The Tempest of American Power


In Shakespeare’s late masterpiece, The Tempest, Antonio proposes murdering Alonso, the King of Naples, and seizing the throne. He remarks that he and his co-conspirator, Alonso’s son Sebastian, had been,

…cast again

(And by that destiny) to perform an act

Wherof what’s past is prologue; what’s to come,

In yours and my discharge.

(The Tempest 2.1.251-54)

That what is past is prologue is akin to saying that preceding events have set the stage or created the context for what is about to happen. The same idea aired by Antonio among his fellow conspirators in The Tempest is a surprisingly apt analogue for the imperial state, where the electoral options on offer are either imperialism or imperialism. Thus a Democratic administration is followed by a Republican administration and little changes in the deep, abiding imperial mission of the American empire. We discover that what Bush did was prologue for Obama’s presidency, and Obama’s for Trump’s. Despite the theatricality of the last year, and the disputed election of a risible carnival barker to the highest seat in the land, the march of the imperial corporate state moves ahead relatively unimpeded, building on the legacies of past leaders.

Yes, President Trump has occasionally delivered stirring glimpses of sanity during his turbulent tenure. He canceled the regime-change goal of the Syrian strategy. He canceled the CIA program to arm and train terrorists in Syria. He negotiated ceasefires with Vladimir Putin…

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