The Way of the “Evil Empire”

A Legitimate Crisis of Legitimacy

It was recently reported that the United States is “trying a radical new strategy” in Baghdad: the building of a wall to keep rival sects apart.1. This is hardly a radical, even new, strategy. In 1961, the Soviet Union constructed a wall not only to choke the flow of millions fleeing from East Germany, but also to keep two rival philosophies apart. One of the chief goals of the Berlin Wall was to quell the outflow of East German workers. In short, this writer maintains that the Soviet Union was having a crisis of legitimacy due to its failure to bring about its promise of a better life for those under its control. To subdue its declining image, it resorted to building this grotesque structure. It was a vile and arrogant attempt to divide a historic society. The forces of history would prove to work against this action, among others, as a divided Germany became the focal point of legitimacy for the Soviet Union on the world stage. The building of the Berlin Wall displayed the Soviet Union’s inability to enforce its system and control foreign populations. The building of the Baghdad Wall shows America’s inability to do the same.

Anger quickly rose “among citizens and some politicians in Baghdad after local and international news sources circulated the report of the” wall’s construction. 2. Despite this, and Nuri al-Maliki’s call to halt the construction of the Baghdad Wall, the United States continues with its so-called “radical new strategy.” No one is listening in an accountable, paternalistic America. The Iraqi people want a halt to the building of the wall and there is no response.

Much like Germany did for the Soviet Union during the Cold War, Iraq today stands as the focal point of legitimacy for the United States on the world stage. America’s decision to build a wall to separate the Iraqi society conveys to the world that it is suffering from a crisis of legitimacy. It is an expression that it is attempting to quell the discontent and rejection of its hegemonic apparatus. In its failure to bring about what it promised the Iraqi people — freedom, democracy, prosperity, peace, and security — the United States stands in the same position as the Soviet Union did in 1961. This repugnant structure that America is building is a “most obvious and vivid demonstration of the failures of the [American] system, for all the world to see.”3

It is important to note that America’s declining legitimacy does not begin with the building of the Baghdad Wall. Nor is it confined to the host country of this contemptuous act. It has been a process in the making. From the “pursuit of ‘preventive’ war as a basis for foreign policy”; international torture centers; domestic immigrant detention camps; and massive citizen surveillance, America’s legitimacy has been in decline.4 The credibility gap stands far and wide for both non-Americans and Americans.

This dual loss of legitimacy is a menacing factor, as the United States wanders in a delusional state of denial and self-destructive continuity.5 Instead of a nation that thrives on legitimate logic, it has become an entity that perverts reason. Instead of a nation that expresses trust, it has become an entity that represses it. Instead of a nation that functions through freedom, it has become an entity that overwhelmingly operates by way of fear.6 The days of pragmatism and adaptability have long since passed. It now lumbers across the globe in a state of rigidity and speciousness.7 It has lost the ability to conceal its imperial ambitions within a missionary cloak to erect loyal, puppet-democracies throughout the world.8 It has lost the capability to legitimately “advance its interests” through a world structure that is no longer corresponding to a single, unilateral, hegemonic entity.9 And so, America is no longer perceived as a benevolent force for good in the world, if it ever was, and has not been for some time. It is seen as a malevolent force for wickedness and greed. It is viewed as a paranoid behemoth that sees itself as having no boundaries and will launch offensive acts of aggression at will.10

In all this, a heavy majority of the Iraqi people want the United States to get out of their country.11 They are overwhelmingly skeptical of American intentions, as a “large majority of Iraqis” believe that the United States plans to maintain permanent bases in Iraq, “even if the newly elected government asks the United States to leave.”12 Counter to their wishes, the United States has proven its determination to stay in Iraq with the recent troop surge. America, whom does not respond to the desires of the masses, is not to be denied its delusional aspirations. Consequently, the guest has lost its self-perceived legitimacy to stay with its would-be embracing host, as approval of attacks on American soldiers among the Iraqi population has risen to a clear, and significant, majority.13

