Like the case of Rome before it, the Empire is bankrupting America. The true fiscal cost is upwards of $1.0 trillion per year (counting $200 billion for veterans and debt service for wars), but there is no way to pay for it.
That's because the 78-million strong Baby Boom is in the driver's seat of American politics. It plainly will not permit the $3 trillion per year retirement and health care entitlements-driven Welfare State to be curtailed.
The Trumpite/GOP has already sealed that deal by refusing to reform Social Security and Medicare and by proving to be utterly incapable of laying a glove politically on Obamacare/Medicaid. At the same time, boomers keep voting for the GOP's anti-tax allergy, thereby refusing to tax themselves to close Washington's yawning deficits.
More importantly, the generation which marched on the Pentagon in 1968 against the insanity and barbarism of LBJ's Vietnam War has long since abandoned the cause of peace. So doing, boomers have acquiesced in the final ascendancy of the Warfare State, which grew like topsy once the US became the world's sole superpower after the Soviet Union slithered off the pages of history in 1991.
Yet there is a reason why the end of the 77-year world war which incepted with the "guns of August" in 1914 did not enable the world to resume the status quo ante of relative peace and prosperous global capitalism.
To wit, the hoary ideology of American exceptionalism and the Indispensable Nation was also, ironically, liberated from the shackles of cold war realism when the iron curtain came tumbling down.
Consequently, it burst into a quest for unadulterated global hegemony. In short order (under Bush the Elder and the Clintons) Washington morphed into the Imperial City, and became a beehive not only of militarism, but of an endless complex of think-tanks, NGO's, advisories and consultancies, "law firms", lobbies, and racketeers.
The unspeakable prosperity of Washington flows from that Imperial beehive. And it is the Indispensable Nation meme that provides the political adhesive that binds the Imperial City to the work of Empire and to provisioning the massive fiscal appetites of the Warfare State.
Needless to say, Empire is a terrible thing because it is the health of the state and the profound enemy of capitalist prosperity and constitutional liberty.
It thrives and metastasizes by abandoning the republican verities of non-intervention abroad and peaceful commerce with all the nations of the world in favor of the self-appointed role of global policeman. Rather than homeland defense, the policy of Empire is that of international busybody, military hegemon and brutal enforcer of Washington's writs, sanctions, red lines and outlawed regimes.
There is nothing more emblematic of that betrayal of republican non-interventionism than the sundry hot spots which dog the Empire today. These include the Ukraine/Crimea confrontation with Russia, the regime change fiasco in Syria, the US sponsored genocide in Yemen, the failed, bloody 17-year occupation of Afghanistan, the meddling of the US Seventh Fleet in the South China Sea, and, most especially, the swiftly intensifying contretemps in Iran.
As to the latter, there is absolutely no reason for the Empire's attack on Iran. The proverbial Martian, in fact, would be sorely perplexed about why Washington is marching toward war with its puritanical and authoritarian but relatively powerless religious rulers.
After all, Iran hasn't violated the nuke deal (JCPOA) by the lights of any credible authority -- or by even less than credible ones like the CIA. Nor by the same consensus of authorities has it even had a research program for nuclear weaponization since 2003.
Likewise, its modest GDP of $430 billion is equal to just eight days of US output, thereby hardly constituting an industrial platform from which its theocratic rulers could plausibly menace America's homeland.
Nor could its tiny $14 billion defense budget -- which amounts to just seven days worth of DOD outlays -- inflict any military harm on American citizens.
In fact, Iran has no blue water navy that could effectively operate outside of the Persian Gulf; its longest range warplanes can barely get to Rome without refueling; and its array of mainly defensive medium and intermediate range missiles cannot strike most of NATO, to say nothing of the North American continent.
The answer to the Martian's question, of course, is that Iran is no threat whatsoever to the safety and security of the US homeland, but it has run badly afoul of the dictates of the American Empire.
That is to say, it has presumed to have an independent foreign policy involving Washington proscribed alliances with the sovereign state of Syria, the leading political party of Lebanon (Hezbollah), the ruling authorities (and US puppets) in Baghdad and the reining power in the Yemen capital of Sana'a (the Houthis).
These are all deemed by Washington to be sources of unsanctioned "regional instability" and Iran's alliances with them have been capriciously labeled as acts of state sponsored terrorism.
The same goes for Washington's demarche against Iran's modest array of short, medium and intermediate range ballistic missiles. These weapons are palpably instruments of self-defense, but Imperial Washington insists their purpose is aggression -- unlike the case of practically every other nation which offers its custom to American arms merchants.
For example, Iran's arch-rival across the Persian Gulf, Saudi Arabia, has more advanced NATO supplied ballistic missiles with even greater range (2,600 km range). So does Israel, Pakistan, India, and a half-dozen other nations, which are either Washington allies or have been given a hall-pass in order to bolster US arms exports.
In short, Washington's escalating war on Iran is an exercise in global hegemony, not territorial self-defense. What the proverbial Martian is really asking, therefore, is how did the Empire come about?
How did the historic notion of national defense morph into Washington's arrogant claim that it constitutes the "Indispensable Nation" which stands as mankind's bulwark against global disorder and chaos among nations?
Reprinted with permission from David Stockman's Contra Corner. To subscribe to Stockman's website, click here.