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Our Imperial Presidency

Charles Hugh Smith
November 4th, 2020
Of Two Minds Blog
Comments (7)

This article was originally published by Charles Hugh Smith at Of Two Minds Blog.

Regardless of who holds the office, America’s Imperial Project and its Imperial Presidency are due for a grand reckoning.

While elections and party politics generate the emotions and headlines, the truly consequential change in American governance has been the ascendancy of the Imperial Presidency over the past 75 years, since the end of World War II.

As commander-in-chief of the armed forces, the Constitution grants the President extraordinary but temporary powers in wartime. With the power to declare war granted solely to Congress, this dangerous (in the Founders’ view) expansion of Executive power was tolerated because it was temporary and necessary in the fast-moving emergency of war.

Congress has declared war a total of five times, while U.S. armed forces have been deployed in conflicts 300 times. So in 295 conflicts out of 300, the president had sole discretion. Various stamps of Congressional approval of these wartime powers have been given over the decades, but these are more for show than actual limits on presidential powers.

The extraordinary powers granted to President Roosevelt in World War II did not expire at the end of the war. Rather, the powers of the presidency expanded along with the National Security agencies which rose to unprecedented power in the Cold War era of 1945 – 1991. The entire alphabet soup of the National Security State–CIA, NSA, DIA, etc.–serve the president, not Congress, which has been relegated the role of toothless oversight.

Historian Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.’s 1973 book, The Imperial Presidency, introduced the term Imperial Presidency into the American lexicon.

While historians have documented the rise of Executive power at the expense of the legislative branch and pundits have wrung their hands over this concentration of vast, often secret power in the presidency, nobody within the status quo has addressed the core reason behind the rise of the Imperial Presidency: America’s Empire requires a CEO/Emperor as a simple operational reality.

You can’t run a global military/commercial/diplomatic empire with a slow-moving legislative body; you need a dynamic CEO (chief executive officer) with essentially unlimited powers to do whatever it takes to run the empire.

Empires need an emperor, and this is the history of post-WW2 America. As the victor, the U.S. emerged with a global reach and power that can only be described as imperial. While the USSR soon gained military parity with nuclear weapons and vast tank armies aimed at Western Europe, the commercial empire was solely American.

While some cheered America’s global empire and others shouldered it as a necessary Cold war burden, the status quo relished the immense expansion of centralized bureaucratic and executive powers.

An Imperial President requires the Imperial machinery of global hegemony, and so the National Security State replaced the elected government as the real power. For a peek behind the curtain of the Imperial Presidency’s powers, please read The Enemies Briefcase: Secret powers and the presidency. (via Cheryl A.)

The last time the U.S. Congress pushed back against the Imperial Presidency and Security Agencies was 45 years ago, in 1975. In response to the domestic over-reach of the ImperialPresidency (Watergate) and the security agencies (COINTELPRO, etc.), the Church Committee undertook the first comprehensive review of the presidency’s expansive secret powers and the secret powers wielded by the National Security State.

The domestic abuses of power by the FBI and CIA included the blatantly illegal COINTELPRO programs aimed at destroying the anti-war / civil rights movements in the 1960s and early 1970s.

We know from the Church Committee reports that the FBI and CIA broke numerous federal laws and violated every constitutional limit on their powers as a matter of daily policy. The abuses of power were not the work of rogue agents or even rogue agencies; the abuses were SOP (standard operating procedures) for the Imperial machinery of the presidency and the security agencies that served the essentially unlimited power of the Imperial presidency.

For more on COINTELPRO, please read War at Home: Covert action against U.S. activists and what we can do about it and/or Cointelpro: The FBI’s Secret War on Political Freedom.

Empires arise, evolve, and collapse just like nations. Edward Luttwak’s insightful book The Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire: From the First Century CE to the Third outlines the three stages of Empire.

Luttwak describes the first stage of expansion thusly:

“With brutal simplicity, it might be said that with the first system the Romans of the republic conquered much to serve the interests of the few, those living in the city–and in fact still fewer, those best placed to control policy.”

The second stage spread the benefits of the Empire much more broadly:

“During the first century A.D., Roman ideas evolved toward a much broader and altogether more benevolent conception of empire… men born in lands far from Rome could call themselves Roman and have their claim fully allowed, and the frontiers were efficiently defended to defend the growing prosperity of all, and not merely the privileged.”

The third stage is one of rising inequality:

“In the wake of the great crisis of the third century, the provision of security became an increasingly heavy charge on society, a charge unevenly distributed, which could enrich the wealthy and ruin the poor. The machinery of the empire now became increasingly self-serving, with its tax collectors, administrators and soldiers of much greater use to one another than to society at large.

