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|May 5, 2003||
Vol. 1, No. 21
History Lessons for Pax Americana
by Arthur Jones, NCR editor at large
Current political buzz equates President Bush's globalization with the dawn of Pax Americana. Doonesbury has already given Dubbya a centurion's helmet.
This fits nicely with the rehabilitation of Pax Britannica, (see Niall Ferguson's slightly fawning "Empire: Queen Victoria's Secret" (Basic Books) enamoured of pro-British Indians and other former serfs, and Ferguson's own nostalgia for English free trade and military and capitalist domination.
Edward Gibbon held the same views of heyday Rome. His "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire", opens as Pax Romana, those two centuries of peace from the reign of Augustus (beginning in 31 BC) to around 180 A.D.
Pax Britannica had a shorter run. Arguably from 1865 to the Japanese destruction of the Russian fleet in 1904-05.
Gibbon: "In the second century of the Christian era the empire of Rome comprehended the fairest part of the earth and the most civilized portion of mankind. … Their peaceful inhabitants enjoyed and abused the advantages of wealth and luxury. The image of a free constitution was preserved with decent reverence."
Free constitution for Romans, but Rome's holdings were "provinces," not free states.
Pax Romana and Pax Britannica contain parallels and warnings for a United States that aims at Empire, with Bush a latter-day Queen Victoria.
The Roman Empire was an economic domination - there was no enemy worthy of the name. The British Empire was the same: in "India Britannica" (1983) Godfrey Moorhouse reminds that England's major rush to augment its India presence came because the supply of raw cotton to England's cotton mills was cut off by the American Civil War.
For Britain, "King Cotton" was the oil of its day.
Empire created the mess that is today's colonial-era divided Africa, and military-coup-prone Fiji, where the British imported Indians -- who today nearly outnumber native Fijians. Empire is the Amritsar massacre, plus everything Gandhi opposed. That's the underbelly of Pax Britannica, just as condoning torture is the underbelly of the new Pax Americana.
Rome wanted an Empire of Roman citizens. And those who became such were well satisfied. The English operated differently. The first thing they did in a new colony was found a club and a race course and exclude the locals. The English wanted to be envied. Those locals admitted under sufferance to further the iron grip were well satisfied to be included.
The Americans want to be loved.
Let's see how that plays with the Iraqis, the Arabs and Muslims.
Arthur's Daily DittyPax Americana:
Bush locuta est
Carpe diem, seize the dime,
Pater Nosterv, thank you, Dad,
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