As we have set them down so far, the things that signify Empire are these, namely: (1) Rise of the executive principle of government to a position of dominant power, (2) Accommodation of domestic policy to foreign policy, (3) Ascendancy of the military mind, (4) A system of satellite nations for a purpose called collective security, and, (5) An emotional complex of vaunting and fear.
There is yet another sign that defines itself gradually.
When it is clearly defined it may be already too late to do anything about it. That is to say, a time comes when Empire finds itself— A prisoner of history.
The history of a Republic is its own history. Its past does not contain its future, like a seed. A Republic may change its course, or reverse it, and that will be its own business. But the history of Empire is world history and belongs to many people.
A Republic is not obliged to act upon the world, either to change or instruct it. Empire, on the other hand, must put forth its power.
What is it that now obliges the American people to act upon the world?
As you ask that question the fear theme plays itself down and the one that takes its place is magnifical. It is not only our security we are thinking of—our security in a frame of collective security. Beyond that lies a greater thought.
It is our turn.
Our turn to do what?
Our turn to assume the responsibilities or moral leadership in the world.
Our turn to maintain a balance of power against the forces of evil everywhere—in Europe and Asia and Africa, in the Atlantic and in the Pacific, by air and by sea—evil in this case being the Russian barbarian.
Our turn to keep the peace of the world.
Our turn to save civilization.
Our turn to serve mankind.
But this is the language of Empire. The Roman Empire never doubted that it was the defender of civilization. Its good intentions were peace, law and order.
The Spanish Empire added salvation. The British Empire added the noble myth of the white man's burden.
We have added freedom and democracy. Yet the more that may be added to it the more it is the same language still. A language of power.
Always the banners of Empire proclaim that the ends in view sanctify the means. The ironies, sublime and pathetic, are two. The first one is that Empire believes what it says on its banner; the second is that the word for the ultimate end is invariably Peace.
Peace by grace of force.
One must see that on the road to Empire there is soon a point from which there is no turning back. If it were true that our only hope of survival lay in collective security, then of course we should have to go on at any cost. If that were not true, still we should feel that we were obliged to go on for moral reasons.
The argument for going on is well known. As Woodrow Wilson once asked, "Shall we break the heart of the world?" So now many are saying, "We cannot let the free world down." Moral leadership of the world is not a role you step into and out of as you like.
What does going on mean? You never know.
On June 24, 1941, as he extended Lend-Lease to Russia in World War II, President Roosevelt said: "We will accept only a world consecrated to freedom of speech and expression—freedom of every person to worship God in his own way—freedom from want and freedom from terrorism."
Senator Taft was one of the very few at that time who could imagine what going on from there might mean. He asked: "Will that part of the world which Stalin conquers with our airplanes and our tanks be consecrated to freedom of speech and expression? Will it be consecrated to freedom from want and freedom from terrorism? Or, after a Russian victory with our aid, must we step in with our armies to impose the four freedoms on two hundred million people, ten thousand miles away, who have never known freedom from want or freedom from terrorism?"
In October, 1951, only ten years later, Collier's magazine devoted one entire issue to a preview of World War III, with twenty articles written by professors, military people, publicists and others who might call themselves makers of public opinion—and the sequel of it was the liberation of the Russian people. The answer to Mr. Taft's question.
As the Eighty-second Congress blindly voted the Pentagon its billions the spectre of a garrison state was the principal witness. Moving like a mist through the entire debate was the premonition that these steps were irreversible. Nobody could imagine how expenditures of such magnitude could continue for an indeterminate time. Nobody could seriously hope they were going to be less the next year, or the year after that, or for that matter ever. For suppose the great war machine were finished in five years. What could we do but to begin and build it all over again, with more and more terrible weapons, at greater and greater cost? Nobody could hope that the demands of our allies and friends were going to be less. Yet no one could imagine how to stop. No one could even suggest a way to go back.
RISE OF EMPIRE: PROPERTIES OF EMPIRE: VII
RISE OF EMPIRE: THE ANCIENT DESIGN: II
RISE OF EMPIRE: THE ANCIENT DESIGN: II