Progressive reformers and anti-imperialists from a century ago warned us about what happens when a nation uses its military to establish an empire. Today, with the militarization of the police force around the country we are watching their warnings playing out right before our eyes.
Some effects are more predictable than others. If you do that, this will happen. That is also true for nations and societies. Take the militarization of the American police force.
Over a hundred years ago, high-minded progressives were warning that the nation which relies on military for its empire-building would suffer some drastic unintended consequences. It would, without any doubt, lead to the kind of police force that was counter to anybody's concept of liberty. Those chickens, as they say, would inevitably come home to roost.
In 1900, for instance, William Jennings Bryan espoused that view. In a speech on American imperialism, he said that when a nation freely violates the human rights of other nations it would be no time at all when it turns its lawlessness on its own people.
If there is poison in the blood of the hand it will ultimately reach the heart.
Scouring the archives, I found this stunning quote by the long-forgotten American reformer and author, Ernest Howard Crosby. Though his career as a reformer was short- only the last ten years of his life- he earned a fine reputation for his anti-militarist and anti-imperialist writings.
(You can find Crosby's complete biography here.)
Oh, if he had been a puller of strings in the murky business of politics, an unscrupulous bare-faced parvenu, a successful thief of the toil and sweat of the poor, the columns of the major newspapers of the lying money press would have been unanimous in their sing splendid paeans to his virtues..They said nothing: no one seemed to have noticed that a great intellect and noble heart had been still forever.