Thursday, July 17, 2008

Imperial Inefficiency

Dear George,

What makes empire so much fun is its twisted logic. Most logic proceeds in a linear fashion from premises to conclusion. Imperial logic turns in on itself and devours its logic as quickly as it expounds it, like a snake eating its tail.

Our empire is a prime example of this circularity.

One of the factors that led to the creation of the Roman Empire was a need for grain, a need that became particularly sharp after the soil on Rome’s seven hills was exhausted.

It was here that we first see the paradox of empire at work: An army must consume the very resource it is out to conquer. Efficient empires keep this consumption to a level that does not impact on the flow of resources into the empires capital.

Well by God, George, wouldn’t you know that the United State would be unique among empires? That’s what makes us such an exceptional nation.

Our empire is driven by a need for oil, but our military conquests are burning up so much oil it is contributing to a shortage of the very oil we are out to conquer, so we are forced to burn even more oil so we can continue to seize it from our foreign subsidiaries. Eighty percent of the military supplies shipped to the battlefield is fuel.

In Iraq and Afghanistan, alone, our empire burns 3.5 million gallons of oil daily. This works out to 1.3 billion gallons a year. (At four buck a gallon, I’m afraid to do the math.)

Yet, despite this heavy drainage, the wars are bracing examples of capitalism at work. The longer the wars last, the more our oil companies are enriched. Not only are they making big bucks selling oil to the Pentagon so it can go out and conquer more oil for them to sell, but the diversion of oil to our war machine makes oil more expensive on the home front. It’s an example classic capitalism in which profits are internalized, and the costs (of waging the wars of conquest that provide the oil) are externalized.

It doesn’t get much better than that.

Tonight before you crawl between the sheets, drop to your knees and pray that some wise-ass bureaucrat in the Department of Transportation doesn’t figure out that it would be a hell of a lot cheaper and burn a lot less fuel to fly a trade delegation over there to cut the best deal they could.

Not to worry though, such a thought is an example of common sense, and empires don’t do common sense. That’s why they end up self destructing.

Your admirer,
Belacqua Jones

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