Our attempts to control and dominate the globe have done massive damage to our socio-economic well-being. Ironically, it is the most neglected issue in this campaign.
Historically, it has an overwhelming similarity to the disastrous burdens which the Spanish, British and French global empires foisted on their people.
For generations, Spain ruled much of the world, extracted in a most brutal fashion gold and silver from its colonies and promptly wasted it on wars and imperial oppressions.
While doing so, its people were conditioned to bask in the glory of Spain’s empire in spite of the fact that they got no benefit but paid a heavy inflationary price. All in all, the start of Spain’s empire hundreds of years ago was the start of its long term relative decline.
Our bid for global domination not only echoes Spain’s but also echoes the horrible burden British pols foisted on the British people through its colonial empire. Controlling a quarter of the globe and oppressing hundreds of millions the Brits believed that they were spreading the “white man’s burden” and civilizing the colonials. Like the Spaniards, the people basked in the glory of the empire where the sun never set. It was a massive self-deception which had the catastrophic result of Britain being the first to industrialize yet denying its people the full benefit of that gargantuan economic historical process by wasting it so that Britannia could rule the seas and force subjugation onto Asians, Africans and others.
In both countries, the elites pushed for global control and benefited while the people gradually became more and more impoverished relative to non-imperial nations.
After the Spanish-American War of 1898, we followed that process and picked up the debris of the decaying Spanish Empire: Puerto Rico, the Philippine Islands, Guam, etc. It was a major step in fulfilling Senator Beveridge’s slogan “God ordained us to be masters of this universe.”
During the decline of the British Empire, we also picked up its colonial debris. In exchange for 50 destroyers, we gained dozens of British overseas bases before Pearl Harbor.
It was a continuation of Wilson’s post-World War I statement “we saved the world,” which was a nice cover and justification for expanding our global control and domination.
To sustain it, we forged after World War II a tight worldwide network of military alliances, NATO, SEATO, and lots of ancillary ones.
In the fifties and early sixties, French President De Gaulle withdrew from France’s colonies. He criticized Truman for getting us into the Korean War and advised JFK to stay out of Vietnam. In spite of this, JFK upped the military advisors from Eisenhower’s 400 to 17,000 who partook increasingly in military actions. Under LBJ that number grew to over 530,000 at the peak of us trying to control the debris of the French global empire, too.
Meanwhile, domestic issues were horribly neglected and surfaced in a rusty infrastructure, backward train system, dilapidated housing and relative indifference to the damage of hurricanes and other natural catastrophes. To recover from them and to rebuild was inefficient and frequently mismanaged. The Army Corp of Engineers was busy abroad but insufficiently so domestically.
Ultimately, some 800 U.S. military installations emerged around the globe and the Army Corp of Engineers became active, lo and behold, in some 80 countries.
Far away military ventures in Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, etc. took priority over our own domestic well-being! It was and is still a process that will continue until stopped by overwhelming events, of which the current upheavals may be a leading symptom. Tens of trillions literally wasted on futile unproductive military adventures abroad are the top opportunity cost and the trade-off for our relative economic decline in comparison to non-imperial economies.
What we have done to ourselves echoes surrealistically what Spain, Britain and France have done to their people.
The final tragedy resides in the fact that neither party nor the media, academicians or Biden and Trump focus on stopping our eerily relative economic decline experienced by former colonial empires.
Eisenhower did warn in his farewell speech of the damage done by the military-industrial complex, and so did Carter, but to no avail. It seems like no correction will take place until overwhelming events.