Neither does America’s loss of self-perceived legitimacy end before the water’s edge. This sense also permeates through America itself. A poll at this time last year showed that a majority believed that “there should be a third major political party in the country,” indicating a discontent with the current two major parties.14 Neither party seems to be listening to the American people the way the American people want them to. Americans see their two-party system as having turned its back on them. They see the government as a self-serving entity that continues to ignore their wishes. A majority of the people want the War on Iraq to “come to an end.”15 There has been no response. A majority of the people want universal healthcare, even if it means paying higher taxes.16 There has been no response. Adding insult to injury, the current administration, despite overwhelming public opposition, went ahead and sent thousand of more troops to Iraq.17 It seems as if “public opposition does not greatly matter.”18

If it was not enough that the American people have been calling for such directions, they also feel a strong disconnect between what the government tells them and reality. A recent poll suggests that a clear majority rejects the purported link between Iraq and their security; they repudiate that success (whatever that is) in Iraq means safety at home.19 Americans also remain skeptical about the official explanations for the 9-11 terrorist attacks; a strong majority has wanted a new 9-11 investigation.20 Thus, America is suffering from a crisis of legitimacy throughout and within its continental borders.

The Way of the “Evil Empire”

In 1989 the Berlin Wall fell marking the apparent end of the Cold War. To many observers, the Cold War was a struggle overwhelmingly won by an accumulation of individual acts of spontaneous defiance and seizures of opportunities by small key actors. Nevertheless, the United States branded itself the grand winner of this hegemonic global war and claimed to be the moral zenith for the world to follow.21 To many, especially those formerly under oppressive Soviet control, America was the prosperous democratic-capitalist state model to reach for both literally and metaphorically. However, a large portion of the world negated this truthful myth and did not follow. America, then, would have to show them the way. Through its century-old tactic of overthrow and self-projecting institutionalization, the United States subsequently launched a self-beguiled, narcissistic quest to transform the planet into its image by political, cultural, economic, and military force.

The Soviets saw Communism as a “predetermined” path for the world.22 They consistently claimed that “history was on [their] side.”23 During the Cold War, it was supposed to be “the wave of the future” and nothing could stop it.24

Yet, if the Soviet style system was supposed to be a natural evolution, then why did it have to be thrust upon people in such a repressive and forceful manner? This same question can be extended to America’s thrusting of its system onto others today. After the Cold War ended, some contended that the world was heading towards a liberal-democratic-capitalist world order; this was supposed to the natural progression of modern history. To them, the way the Cold War ended was proof of this “fact.” However, the current environment in the “New American Century” suggests otherwise, as worldwide democratization is at stagnation.25 Compare this to “the last half of the 20th century” which saw a “globalization of democratization.”26 Instead of a supposed natural evolution taking place, an unnatural, vigorous coercion is occurring. America’s forceful and repressive spreading of its brand of a liberal-democratic-capitalist system onto others is having an adverse effect.

America may have gotten “it right” and proved itself to be the better student of history during the Cold War, because it “never bought but into any single, sacrosanct, and therefore unchangeable theory of history.”27 However, recent events suggest that it has lost the inability to do so any longer. The United States is not only proving itself to be getting it wrong with its rigid ideology of a forceful global democratic transformation, it is also proving to be an arrogant flouter of history. If the end of the Cold War presented a window of opportunity for the world to adapt to a “New World Order” where a benevolent America would make the world safe for democracy, then America squandered that opportunity through its misguided and arrogant foreign adventures across the world, especially today in the Middle East.28 In trying to cast its shadow onto the world through imperialistic measures, America has come to act and be looked upon as the empire it sought to destroy for some forty-six years. It has come to take on some of the most disparaging characteristics of the former Soviet Union.29 Hence, the global pushback.

