Monday, January 26, 2004

The thrust of that article was to challenge the deeply flawed historical analogy with Imperial Britain that seems to constitute some of the core assumptions behind the ideology that Perle and Frum argue for in their latest tome. He does acknowledge that the United States exerts a particular kind of hegemony that bears a resemblance too imperialistic behavior:

"If America, militarily unchallenged and economically dominant, indeed took on the functions of imperial governance, its empire was, for the most part, loose and consensual. In the past couple of years, however, neo-imperialism, this thing of stealth, politesse, and obliquity, has come to seem, so to speak, too neo. Especially as the war on terror began, hard-liners who were frustrated by Clinton’s bumbling and hesitations saw no reason to deny that America was an imperial power, and a great one: how else to describe a country that had so easily vanquished Afghanistan, once legendary as the graveyard of empires? The only question was whether America would start running its empire with foresight and determination, rather than leaving it to chance, drift, and disaster."

He concedes you can make the argument, but faced with today's brand of Imperial behavior, it's pretty obvious that you can make some clear distinctions. In this kind of essay, you've got to pick a thesis, and the one you are hopped up about was only peripheral.

Like many historians, and those of us who like history as a friend, Marshall is suitably annoyed at the willful revisionism that made the colonialism and exploitation that were characteristic of British and European Imperial behavior so highly regarded in retrospect. He is right too, the Neocons are high if they truly want to recreate that world order. When your foreign policy statements become interchangable with the pronouncements of Skeletor, it's time to up the voltage...

Apparently, it is now permissable to pretend WWI was not a direct result of this particular world view. Viewing the world as a high stakes poker game where you use every scrap of your military and economic pot to run the other guy off the table and out to the nickel slots room to order watered down drinks with all of the other burned out retirees.

So I'm not sure your criticism is correctly applied here. He does bring the pimp hand down on the whole notion that the world can be dominated by our gigantic chalootie, particuarly when you consider how the British, who were as good as anyone at it, ended up sucking the pipe in many unpleasant ways.

He makes a good point I think in this paragraph:
“Bill Clinton was actually a much more effective imperialist than George W. Bush,” Chalmers Johnson writes darkly. “During the Clinton administration, the United States employed an indirect approach in imposing its will on other nations.” That “indirect approach” might more properly be termed a policy of leading by consensus rather than by dictation. But Johnson is right about its superior efficacy. American power is magnified when it is embedded in international institutions, as leftists have lamented. It is also somewhat constrained, as conservatives have lamented. This is precisely the covenant on which American supremacy has been based.

Are leadership and Imperialism synonymous in your view? I have no problem being Team Captain, Leadership by consensus is not by nature immoral. If we build the right institutions and relationships, will Imperialism really be the problem you believe it to be?

No comments: