This sentiment has suffused anti-expansion and anti-war movements throughout our history. It was captured in G.K. Chesterton’s wonderful novel The Napoleon of Notting Hill, when he said that “the supreme psychological fact about patriotism [is] that the patriot never under any circumstances boasts of the largeness of his country, but always, and of necessity, boasts of the smallness of it.” …
This was the kind of patriotism that animated the Anti-Imperialist League, which in opposing U.S. conquest of the Philippines spoke for a Little America, a land of creeks, not oceans; shops, not factories; modesty and sly humor, not bluster and brass. The Anti-Imperialists thought that, say, Indianans had enough to occupy them in Indiana — they had rich-enough lives in the Hoosier state — that they did not need to send their young men across the sea to kill foreigners and plant the American flag atop a mound of Filipino corpses.
George W. Bush, McCain, Hillary Clinton, Obama — the rootless class that runs this government — what do they love, other than the wielding of power? They stand on nothing. They have no ground under their feet. They have tanks and bombs but they have no soul.
They view Little America as a source of cannon fodder and tax dollars, though they are occasionally frustrated by our “isolationism” — that is, our reluctance to kill or be killed by foreigners. This is benighted. So we are hectored to take our eyes off those things nighest and focus them on Baghdad, Hanoi, Teheran, who knows what’s next. A warfare state centralizes and vulgarizes culture; it despises the local, exalts the national, focuses on the remote. So cherishing, protecting, little and local things becomes a subversive act. Love, finally, is the most potent enemy of the empire.
We’re living through probably one of the greatest periods of peace in our history, but only because we’re professionalized and mechanized our wars.