What the commercials want to tell or remind us is this: The US Navy is the US global-historical role and purpose objectified, American ideology concretely, defined by a presumption that the two meanings of “for good” become the same meaning over time, are always approaching each other via that arc “bending toward justice” that the President likes to recall in his seemingly most heartfelt speeches.
The Republican neo-imperialists believe that the empire needs to be more aggressively defended and wherever possible expanded. The Democratic neo-imperialists believe that the empire needs mainly to be secured, or, if expanded, expanded via collaboration. The citizenry appears somewhat agnostic or passive on the main questions, except when unsettled by events suggestive of a possible un-managed and abrupt rollback that would also entail a downward adjustment in consumption and other disruptions of accustomed expectations – a possibility or set of possibilities that few outside the neo-imperial mainstream seem equipped to analyze concretely.
Just by virtue of occupying a different spot on the globe; of possessing a different culture, history, economy; and simply of being in the position of client, the newly democratized and liberalized state would naturally develop differences with its American sponsor.
From the old imperialist perspective, recognition of this inescapable fact would introduce certain simple pragmatic considerations. Some potentially valuable clients or territories would have to be ruled directly to prevent them from straying too far. Others would be deemed impractical for any form of conquest, but might need to be neutralized or denied to competitors.
The ideology of the neo-imperialist or liberal-democratic hegemonist transforms all such calculations – at least in the missionary’s own mind.