RISE OF EMPIRE: THE ANCIENT DESIGN: II
Now the voice of persuasion, saying: "Let it be Empire. It will be Empire in a new sign. For the first time in the history of mankind it happens that the paramount power of the world is in the keeping of a nation that has neither the will to exploit others nor any motive to increase its wealth at their expense. It wants only to chain the aggressor down, and then a world in which all people shall be politically free to govern themselves and economically free to produce and exchange wealth with one another on equal terms.
"Are Americans afraid of their own power? Shall they forbear to use it to bring their vision to pass lest it react upon them adversely or do their traditions an injury? What of the traditions? We did not inherit them to begin with. We created them. Now shall our strength be bound by swaddling clothes? Or shall we have the courage to come of age in new world?"
The view may be sublime. That will not save you if, as you reach for the stars, you step in a chasm. It is true that Empire may be a great civilizing force.
The Roman Empire was. The Augustan Age was not equalled again for a very long time—not again until the Victorian Age of the nineteenth century, and that was the British Empire.
But it is true also that this is Empire in a new sign, and there lies the chasm.
Every Empire in history that endured at all, even those that did greatly advance civilization, somehow made it pay. And why not? Is there any good without price?
Rome exported peace, law and order; but not for nothing. Her imports were food, wine, luxuries, treasure and slaves. She laid her satellites under tribute, and when the cost of policing the Roman world and defending the Roman peace was more than her satellites were willing to pay, the Empire fell.
There was a price for Pax Britannica. The British Empire did not lay direct tribute upon her satellites.
There was a better way. She so managed the terms of trade that the exchange of manufactured goods for food and raw materials was very profitable for England;
and as year after year she invested her profits in banks and ports and railroads all over the world she grew very rich and her navy ruled the seas. Again why not?
Could a few million people in the British Isles, when it came their turn, afford to police the world for nothing?
When the terms of trade began to turn against them— that is, when the people who exchanged food and raw materials for the high-priced products of British machines began to revolt, the Empire was in trouble. Yet, while it lasted it was the most civilizing force the world had known since the Roman Empire.
Never in any world, real or unreal, has it been imagined before that Empire, out of its own pocket, should not only pay all the costs of Empire, but actually pay other nations for the privilege of giving them protection and security, defending their borders and minding their economic welfare.
That indeed is Empire in a new sign. The chasm is bankruptcy.
Not to make sense of it, which is impossible, but only in order not to forget that you belong to a race of once rational creatures, you have to keep telling yourself that it all began when you walked through the looking glass.
That we pay Europe to let us defend European civilization; that we give steel to Europe because the European production of steel is limited for political reasons; that we give coal to Europeans when the one thing they have plenty of is coal, and do this only to save them from the alternative of either mining enough of their own coal or freezing; that we increase our own national debt to give Great Britain the money to reduce her national debt, on the ground that that will be good for her credit; that when, from buying more American goods than she can pay for, over and above what we give her, Europe goes from one financial crisis to another, called the crisis of the dollar gap, we put more billions in her pocket to enable her to go on buying more than she can pay for (that is what the Marshall Plan was for)—well, even though all of this could be comprehended in the formula that the security and comfort of our friends and allies may be essential to the defense of American liberty, the Mad Hatter is still to be heard from.
The formula is not confined to Europe. It acts with a kind of centrifugal force, to scatter dollars all over the world.
Thus, we find ourselves defending the American way of life by engaging in such projects as the following: In the colonial territories of Great Britain: Road development in Nyasaland, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, the Gold Coast, Northern Rhodesia, North Borneo, Sarawak, and Malaya; reservoir construction in Somaliland, an agricultural equipment pool in Mauritius, locust control in the Middle East and East Africa, a lumber project in British Borneo, drainage and irrigation in British Guiana, a Gold Coast railroad, and so forth.
In the colonial territories of France: Road development in French West Africa, the French Cameroons, and French Equatorial Africa; water and power distribution and workers' housing in Casablanca, steam power plants at Bone and Oran in Algeria, agricultural services and wheat storage in Algeria, water supply in the Brazzaville area of French Equatorial Africa, irrigation and stock watering in the Masso Valley of Morocco, a rayon pulp plant, and so forth.
In the Belgian Congo: Soil survey, waterways, roads and a power project.
At Portugese Angola: A meat industry project.
In Burma: Irrigation, flood control, soil conservation, control of livestock diseases, agricultural extension work, canning, rice storage, cotton seed improvement, harbor development, low-cost housing, public health activities, education, technical assistance, audiovisual service, and so forth.
In Indo-China: Road development, Cambodia fisheries, irrigation, river transportation, water purification, fire-fighting equipment, public health, low-cost housing, a radio school, information service, and so forth.
In the Indonesian Republic: Fisheries, a forest project, control of foot and mouth disease, rehabilitation of the textile industry, improvement of native industries, public health services, and so forth.
In Thailand: Irrigation, agricultural research and development, deep freezing, harbor development, roads, a railroad shop, mineral development, planned communications, technical assistance, and so forth.
Enough of that. A complete list would be too long.
These, you understand, are but the fringe activities.
They represent only spillings from the great Marshall Plan pool, after it had provided dollars for industrial projects in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom, and Turkey.
Casting out only those areas around which the Russians have drawn their hard red line, if there is a country or a land in the whole world where the American government's planners, almoners, experts and welfare bringers are not passing miracles with dollars, it is because the State Department's map maker either forgot it or couldn't spell it and thought it might never be missed.
This is Imperialism of the Good Intent.
It is Empire as Franklin Delano Roosevelt imagined it when he said, of Lend-Lease: "What I am trying to do is to eliminate the dollar sign."
During the next ten years one hundred billion dollars' worth of American wealth was cast upon the waters, as gifts, grants, subsidies and unrepayable loans to foreign countries. And none of it has ever come back.
Empire of the Bottomless Purse.
RISE OF EMPIRE: PROPERTIES OF EMPIRE: VIII
RISE OF EMPIRE: THE ANCIENT DESIGN: II