Government accountability to the citizens is in jeopardy. Americans should fear the enemy of terrorism, which this strong nation must defeat, and also guard against the idea that successful war against al-Qaeda requires a domestic police state. American policies are not without criticism here and abroad as world misperceptions about the U.S. come ever closer to reality. There is genuine reason for Americans to examine the view that this war against al-Qaeda could institutionalize American empire. That fear now stalks the rest of the world because friends and foes alike know from experience that empires begin at home.
America is unique in world history. Essentially all nations that spawned empires did so through the need for resources unavailable at home, too little food, space or materials to create wealth. Virtually all nations on earth have been invaded and subjugated during growth of an imposed empire. Insular America, which has resources unparalleled on earth and no need to seek expansions, never was invaded or subjugated, except prior to the founding. Today, as the sole surviving superpower, America retains nuclear deterrents and today combines the capability and intent, including the resolve, to use such power to defeat al-Qaeda. National leadership during the 1990s set the stage for this problem, conveying a message to terrorists that America, always predictable and with no resolve, would react with weak performance. This Clinton legacy was endorsed last September.
The cataclysm facing our nation now is a fight with al-Qaeda to save ourself, indeed to save civilization, with or without approval or aid from a community of nations that fears increasingly either outcome, terrorism or American empire. Since al-Qaeda exists in 60 countries, it is a difficult imperative that all cells of this network be identified and destroyed in a manner that prevents their regeneration. Overt and covert operations must be executed in host countries whether or not permission is granted for cooperative or unilateral action. A great problem faced by the Bush Administration, in fact by the country, lies in assuring all nations that the U.S. response is proportional to the threat, that the U.S. has no intent to usurp the sovereignty of a host or invaded nation, and that oversight or control of internal societal affairs is but a temporary condition. Since it is unlikely that repeated confrontations with al-Qaeda will end at a definite time and with clarity, American confrontations with fundamentalist Islam and separately with terrorism are not projected to allow closure with either in the foreseeable future.
It is too soon after events of World War, Cold War and in the course of history to assure nations that imperial hegemony by the United States is not intended. Lessons about the American foundation have not been translated well to the lives of others; the Russians, Chinese, Indians and even Europeans still can mistrust us because of their own experience with subjugation and empire. In addition, the "great unwashed" have not yet acquired the tools to comprehend this battle space in realistic terms. This al-Qaeda enemy is formidable, and the imperative of its obliteration is a great issue to be resolved, more important than any I can imagine will face America's future. Global horrors of al-Qaeda and U.S. mismanagement that led to its origin is a legacy that cannot be escaped. Failure to confront al-Qaeda immediately and completely will revert civilization to antiquity.
This subject is a call to all American readers to focus on this issue. No specific course of action is recommended; no admonition and no agenda are proposed. But be thoughtful about this important world condition that may exist for the remainder of your life. The American experiment is on trial at home and abroad. Your obligation above all things is to do whatever is necessary to prove the worth of the American foundation and to prevent the rise of American empire.