The Roman empire lasted for about 500 years, give or take. But all in all, the time when Roman society was flourishing and making a lasting impact on the world was about 75 BCE to 425 CE. Don't crucify me over the dates - it is an estimation of how long Roman society was a force to be reckoned with.

Now, to our own history. Western society began arguably around 1700 CE, with The Renaissance and The Enlightenment. Before that, the world was fundementally different. It was at this time we began to develop the ideals which shape our lives today. We're more mature, now, than we were then, but all in total we could empathize with the people of that time. Just two centuries previous that would have been much more difficult. Almost at once, everyone in the world began to the conform to ideals set by England, France, Germany, and other European nations. Soon, though, America would come to symbolize all that was modern and good about our society.

Ok, so where I am going with this? Many "doomsday" soothsayers use the pseudolatin term "Pax Americana" ("American peace", and an offshot from the officially recognized period in Roman history named Pax Romana, meaning much the same thing for the Roman empire) to refer to the supposed "heyday" of America, which according to some must be coming to end. Basically, they're saying that we've had our moment in sun -- nations come and go, empires rise and fall. "Sure," you might say, "yeah right." But really, what human society as powerful as the western world -- which arguably is on the same track as America economy-wise and politics-wise -- has survived for more than 500 years, or so?

So, continuing to play Devil's Advocate, who's to say we aren't living in the peak of western society? I mean, what roman citizen, living around 150 CE, could have forseen the eventual breakdown of his homeland and governmental system in less than a few decades? Who's to say that we aren't destined to endure the same fate around 2200, when our nation's 500-year cycle is up?

Historians argue often over what really caused the fall of Rome. Some say it was economic decay, some say it was restless Germanic hoardes, some say is was farmland becoming barren. Still others say it was collective lead poisoning, contracted from the aqueducts lined with lead. So perhaps global warming will, in the end, destroy our decadent society. Perhaps it will be nuclear fallout. Maybe it will be some natural disaster. I guess you could say the odds are against any endeavour so large as a society surviving all the obstacles it must face, for that long.

So, essentially, enjoy it while you can, folks. You never know when it's going to end.

This has been a nodeshell rescue by xmatt.

The U.S. plan for Iraq reconstruction, with the UN in a subcontracting role, is the most immediate example of a new world order where the UN has a well-defined, explicitly subordinate position in the architecture of U.S. global hegemony. It suggests an end to rhetorical commitments to collective security based on international law and multilateralism embodied in the UN charter. Such a vision was outlined in an op-ed by Richard Perle:

Saddam Hussein will go quickly, but not alone: in a parting irony, he will take the UN down with him. Well, not the whole UN. The 'good works' part will survive, the low-risk peacekeeping bureaucracies will remain, the chatterbox on the Hudson will continue to bleat. What will die is the fantasy of the UN as the foundation of a new world order. As we sift the debris, it will be important to preserve the intellectual wreckage of the liberal conceit of safety through international law administered by international institutions.

Perle's eulogy for the vision of collective security the UN offered is a suggestive illustration of the future vision it outlines, a vision that is staggering in its casual rejection of the framework of international law. He also writes:

The chronic failure of the Security Council to enforce its own resolutions is unmistakable: it is simply not up to the task. We are left with coalitions of the willing. Far from disparaging them as a threat to a new world order, we should recognize that they are, by default, the best hope for that order, and the true alternative to the anarchy of the abject failure of the UN.

While rejecting the UN Security Council, Perle also identifies countries sponsoring terrorism and possessing weapons of mass destruction as the major threat to international security.

What then is the next step in the Bush administration's security agenda? One clue is embodied in the statement from a senior British official to Newsweek last August: 'Everyone wants to go to Baghdad. Real men want to go to Tehran.'

According to the Israeli paper Ha'aretz, in February 2003, Undersecretary of State John Bolton told Israeli officials that after defeating Iraq the U.S. would deal with Iran, Syria, and North Korea.

With North Korean policy in a seeming holding pattern while the war in Iraq, the next steps in the Middle East are already being tabled. Michael Ledeen, another key intellectual in the pantheon of neoconservatives shaping the Bush administration policy, described one such agenda. In a panel at the American Enterprise Institute on March 21st and in the New York Sun Ledeen argues for the need to look beyond Iraq and go after other regimes in the region:

Iraq is not the war. (...) the war is a regional war, and we cannot be successful in Iraq if we only do Iraq alone.

Writing in the New York Sun on March 19, there is no mistaking the messianic vision of manifest destiny that Ledeen believes the war in Iraq will provide:

Once upon a time, it might have been possible to deal with Iraq alone, without having to face the murderous forces of the other terror masters in Tehran, Damascus, and Riyadh, but that time has passed.

The Iranian, Syrian, and Saudi tyrants know that if we win a quick victory in Iraq and then establish a free government in Baghdad, their doom is sealed. It would then be only a matter of time before their peoples would demand the same liberation we brought to Afghanistan and Iraq. Thus, they must do everything in their power to tie us down in Iraq, bleed us on the ground, frustrate our designs, and eventually break our will.

It would be a terrible humiliation for America and Britain to fall prey to needless bloodshed because we blinded ourselves to the larger war in which we are now engaged. Iraq is a battle, not a war. We have to win the war, and the only way to do that is to bring down the terror masters, and spread freedom throughout the region.

Rarely has it been possible to see one of history's potential turning points so clearly and so dramatically as it is today. Rarely has a country been given such a glorious opportunity as we have in our hands. But history is full of missed opportunities and embarrassing defeats. We'll know soon which destiny we will achieve.

The first Persian Gulf War marked the transition to the new post-cold war world. The Second Gulf war will mark the end of the post-cold war world. The history of what comes next remains to be written. But it is clear that the advocates for a Pax Americana are well prepared.

This writeup is part of my article 'Dreams of Empire', posted in Counterpounch (March 29, 2003) and has been submitted to E2 with permission of the editors Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair.

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