Our former American territories are not making much of a go of independence. As in so many other post-colonial statelets, the exhilaration of liberation has been replaced with apathy and disgust. You cannot be elected President without the approval of the local business mafias. Successful candidates take their bribes - sorry, campaign donations - of about $1.5 billion and promote their interests in office. Half the electorate does not bother to vote. Two million people in prison, most of whom seem to be black, cannot vote. The candidate with the most votes does not win. The dead are elected to the Senate while the living are disenfranchised. If this were Sierra Leone, we would send in the troops.
As this is the United States, however, we are receiving their troops. At the RAF Menwith Hill and Fylingdales bases in Yorkshire, whose 'royal' titles disguise their de facto status as American possessions, the Pentagon is installing the radar required by the National Missile Defence system - or Son of Star Wars. The nation which will be defended is, needless to say, America; we will just be a target for any country which wants to take out US defences.
To describe Star Wars as criminally insane is to slander reputable psychopaths. It is inspired by the delusion that America can achieve absolute military dominance, that she can fight without taking casualties, forget about deterrence and detonate nuclear weapons secure in the knowledge that her defensive missiles will shoot down any warheads launched in retaliation.
Not surprisingly, Sha Zukang, China's chief arms negotiator, has warned of a new arms race - Beijing will not 'sit on its hands' if the system is deployed. Vladimir Putin promised a huge cut in the number of Russian warheads if Bill Clinton backed off. Documents passed to the American Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists by a helpful mole showed that the President preferred taking the most extravagant risks to abandoning the fantasy of war without tears. Clinton tried to persuade the Russians to accept his unilateral jettisoning of treaty obligations Star Wars will bring by pledging that both countries 'will possess under the terms of any possible future arms reduction agreements, large, diversified arsenals of strategic offensive weapons'.
In other words, the Americans were happy to see what Stephen I. Schwartz, the publisher of the Bulletin, described as Russia's 'bloated, ageing, and dangerous arsenal of approximately 6,000 deployed strategic nuclear warheads' remain in service. The weapons are on a hair-trigger alert, ready to fire within five minutes of receiving a launch order. The Russian military has degenerated as fast as the Russian economy and is more than capable of starting a nuclear war by accident. In January 1995, Russian radar mistook a scientific rocket from Norway for a Trident missile from a US submarine. The potentially costly error was corrected two minutes before counter-attacking missiles were due to launch.
Despite the waste of billions of dollars, none of the Star Wars trials has succeeded. Yet missile defence was not discussed in the US election. When Newt Gingrich and the Republican far Right proposed reviving Ronald Reagan's illusory, expensive and destabilising system which, as they well knew, would tear apart the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, Clinton and Gore sabotaged debate by bravely triangulating and conceding they had a point.
In the presidential campaign, Gore promised 'to protect against ballistic-missile attacks from rogue states', as did George W. Bush. Dubya may install Star Wars faster than Gore, who could stick to Clinton's decision not to deploy until 2006. Bush may throw more money at missile defence. But then again, Gore could surprise his abused supporters on both counts. Once you start triangulating you never stop.
If Gore is the victor of the Florida shambles, he will have to deal with a Republican Congress and it would surely be 'pragmatic' and 'realistic' to shimmy ever further to his right. What else are Third Way politicians meant to do? Make a stand on sense or principle?
The hard-faced men at Lockheed Martin, Boeing and the other arms companies, who will receive a minimum of $60 bn of corporate welfare if Star Wars goes nuclear, are confident that the differences between the candidates are trivial. They have financed the Republicans and the Democrats in an illuminating example of what the Americans call bipartisanship.
Gore has not said and wasn't asked where the rogue states can be found to justify the expenditure. North Korea looked promising after it launched a rocket. Alas, Kim Jong-il, her hereditary communist dictator, then ruined everything by negotiating with South Korea and opening diplomatic relations with the West.
Bush, who looks like being the hereditary President of the United States, is equally confused. He told an audience in Iowa: 'When I was coming up, it was a dangerous world, and you knew exactly who they were,' he said. 'It was us versus them, and it was clear who them was. Today, we are not so sure who they are, but we know they're there.'
The quote can be found in the collections of Bushisms which are delighting British sophisticates. What a jerk and a dolt the man is, and who but jerks and dolts could have voted for him? Most of our elegant politicians may be able to get through a sentence without a verbal nervous breakdown, but are no brighter.
The patriotic Conservatives, ever eager to denounce European threats to Westminster's sovereignty, have accepted that a foreign power should make Yorkshire the object of a pre-emptive strike by any future enemy of America. New Labour, meanwhile, has been begged by European governments to tell the Americans that Britain will refuse to help destroy international treaties. Robin Cook would clearly like to do just that, but the Prime Minister and Geoff Hoon, the crushing Blairite bore in the Ministry of Defence, are terrified of offending Washington.
Hoon came up with Bushist syntax of his own when he said in March that 'the history of close friendship with the United States is that we are sympathetic to such requests'. After this performance, the Americans were confident Blair would obey orders. Kevin Bacon, a Pentagon spokesman, said of Britain: 'It's too early to predict a problem there. I wouldn't anticipate a problem there.'
As Mark Bromley and Tom McDonald of the British American Security Information Council, point out, the Government wants to keep the 'special relationship' with America and support arms control. It seems incapable of accepting that it can no longer do both.
Blair hopes that Gore will somehow get to the White House, as, I guess, do most Observer readers. I would rather see Bush win. If the Prime Minister bows to the demands of man he must despise, it will have the small advantage of revealing that our servility before American power is nothing other than colonial.