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Joseph Sobran’s
Washington Watch

France and the Empire

(Reprinted from the issue of May 8, 2003)

Capitol BldgFrance will face “consequences” for refusing to support the war on Iraq, says Colin Powell. Anti-French feeling has been running very high in this country; more than two centuries of friendship have been wounded by recent events. (I have done my part for patriotism by ceasing to quote LaRochefoucauld.)

I was favored with a remarkable expression of the new mood by a gent who reads my columns on the Internet. After calling the war “the best thing that has happened for world peace since Hiroshima,” which more or less tells you where he’s coming from, he said the United States should also have nuked “Tehran, Baghdad, Damascus, and, for good measure, Paris.” (Apparently he would spare the Vatican.)

Many have called the American attitude “bullying.” I prefer to put it another way. America has become an empire, and its so-called allies are really, as Garet Garrett put it, satellites. Hence it regards France not as an equal, entitled to hold its own views and pursue its own interests, but as an insubordinate inferior, challenging American global hegemony.

From this point of view, it is the French, not the Americans, who are guilty of outrageous national egotism. If you buy the idea that the U.S. should rule the world, it is the duty of other countries to accept their humble role as American subjects.

The British historian Niall Ferguson says forthrightly that America is an empire, and rightly so. But, he adds, “America is the empire that dare not speak its name.” Americans insist that they are only spreading democracy and “liberating” when they invade and conquer foreign countries.

If we’re going to be an empire, not a republic, we should say so and stop pretending to be what we are not. Hypocrisy only causes confusion. The French got the mistaken idea that we respected them as a free, independent, and sovereign country. Clearly we do not. But they made this error rather naturally, by believing our own rhetoric.

Garrett, who died in 1954, said that the U.S. had crossed the line that separates a republic from an empire when Harry Truman committed combat troops to Korea without a congressional declaration of war — something not even Franklin Roosevelt had dared to do. That meant that the power to rule had shifted decisively from the legislative to the executive branch, and the republic was no more. When the war-making power belongs to the executive branch, never mind what paper constitutions say: You have empire. Written laws, unrespected and unenforceable, are fictions.

The United States today bears no resemblance to the constitutional republic of 1789. The incongruity between the Constitution and the present reality is both bizarre and intolerable. The old Constitution should be formally repudiated, and a new one should be drawn up to codify the new arrangements, including the obligations of America’s satellites.

That way we will all at least know where we stand, no satellite will dare to secede from the empire, and the French will know better than to defy us in the future. If necessary, we can nuke Paris.

There will also be a further benefit: We will have a document our rulers can swear to uphold without committing perjury.
A Mixed Blessing

It would seem that there is one country whose sovereignty the United States still respects. I speak, of course, of Israel, whose human rights abuses, defiance of UN resolutions, and secret weapons of mass destruction are of no concern to the Bush administration.

Many people ascribe this situation to the extraordinary power of the Jews in this country over the U.S. government. After all, they say, the Jews are less than 3% of the population, yet they control American foreign policy, even to the extent of drawing us into war with Israel’s enemies.

Jews, hearing this argument, are naturally alarmed, seeing it as a dangerous resurgence of anti-Semitism. It contains nuggets of truth, and it is superficially plausible.

Actually, the Jewish power we have to fear is wielded not by a mere 3% of the population, but by a sliver of that 3%. Most Jews have no more power than anyone else.

The Kennedy family also has power wildly disproportionate to its numbers. This doesn’t mean that “the Irish” control the country. Cosa Nostra (or whatever it’s called these days) once had disproportionate power too; but the Italians in general weren’t running the country. A very few ambitious and purposeful people can wield amazing clout; but even if they are ethnically homogeneous, that doesn’t mean they share their power with the rest of their ethnic group. The power of the Perle-Wolfowitz group, Jewish though it is, doesn’t mean that the great majority of Jews are on top.

Israel itself is a very mixed blessing to most Jews — more liability than blessing, I’d say. It was as if the Jews had seen how other races had nation-states to oppress them, and decided that Jews likewise deserved a nation-state of their own to oppress Jews. So a socialist nation-state was established in the name of the Jews, and as long as it seemingly treated non-Jews even worse than it treated Jews, the Jews could feel it was on their side, even if, like other modern states, it violated their freedoms and taxed them to death. (Not many industries want to transplant there.)

Now the Palestinians think their salvation lies in a little nation-state of their own. So a new tragedy begins.
A Note on Sodomy

The U.S. Supreme Court is about to take another look at sodomy laws, and there is another flap about another prominent Republican making another Bigoted Remark about homosexuality, and — well, aren’t you getting tired of it all?

This is a topic I must reserve for fuller treatment elsewhere. But the important thing to note about sodomy is that it’s so unimportant. It’s receiving inflated publicity today, but Holy Scripture devotes only a few brief verses to it, condemning it along with other vices of the flesh. It doesn’t merit lengthy denunciations. It shouldn’t usurp our attention.

We are told that the pagan world of Classical antiquity was tolerant of sodomy. Well, yes; that world was tolerant of a lot of things, including infanticide. The sodomy it was most tolerant of was that which occurred between mature men and boys.

What is new is the preoccupation with sodomy. In ancient times the sodomites themselves made no special claims for it. They didn’t idealize it or pretend that a same-sex union could be like a marriage. They didn’t write myths and tragedies about homosexual lovers.

In short, sane people have always realized that the whole subject just isn’t very interesting. Fruitful love is interesting. Marriage is interesting. Even adultery is interesting. Put the two sexes together, and you’ll get something worthy of intense social, moral, and aesthetic attention. But eros between two people of the same sex is only a curiosity.
Copyright © 2003 by The Wanderer
Reprinted with permission.

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