The Soviet Union’s ambition to divide a society, in conjunction with its transformation into a Hegemonic-Orwellian-Paranoid-Terror-State to enforce its way of being, led to a loss of legitimacy — which aided its protracted erosion and eventual, sudden demise. Today, the United States stands at a point in its short life where its conduct is leading it towards the same fate as its nemesis of the second-half of the twentieth century. The accumulation of individual acts of spontaneous defiance and seizures of opportunities by small key actors is sentencing, not vindicating, America. If the United States continues down this same path it will become a collapsed, illegitimate, malignant, hegemonic memory in the dustbin of history. The United States will go the way of the “evil empire,” and the New American Century, just like the Cold War, will end just as abruptly as it began.30

  1. Saturday, April 21, 2007. Wong. Edward and David S. Cloud, Sahar Nageeb, and Ahmad Fadam. “The Reach of War; U.S. Erects Baghdad Wall To Keep Rival Sects Apart,” New York Times []
  2. Monday, April 23, 2007. “Work on Baghdad wall continues despite premier’s opposition,” Raw Story []
  3. Gaddis, John Lewis. 2005. The Cold War: A New History. p. 115. New York: The Penguin Press. []
  4. Johnson, Chalmers. 2006. Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic. p. 8. New York: Metropolitan Books. []
  5. Sardar, Ziauddin and Merryl Wyn Davies. 2004. American Dream, Global Nightmare. p. 231. UK: Icon Books. []
  6. Gaddis, p. 104. []
  7. Sardar and Davies. p. 231. []
  8. Bello, Walden. 2005. Dilemmas of Domination: The Unmaking of the American Empire. p. 208. New York. Metropolitan Books. []
  9. Drezner, Daniel W. 2007. “The New New World Order,” Foreign Affairs Magazine. March/April. []
  10. Sardar and Davies. p. 231 []
  11. Wednesday September 27, 2006. “Most Iraqis Want U.S. Troops Out Within a Year,” WorldPublicOpinion.org. []
  12. Tuesday, January 31, 2006. “Poll of Iraqis: Public Wants Timetable for US Withdrawal, but Thinks US Plans Permanent Bases in Iraq,” World Public Opinion.org. []
  13. Ibid. []
  14. Tuesday, April 25, 2006. “Americans Want Third Major Political Party,” Angus Reid Global Monitor. []
  15. Tuesday, May 1, 2007. “American Majority Wants Iraq Troops Home,” Angus Reid Global Monitor. []
  16. Toner, Robin and Janet Elder. Thursday, March 1, 2007. “Poll Shows Majority Back Health Care for All,” New York Times. []
  17. Editorial Board. Saturday, January 20, 2007. “The war in Iraq and American democracy,” World Socialist Website. []
  18. Bello, p. 209 []
  19. Thursday, April 10, 2007. “Americans Refute Link Between Iraq and U.S. Safety,” Angus Reid Global Monitor. []
  20. Thursday, May 23, 2006. “9-11 truth: Is it still out there? Zogby poll shows 70% want new investigation,” WorldNetDaily. []
  21. Gaddis, p. 238. []
  22. Gaddis, p. 87. []
  23. Gaddis, p. 84. []
  24. Ibid []
  25. Puddington, Arch. Freedom in the World: Freedom Stagnation Amid Pushback Against Democracy. Freedom House Press Release of annual “Freedom in the World” report, 2007. []
  26. Gaddis, p. 264. []
  27. Gaddis, p. 117. []
  28. Bello, p. 208. []
  29. Johnson, p. 8. []
  30. Gaddis, p. 259. []
George Aleman III is an MA student in history and also a writer, activist, and musician. Read other articles by George, or visit George's website.

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  1. o. rana said on May 11th, 2007 at 10:48am #

    Answering G. Aleman III

    Sorry sire, I’m afraid you have got it wrongly: your words about the Berlin Wall will backfire on you. Read “Killing Hope” by William Blum, and you will see that the wall was built against US, and partly UK, sabotage and terrorism in East Germany after the war, and workers were sucked over to the west by a brutal and cynikal western conspiracy.

    Read also “the Myth of the Good War – America in the second World War” by Jaques R. Pauwels. Maybe not confortable reading, but for the sake of truth, please… But you are right: Building walls to devide and conquer people is a CRIME,

    What about the US-Mexican border? I have understood that the US stole half of Mexico under the Guadalupe Hidalgo Treaty of 1848? Same people, same land on both sides (of the border wall).

    Palestine?