That line describes the American state and central bank (the Federal Reserve) perfectly. As the Imperial Presidency’s powers have expanded to the top of the S-Curve, so too has self-serving greed supported by everyday abuses of power reached new heights.

Who’s benefited mightily from Imperial over-reach? As the chart below indicates, the top 1% of America’s power elite has benefited to a degree that’s unmatched around the world. The military-industrial sector has prospered (see chart below) as have the agencies of the National Security State. As for the bottom 99%: suck it up, debt-serfs and tax donkeys: yours is not to make a reply or reason why, yours is to do and die.

Regardless of who holds the office, America’s Imperial Project and its Imperial Presidency are due for a grand reckoning. Empires require an emperor, and perhaps America will finally tire of its self-serving Empire and its Imperial Presidency.

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    Author: Charles Hugh Smith
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    Date: November 4th, 2020
    Website: https://www.oftwominds.com/blog.html

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    7 Comments...

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    1. Andrea.Iravani. says:

      Alan McCleod reported on the CIAs and DoDs involvement and sponsorship and censorship that they refer to as editing of Hollywood, Artists, Musicians, and the entertainmemt industry, which has been an open secret ever since The New Deal and the Hollywood Screen actors guild being supported by the Roosevelt administration and their demands on artists to essentially compromise their art for the public relations conveniences of the CIA and DoD.

      Here is my free consulting to the CIA and DoD, why don’t you try self control and self restraint so that your actions do not cause a trail of acts that those with hearts and minds feel compelled to reveal to the world to stop your litany of abuses and absolute tyranny, thousands of corrupt conspiracies, and body bags instead. Maybe you just prefer murdering people all over the world and then meeting with the stars at Bohemian Grove because they would probably never give you the time of day otherwise, and you probably know it!

      As far as Hollywood is concerned, it is really a shame that people would sell out. Censored art is kitsch. Yes, there is a tremendous amount of bad ideas that are passed off as art, but if truth is beauty, and a lie is ugly, when portrayting certain real life topics that effect life on earth and humanity, it is not art, it is political propaganda, and that is ugly, and cannot pass for art.

      Andrea Iravani

      Andrea Iravani

    2. John says:

      “When it was said to them, do not corrupt/degenerate/demoralize the earth, the corrupters responded with, ‘we are merely fixing/improving and bettering things’, however they are the trouble makers and they do not even realize/percieve it” -Quran

      https://archive.org/details/HolyQuranSkimmed

    3. Stupordave says:

      Regardless of the flavor (dem/rep) of the latest installment of TURD (totally unfit radical demagogue) in the Presidency, there will be no averting the forthcoming biblical die back. It’s comical witnessing the general populace so engaged in this clown act of ‘elections’. It is a excercise in abject futility, serving no purpose if except to maintain an illusory fiction that “we are free – and we have a voice”. You are not free – and you have no wasta.

    4. Bill says:

      Some fitting quotes from H.L. Mencken of the state of government today:
      -On some great and glorious day the plain folk of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.
      -The demagogue is one who preaches the doctrines he knows to be untrue to people he knows to be idiots.
      -One does not expect to find chastity in a whore house. Why, then, do they expect to find honesty and humanity in government, a congeries of institutions whose modus operandi consists of lying, cheating, stealing, and if need be, murdering those who resist.
      -Sometime the idiots outvote the sensible people.
      -Democracy is the pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance.
      -The most popular man under a democracy, is not the most democratic man, but the most despotic man. The common people delight in the exactions of such a man. They like him to boss them. Their natural gait is the goose step.
      -And to paraphrase the last one; The government consists of a gang of people. They have no special talent for the business of government, they only have talent for getting and holding office. The principal device to that end is to search out groups who want
      something they can’t get, and to promise to give it to them. Nine times out of ten the promises are worthless, but the tenth is made good by looting A to give to B. In other words government is merely a broker in pillage, and every election is an advance sale of stolen goods.

      More of his quotes about the state of education today:
      -The plain fact is that public education is itself a form of propaganda – a deliberate scheme to outfit the pupil, not with the capacity to weigh ideas, but with a simple appetite to gulp ideas ready-made. The aim is to make ‘good’ citizens, which is to say docile and un inquisitive citizens.
      -The aim of public education is not to spread enlightenment at all; it is simply to reduce as many individuals to the same safe level, to breed standard citizenry, to put down dissent and originality.

    5. Someonesane says:

      This site died because it dared to call Trump anything less than a messiah. Itll be the radical right that finally flings the s into the f. To those who still visit here, good luck.

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