Outsourcing Action in an Imperial World
By Tom Engelhardt
Excuse me if, at 62, and well into my second era of protest against yet another distant, disastrous, and disabling American war, I express a little confusion. Was it actually like this in Rome while the legions were off fighting on the German frontiers? Was this the way it felt in London while the imperial forces conducted their frontier wars in Afghanistan, or Paris when the Foreign Legion was holding down North Africa? Was this how it felt in Washington when Douglas MacArthur's father was suppressing the Filipinos and General Jacob Smith was turning the island of Samar into a "howling wilderness"? Is this the way it usually feels in the heartlands of great empires until the barbarians actually do come knocking at the gates?
I went marching against the President's Iraqi war of choice in my hometown last Sunday. I found myself in an older crowd, many visibly from the Vietnam era. It was relatively quiet, small-scale, and lacking in energy; all in all -- for me at least -- a modestly dispiriting experience, given the crisis at hand and the disillusioned state of public opinion here in the U.S.
I came home wondering whether some Bush-era version of the old Roman formula had indeed been working. Had bread and circuses become croissants and iPods, or Bud and American Idol, or Sony PlayStation 3 and 24? I couldn't help puzzling over the gap between public opinion on the President's war and public action, or between the conclusions opinion polls tell us so many Americans have reached and those generally reached in Washington as well as in the mainstream media.
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