Conservatives have a tendency to use some very strange analogies, but none is more curiously chosen than the "starve the beast" analogy popularized by Cult of Austerity commandant Grover Norquist. This analogy, which is intended to represent a government that shrinks because the resources available to it have been restricted, strongly implies that these people do not know what an animal is. Perhaps it is unfair to take an analogy literally. Perhaps it illustrates something about the way conservatives want government to behave in addition to how much of it they want.

Wild animals that are starving make dangerous, irrational decisions that they would not make when well fed. Hunger leads deer onto public highways and into the path of moving vehicles. It leads lions to attempt to take down elephants and end up with a flattened head. More importantly, though, it makes animals uncharacteristically aggressive. Animals that could easily hunt humans – bears, big cats, etc. – rarely do so unless they're starving and desperate. Those man-eating tigers and grizzly bears inevitably turn out to be the old, weak ones that have been chased away and can no longer catch prey. Hell, even a well behaved pet dog will snap at you if you leave it without food for too long.

So, yes. A starving "beast" gets smaller and weaker. It also gets aggressive, violent, and more risk tolerant, the last of which is a polite way of saying it makes bad decisions out of desperation. Which goes a long way toward explaining why, as our politics grow increasingly unhinged and our global hegemony grows more precarious and impractical, most of the world is scared shitless of us. It's not the kind of "Boy, they sure do respect our strength!" kind of fear that serves as the sole source of erections for neocons. It's more like a "Holy crap, that monkey has figured out how to operate a flamethrower" fear.

Grover wants a woman, Grover wants to think of a joke.

People with a rudimentary understanding of history – a class that admittedly excludes Grover Norquist – understand that when empires "starve" they don't tend to crawl under a tree and wither away quietly. They use their massive but inevitably overextended militaries to lash out at their enemies, real or contrived, in a desperate quest for treasure and a stronger grip on their fading superpower status.

I know that the average person in other countries understands that there is no reason to fear Americans individually – really, they might be loud assholes but all they want to do is buy tacky, overpriced souvenirs – but there is ample reason to fear America as a whole. The political majority is not guided by anything approaching reason and is obsessed with reliving the Gilded Age. The nation as a whole is unhealthily obsessed with its former glory and isn't good at much anymore except turning foreign countries into smoldering piles of rubble.

Given those circumstances, what could go wrong?