Imperial Wars, Nation-states, and the Global Threat to Freedom

Glen T. Martin

7 March 2012

The boldly stated plan announced by the Project for the New American Century document (for all to see on the internet) is moving ahead on schedule. Signed by a coterie of major US right wing chicken hawks such as Dick Cheney, Jeb Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, and Paul Wolfowitz, this plan details the solidifying of a global American empire for the 21st century.  The plan required “an attack on U.S. soil,” comparable to Pearl Harbor, and this has now been accomplished.

The plan required launching major wars and establishing new military bases throughout Asia in order to encircle Russia and China, and this has now been accomplished. It required vast increases in the American military budget at the expense of the budget for schools, healthcare, and civilian infrastructure, and this has now been accomplished. It required converting the thinking of the American people from the idea that wars have a beginning and end and are fought against a determinant enemy to the idea that wars are endless and everywhere with enemies who may be anywhere and anyone, and this has now been accomplished.

This plan for global empire required putting the American people on a permanent war-footing, which entails, as do all wars, the elimination of civil liberties, with the institution of virtual military rule at home and abroad. As Naomi Wolf and others have pointed out, this has been systematically accomplished since 9/11 through manufacture of fake security threats, the use of secret prisons where torture takes place, use of paramilitary forces (like Blackwater) outside the rule of law, massive surveillance of ordinary citizens, arbitrary detentions of citizens, the targeting of key high visibility resisters (e.g., Julian Assange), restricting the press (and criminalizing press investigation of government secrets), and the criminalizing of non-violent protest and dissent in general.

On March 1st the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) went into effect, officially denying the right of habeas corpus to everyone on Earth including American citizens at home and abroad. The US military can now disappear anyone, anywhere, and hold them forever in secret prisons, without any right to a trial, counsel, or being charged with a crime. Civil society no longer controls the military, and the laws of civil democracy no longer trump military totalitarianism.  The Project for the New American Century here takes another giant step forward in its vision of global domination by the US military and their multinational corporate backers.

The rapidly increasing use of computer controlled, weaponized drones expresses this same phenomena. The weapons, run by computer over foreign skies from locations within “the homeland,” embody the absolute denial of human rights and dignity as this dignity is manifested in the right to habeas corpus and a fair trial if suspected of a crime. From computer terminals inside the US, people worldwide are being summarily executed, along with whomever happens to be with them, a matter of mere “collateral damage.” Where drones are not engaged, US assassination teams operate with impunity, murdering whomever is thought to oppose the global system of domination by the world’s superpower. It is not that there are a multiplicity of assaults against liberty going on coincidentally. All these phenomena are aspects of a unified attack on human freedom and dignity in the name of the soulless drive to power and domination.

There are many courageous people within the US who are raising the cry and resisting the coming darkness of tyranny.  But they are often naïve about both the causes of the nightmare and how to defeat its satanic drive toward the crushing of human freedom and dignity everywhere on Earth. Naomi Wolf, for example, writes concerning NDAA that “here is only one solution: organize votes loudly and publicly to defeat every single signer of this bill in November’s general election. Then, once we have our Republic back and the rule of law, we can deal with the actual treason that this law represents” (Guardian, UK, 1 March 12).

But the assumption that freedom can be defended and/or secured within one nation-state is false, because it fails to realize that it is the system of militarized nation-states itself that is the cause of this worldwide destruction of human dignity and liberty.  Every nation assumes the right to militarize itself, which necessarily means that every nation assumes that the world exists in a state of perpetual war and that human rights, defended by the rule of law, do not exist, in the final analysis, on planet Earth.  If the United States (and its imperial lackeys such as Great Britain) was not the global aggressor and hegemon, it would be some other nation that happens to fill the role of superpower. 

