Untangling America from the American Empire

The Status Quo would have us believe that America and its Empire are one entity. This is handy for those with Imperial designs but it is false: America could be untangled from its Empire, and many of us believe it is essential that America untangles itself from its Imperial structures and ideologies.

What I call The Imperial Project was cobbled together in the aftermath of World War II, when the Soviet Union and America posed an existential threat to each other’s ideologies and systems. It may be hard to believe, but the U.S. did not have a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) or other espionage/intelligence gathering agency prior to World War II.

America had no spy agency and no Black Operations/Special Forces capabilities. The National Security State as we know it today did not exist.

Though the Deep State has long been an essential feature of the American power structure, the post-war Deep State extended its reach globally in ways that the pre-war Deep State could not.

I have covered the Deep State for many years:

Surplus Repression and the Self-Defeating Deep State (May 26, 2015)

Is the Deep State Fracturing into Disunity? (March 14, 2014)

The Dollar and the Deep State (February 24, 2014)

Many people naively think all that’s needed to end the Imperial Project is close America’s overseas military installations and end the endless wars of choice.While the eradication of the neo-conservative Imperial agenda would be a welcome first step, it would only be a first step, as I explained in You Can’t Separate Empire, the State, Financialization and Crony Capitalism.

To untangle America from its Imperial Project, we also need to end financialization and crony-state-capitalism, both of which are key features of the Imperial Project. what better way is there to extend influence than exporting inflation and offering limitless credit in U.S. dollars?

What better way to skim the profits from trade than importing materials and goods and exporting fiat currency?

Those calling for an end of the Empire don’t seem to realize that the federal state’s vast entitlement programs are ultimately funded by the Empire: not directly, but indirectly via its ability to foist trillions of dollars of debt on the world economy.

The believers that hot wars are all there is to the Imperial Project fall silent when their share of the swag might be threatened. Unsurprisingly, we want the financial benefits of Empire but recoil at the entanglements of Empire.

Imperial Rome offers a useful template for what happens when the domestic populace gets dependent on Imperial wealth: the notion of sacrifice for the nation goes out the window and bread and circuses become the sole source of state legitimacy.

Needless to say, collapse follows these developments like night follows day.

For America to come home and untangle itself from the Imperial Project, it will have to do more than not meddle in everyone else’s affairs; it will have to learn to live within its means–what it earns from producing goods and services, not what it skims from global financialization.

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  • wunsacon

    >> What I call The Imperial Project was
    cobbled together in the aftermath of World War II, when the Soviet Union
    and America posed an existential threat to each other’s ideologies and

    Hey there, CHS. Sorry but “no”. Search the internet for “salt water fallacy”. Or, here’s a clip from Chomsky:
    American imperialism is often traced to the takeover of Cuba, Puerto
    Rico, and Hawaii in 1898. But that is to succumb to what historian of
    imperialism Bernard Porter calls “the salt water fallacy,” the idea that
    conquest only becomes imperialism when it crosses salt water. Thus if
    the Mississippi had resembled the Irish Sea, Western expansion would
    have been imperialism. From Washington to Lodge, those engaged in the
    enterprise had a clearer grasp.


    Then again, you’re a brilliant fellow and surely know of the “salt water fallacy” or, alternatively, simply of the history before that. So, maybe you have your reasons and nevertheless prefer carving out a subsection of the imperial march and calling it something special like “The Imperial Project”.

    • jadan

      You’re really too civil with Smith. He needs an uplifting kick in the pants.

      • wunsacon

        Well, this article (and maybe a couple others) aside, I grew fond of CHS’s work during the past 8+ years, including his choice of topics and his writing style (for readability and inclusion of (usually) appropriate charts — like the main GW blogger).

  • wunsacon

    CHS, why do you show Social Security and Medicare as “entitlements” that you say were “funded by empire”? What percentage of those programs was paid for by the 15% deducted from paychecks for decades of labor?

    If you haven’t already done so, you should deduct those payments and consider (real) inflation before declaring any additional monies as “entitlements … funded by empire”.

  • wunsacon

    Huh, one more thing, CHS. The present the first chart with the phrase “record levels”. I see a couple of problems.

    First, is this adjusted for inflation? Looks like a clear “no”.

    Second, is this adjusted for demographics? Again, “no”.

    I see a fair amount of rhetoric (be it “cheerleading” or — my preferred reading — “doom-mongering”) from people based on macro numbers. But, to me, that’s *crap*. Figures are worthless until distilled into “per capita” numbers and adjusted for changes in purchasing power.

    CHS, I respect and appreciate you trying to explore this topic (and many other topics). But, please, fix the foregoing issues in this article.

  • diogenes

    The same old funny numbers from the same old funny number sources add up to the same old tyranny of plutocracy. Mr. Smith needs to read Mr. Herman’s essay this one is stacked above. Who is he kidding?

  • Jay

    These are deeply misleading figures. The Pentagon takes about half of every federal dollar in the budget. Social Security contributes precisely zero, nil, nada, zilch, absolutely nothing to the federal deficit or federal debt. In fact, Social Security is a creditor to the US government in the form of bonds purchased with Social Security payroll deductions. Those fuckers at Heritage want to either get their hands on that Social Security money, privatize Social Security, or pretend the obligations to the Social Security Administration, also known as US Government bonds, are somehow not worth paying, as opposed to the US Government bonds payable to say, Goldman Sachs. I call bullshit, and Charles Hugh Smith is just another Pete Peterson beltway bullshit artist.

    • jadan

      I don’t understand why GW chooses to loan Smith this forum…is this an endorsement?

  • exomike

    The chart with the dollar is total bullshit! Who in their right mind would would use a chart from the heritage foundation? Charles Hugh Smith just revealed himself.

  • Robert Barsocchini

    Unfortunately, while anti-British sentiment made the US project anti-British-empire, the US itself was founded specifically as another empire. The current US national territory had to be conquered and ethnically cleansed, and is all part of it. GW called it his “nascent empire”.

  • jo6pac

    This a say WTF is it doing here?

  • goingnowherefast

    I love seeing this clearly false article called out by every comment. Bravo people!

  • wunsacon

    And…one more thing: how do you decide what’s “military spending” and what isn’t?

    Heritage says just “18%”. When I look at table 4.1 and include the stuff that looks like it’s probably military spending, I come up with 33%. Nearly double Heritage. And I’m not even sure if those outlays include the “off-budget budget”. And who knows what else they don’t include. And that’s without subtracting out whatever portion of Social Security and Medicare that shouldn’t be counted because it represents the 15% laborers paid into it via FICA.

    Here’s the link, people: https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/budget/fy2016/assets/hist.pdf

    Look at table 4.1. Take each item and ask yourself if any portion of that supports the military.

  • wunsacon

    CHS’s article reminds me that a few ZeroHedge authors try to tarnish social welfare programs by using the term “welfare/warfare state”. To smear social welfare programs, they associate it with “warfare”. Their goal is to tell readers that you must give up both if you want to give up one.

    But, I, for one, am not sold, at all, on the concept of their indivisibility. Instead, I think the warfare state impoverishes most of us. We’d have cured cancer 20 years ago if we had different spending priorities.

  • mulga mumblebrain

    What did Connolly say-‘It’s our dollar, but your problem’. Currency warfare, and the ‘exorbitant privilege’ of the petro-dollar.