Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Thoughts on Imperialism

Rarely a day goes by in my life of academia that I don't hear a particularly venomous attack on George W. Bush, conservatives, Republicans, or on America itself.

The other day was no exception when a professor (a very well-respected professor) made a comment to the effect of "I wonder how the common Iraqi feels about an imperial nation invading their country."

What boggles me is this notion of imperialism. The ever-so-handy tells me that imperialism is "The policy of extending a nation's authority by territorial acquisition or by the establishment of economic and political hegemony over other nations."

This definition lends credit to America as an imperial nation only though the economic and political hegemony. The idea that the US is in a war in Iraq to gain new territory is absurd. The next time I hear about an American heading over to Iraq to stake their claim I'll let you know.

Further, how do you define political or economic hegemony? Economic hegemony leads me to think of a nation that has economic supremacy and control over another. In this way, the entire world is an "imperial territory" of the United States, the world's larges economic power. However, it could be just as easily said that the United States is a territory of the "imperial world" who hold the keys to America's enormous economic debt.

Political hegemony is the final term that lends a bit of credibility. Is the US controlling Iraq's government? Maybe so - indeed, the stalling Prime Minister Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari may by on his way out under just such pressure. However, even if there is some short-term control of Iraq's government now, the US is clearly and plainly setting the Iraqis up to govern themselves for the long term (for reference, see Germany, Italy, and Japan).

Persons who claim the US is an imperial nation loose out by all three understandings of imperialism. One has to look only as far back as World War II, when the US was the only nation in world history poised on conquering the globe - to see we returned the conquered lands back to those we liberated (and/or defeated). Is there a permanent military presence in France and Germany? Yes - and it kept the Soviet Union from rolling their tanks over from the east. Will there be a permanent military presence in Iraq? Most likely - to keep Iran at bay. Do any of these instance qualify for US "imperialism?" Clearly not. In any case, if the US still had imperial aspirations to gain more territory we would surely do so by other means.

American imperialism -another washed-up liberal term invoked to insult our great nation and disillusion us from our goals in Iraq - freedom and democracy.

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