The system of fragmentation (of the planet into some 200 sovereign nation-states) that inherently refuses to recognize the universality of human rights and dignity is the cause of this totalitarian assault on the human spirit.  It is not simply bad leaders, whether George Bush or Barack Obama. They are mere instruments of an inhuman system of global capital accumulation that works within a system of sovereign nation-states: dividing and conquering, exploiting, destroying all human values in the service of private wealth and nation-state fragmentation. 

Capitalism turns all things and people into commodities to be used in the service of private profit, inherently stripping people of their dignity.  The nation-state system, which is intrinsically a war system, turns all people into potential enemies, stripping everyone on Earth of their universal human rights.  In war, all people lose their rights and dignity, since war precisely means the absence of civilized respect for the due process of law. And since the system of sovereign nation-states is intrinsically a war system, human rights become a meaningless impediment to the rule of unrelenting force and violence.

As much as we admire the courage of those living within the belly of the beast who struggle for freedom and dignity under the rule of national laws, we must not be fooled by their naïve assumption that you can establish freedom within the absolute borders of a sovereign nation-state.  For the very act of recognizing absolute borders implies that the rule of law does not apply to those beyond these borders. What do apply are power relationships, not democratic relationships, but war. The destruction of freedom within the United States is logically inseparable from the destruction of freedom worldwide. Both are intrinsic consequences of a system of autonomous, militarized nation-states intertwined with global capitalist dehumanization and exploitation.

The system of states that claim the right to militarize to fight external enemies inevitably impacts the internal governing of these same states. External war and mistrust destroy democratic relationships both externally and internally. Militarization requires that freedom be sacrificed in defense of the homeland. The situation of economic domination by big capital worldwide penetrates all 200 militarized, supposedly independent, national fragments, subjecting them to non-democratic forces beyond national control. In a globalized situation that is inherently one of economic exploitation protected by imperial wars, there can be no freedom.  This generalized world disorder prevents and distorts order within the fragments. The global war system distorts the possibilities for the rule of democratic laws protecting freedom. In no nation on Earth can citizens create freedom for themselves under the rule of democratically legislated laws within this world system that distorts all human relationships, both internal to nations and externally.

The death of the human spirit appears historically immanent.  It is immanent not because of evil persons who may or may not be assassinated by the equally evil, totalitarian institutions of our planet.  The death of the human spirit is immanent because we lack the vision and courage to unite together with human beings everywhere to demand an end to the sovereign nation-state and global capitalism.  There is no true freedom unless all are free.  There are no protected human rights unless all are protected.  There is no respected human dignity unless all are respected.

This can only mean uniting together under the Constitution for the Federation of Earth that is sponsored by the World Constitution and Parliament Association (WCPA) and establishing the rule of democratically legislated law for all humankind.  The “broad functions” of the Earth Federation, expressed in Article One of the Earth Constitution, state exactly what can only be done by the federation government: eliminate war, protect human rights everywhere, end poverty and create prosperity for all, protect the planetary environment, conserve the essential natural resources of the Earth, and address all those problems that are beyond the scope of the nations. 

Only enforceable democratic world law can eliminate militarism and, therefore, the present-day working assumption that human rights do not exist beyond national borders. Only world law can institutionalize human dignity so that every person on Earth enjoys habeas corpus and civil liberties. Only enforceable world law can effectively regulate the global economic system in the service of reasonable prosperity for all. Only world law can protect the global environment and begin to restore the integrity of the planetary ecosystem. Only world law can protect the Earth’s resources and address all other global problems.

Our fragmented and myopic thought patterns give us the illusion that these problems can be handled at the level of nations.  None of them can.  It is sovereign nation-state system, penetrated and manipulated by a global economic system far beyond the control of any nation, that is at the root of all these problems.  Today’s immanent global totalitarianism is a consequence of this world system, and cannot be effectively overcome without changing the system itself.  Either human beings unite or we die.  This option is still before us.  Soon it may be too late.

            (Glen T. Martin is Professor of Philosophy at Radford University in Virginia. He is President of the World Constitution and Parliament Association and also President of the Institute on World Problems (IOWP).)