The Fukuyama-decade continues on—history has ended, all is well in the cosmos, and the New World Order is functioning well. We had, some 30 years ago, an advance confirmation of our smooth sailing in Senator Fulbright’s book on The Arrogance of Power. The United States, he wrote, is not an empire and rejects all imperialistic temptation; yet, just in case it yields to the temptation, the planet may be assured: it will be a benevolent dictatorship.
In the era of Orwellian newspeak, we are not surprised that war is peace, love is hate, and that imperialism by good guys translates as solicitude and humanitarian concern. Sartre, for example, wrote that executing traitors to the Communist Party is an act of “mortal solicitude,” a virtue.
But long before Fulbright and Francis Fukuyama, Immanuel Kant promised mankind (the last two centuries’ favorite point of reference) that once the hated despotisms (he meant monarchies) vanish and “bourgeois republics” are proclaimed, the latter’s attention will be solely absorbed by trade. Wars will be abolished as a “waste of resources.” Kant enthused indecently when revolutionary terror engulfed France.
What we observe at present is that the Age of Trade resounds just as much of wars and imperialism as any age in the past. Liberal-democratic republics, based on industry and commerce, are as warlike and imperialistic as the autocratic regimes of history. How would Kant (and Spinoza, Montesquieu, Locke) explain that unless Franjo Tudjman agrees to territorial concessions, President Clinton may threaten to cut him off from international loans? Or that unless Italian fishermen use the appropriate fishing net—which saves dolphins—Italy will be penalized by American companies? True, Tudjman is not expected to perform a proskynesis in the White House before the hegemon potentate. Instead, our Age of “Free” Trade has invented new ways for the supplicant to throw himself on his knees: before world bodies like the U.N., IMF, NATO, and the EU. And, of course, in exchange for the supplicant’s cooperation, there will be the duly photographed handshakes in the Oval Office.