty to lead the world? We rejected these pretensions when they were coming from the Kremlin, and we would be rightly alarmed hearing them from Beijing. This isn't to posit a moral equivalence, but a simple reminder that not every leader in every capital looks out at the world and thinks it should be dominated by another power, particularly one where its leading intellectuals proclaim it a "revolutionary" one, and encourage more violence beyond its borders to further the revolution along.

As for the questions of whether this is an imperial foreign policy - the neoconservative architects of said policy have not been shy about the term, so neither should you. Read Bill Kristol and Robert Kagan in Foreign Affairs in 1996: the goal is "benevolent global hegemony." Read any article by Max Boot.

The pathetic thing about it is that at least the empires of old had the benefit of exploiting their colonial possession for material resources. At $4 a gallon, we're getting all of the blow-back and none of the benefits.

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