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previous job at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace) I am afraid that the bulk of the Democrat and Republican establishments speak the same way on foreign policy because they think the same way. And of course the elites do not just react to popular views, they also shape them. First, both wings of the bipartisan establishment are American nationalists. They both believe passionately in the founding myths of American civic nationalism: America as the world’s greatest country, the world’s greatest democracy, the irreplaceable representative of freedom and democracy in the world, and therefore by moral right the world’s hegemon. Second, the bipartisan establishment is made up of American imperialists. The ideological underpinning of the imperial programme stems from the aforementioned nationalist beliefs. Support for it is strengthened, however, by the class interests of the American policymaking establishment, with its immense professional and individual stakes in America’s global power. This power is not in itself bad. It has played a hugely positive role for humanity at certain points in the past, and could do so again. At present, however, the US establishment is pursuing a very dangerous course in the middle east and beyond. This is above all because the US is present everywhere, and thus impinges on the interests of every other major state in the world. And thanks to a combination of arrogance and confusion, it seems incapable of establishing priorities and taking domestically unpopular decisions. The third reason why the Republicans and Democrats sound so alike is that both identify so closely with Israel, whether out of genuine belief or fear of the inﬂuence of the Israel lobby. This was demonstrated by the overwhelming votes in the Senate and House pledging unqualified support for Israel’s offensive in Lebanon (410 votes to eight in the case of the House). Unfortunately, the power of the lobby, and of the afﬁnity to Israel, has come to have a critical effect on US policy towards Syria, Iran and, indeed, the Muslim world in general. Since the present general line on foreign and security policy is adhered to by the bipartisan establishment, it follows that any revolt against it would have to enjoy huge support from ordi-
nary Americans, and in particular the most important political constituency, the white middle classes of the “heartland.” It would therefore have to appeal to the core traditions of this constituency. In this context, that means a mixture of intense nationalism with deep distrust of foreign entanglements—a mixture unfairly dubbed “isolationism” by the imperial elites. The left faces immense obstacles in appealing to the heartland. Its cosmopolitan traditions and above all its hostility to religion make it culturally alien to the world of the suburbs and small towns. It is also wedded to its own version of liberal interventionism in Darfur and elsewhere. A more hopeful prospect in the long run lies in a coalition between the moderate realists and populists in the heartland in revolt against the costs of empire. As soon as it becomes clear to the white middle classes that a continuation of present levels of military spending and foreign policy activism will require sharp reductions in middle-class entitlements—social security, Medicare, mortgage relief and so on— mass pressure for a withdrawal from present levels of engagement will become overwhelming. In the long run I have faith in America’s ability to return to the path of rational and enlightened self-interest. My fear is that for this to happen, the US and the world will have to plunge into even greater disasters; and that before America returns to sanity, America’s obedient and much more vulnerable British vassals will have been attacked a dozen times, and with s increasing degrees of savagery.
THREAT TO THE NET
BY KENNETH NEIL CUKIER
“Network neutrality” is good, but enshrining it in law is not
O UNDERSTAND WHY the internet is so important, and how it represents a revolution in communications, consider the telephone system. It was a closed network and a centralised one. The phone company— usually a state-run monopoly, like the old BT—metered every call through its switching centre, and billed them based on duration and distance. Any new feature, from touch-tone dialling to call forwarding, had to be accepted and put in place by the company. There was little incentive to innovate—especially if it might disrupt the status quo. The internet overthrew this model of communications. It does not have a central organisation overseeing things. As a quilt of interconnected, privately owned networks (ergo “inter-net”), the system was designed simply to carry data without regard to its content, be it a web page, phone call or song. It is open, in that it permits anyone to unleash new services to the world without asking for permission. Because of this, people pay for access based on the amount of bandwidth they use, rather than the speciﬁc things they do. If the internet worked on the telecoms model, every email would be individually charged according to its destination and the length of the message. This decentralisation and openness is a stimulus to innovation. Because the network doesn’t need to adhere to the interests of any one organisation, there is nothing to prevent new services cropping up. These things emerge from anywhere, be it the web (invented by a Brit in Geneva) or instant messaging (popularised by an Israeli ﬁrm), to Napster (created by a teenager in California). It can even challenge the existing
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Kenneth Neil Cukier is the technology correspondent at the Economist
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