T Nation

American Foreign Paradox

The more I study American foreign policy and imperial intentions the more a paradox strikes me. With regards to countrys which do not play ball the US has attempted to ‘dictate democracy, enforce freedom and extort emancipation’ (Niall Ferguson’s words- he puts it better than I ever could). Now I would point out that obviously those concepts are culturally relative, pure freedom, democracy and emancipation would never be allowed. As Rex Banner says in the Simpsons ‘I’d kill every person who looked at me cock-eyed’ if we could choose which laws to obey. But still, ‘imposing freedom and democracy’ strikes me as pretty ironic. It all smacks of the British Empire’s ‘white man’s burden’. Londoners would sit there and say ‘the world wants our system, they just don’t know it because they’re savages and idiots. I’ve never been to India, but I know our way of live is better and they’ll appreciate us conquoring them.’ (no that isn’t a direct quote from a Londoner, its just the sentiment of the time). That’s when the British then imposed freedom on the poor, unsuspecting world. Of course what that boiled down to was a lack of respect and understanding for other cultures coupled with too much ego and the chance to make money. Sounds familiar. Of course as Britian found out building empires can cripple the homefront and leave fallout for years to come. I hope America looks at history and realises what imposing freedom could be doing to the world.

your fundamental basis of your argument—that the U.S. is an imperialist power, is flawed. Since your entire post rests on that point it seems like a bit of a waste of time to refute.

Empire building? Whaha…

[quote]biltritewave wrote:
your fundamental basis of your argument—that the U.S. is an imperialist power, is flawed. Since your entire post rests on that point it seems like a bit of a waste of time to refute.[/quote]

The U.S. has been acting like an imperialist power for some time so your reply is flawed.

It seems to me that this is simple human nature. Underneath everything, we all – to some degree – wish other people were more like us. So when we encounter something strange, we’re prompted to choose whether we prefer to assimilate or annihilate.

Somehow, Americans often manage to annihilate while claiming to assimilate. Even the victim is sometimes fooled.

I would argue that the US Foriegn policy is in marked contrast to British Colonial rule.

The US is a net exporter of aid and reconstruction. We excercise our role as the World’s Policeman if and when the country in question has demonstrated they are unable to handle the business of governing themselves and have taken to killing themselves to sort things out.

In the case of the current Muslim Fundamentalism sweeping the Arab world I think we would have been fine with it as long as they didn’t come over here and kill three thousand of our citizens who were “non-combatants”.

At this point in history we just want them to act in a civil manner and keep to themselves. If they don’t then I do not believe we, as a soveriegn nation, have a duty to standby. If the interests of a small foe seem destined to do our nation harm, then we have no choice but to eliminate the threat to our citizens. If in the vacuum of that elimination democracy devlops then score one for mankind.

British Colonial rule was for the benefit of the British Empire financially. Britian did not civilize nations that did not have raw material or stategic importance.

I for one would certainly feel better off if the US remains the only superpower. I do not thin Al-Quida would be so benevolent.

[quote]Zeppelin795 wrote:
biltritewave wrote:
your fundamental basis of your argument—that the U.S. is an imperialist power, is flawed. Since your entire post rests on that point it seems like a bit of a waste of time to refute.

The U.S. has been acting like an imperialist power for some time so your reply is flawed.[/quote]

Get your head out of chomskys ass. The U.S. is the farthest thing from an imperialist power.

[quote]biltritewave wrote:
Zeppelin795 wrote:
biltritewave wrote:
your fundamental basis of your argument—that the U.S. is an imperialist power, is flawed. Since your entire post rests on that point it seems like a bit of a waste of time to refute.

The U.S. has been acting like an imperialist power for some time so your reply is flawed.

Get your head out of chomskys ass. The U.S. is the farthest thing from an imperialist power.[/quote]

You probably recieve your news from the U.S. corporate media and have never read Chompsky. Most that criticize him get their info from someone who may want to discredit him. They never actually read about his political philosophy. I know because I was once among those people. You ought to look outside the U.S. media as to help circumvent their distortions and outright propaganda. It helps to give one a more balanced perspective and brings one closer to the truth.

[quote]Zeppelin795 wrote:
biltritewave wrote:
Zeppelin795 wrote:
biltritewave wrote:
your fundamental basis of your argument—that the U.S. is an imperialist power, is flawed. Since your entire post rests on that point it seems like a bit of a waste of time to refute.

The U.S. has been acting like an imperialist power for some time so your reply is flawed.[/quote]

You are operating under the assumption that other media sources are less biased than U.S media, U.S media has its faults, but its still better than anything else out there.
Lets hear how america is an imperialist power. Come on… this should be enlightening. Are we going to learn about the Pentavarate and the evil Colonel Sanders too…

[quote]JohnGullick wrote:
The more I study American foreign policy and imperial intentions the more a paradox strikes me. With regards to countrys which do not play ball the US has attempted to ‘dictate democracy, enforce freedom and extort emancipation’ (Niall Ferguson’s words- he puts it better than I ever could). Now I would point out that obviously those concepts are culturally relative, pure freedom, democracy and emancipation would never be allowed. As Rex Banner says in the Simpsons ‘I’d kill every person who looked at me cock-eyed’ if we could choose which laws to obey. But still, ‘imposing freedom and democracy’ strikes me as pretty ironic. It all smacks of the British Empire’s ‘white man’s burden’. Londoners would sit there and say ‘the world wants our system, they just don’t know it because they’re savages and idiots. I’ve never been to India, but I know our way of live is better and they’ll appreciate us conquoring them.’ (no that isn’t a direct quote from a Londoner, its just the sentiment of the time). That’s when the British then imposed freedom on the poor, unsuspecting world. Of course what that boiled down to was a lack of respect and understanding for other cultures coupled with too much ego and the chance to make money. Sounds familiar. Of course as Britian found out building empires can cripple the homefront and leave fallout for years to come. I hope America looks at history and realises what imposing freedom could be doing to the world.[/quote]

Who have we invaded and kept total control over?

For a guy that lives or is from England you sure are worried about what the U.S. is doing. Be happy we didn’t invade your country. We whipped its ass over 200 years ago and liberated them over 50 years ago. Did you forget? You could very well be speaking German if it wasn’t for the AMERICAN G.I.

biltritewave: Since you think the U.S. media has it’s faults what are they? Your assumption rests on the notion that our media does it’s best to tell the truth.
The assumption you’ve attributed to me is not an asumption at all but is the truth supported by mountains of evidence.
Foreign news sources are not beholden to U.S. corporations the way our media outlets are. Corporations have such close ties with the media or they just outright own them. Like Gannett, Timelife, Timewarner and others who are sometimes owned by even larger conglomerates like GE and Westinghouse. The elites own the media and it is their interests that are being served not yours or mine. They select topic, shape,control and restrict content. They determine which questions be asked and which don’t.
As for some history in modern propaganda try reading Walter Lippman or Rienhold Niebur. These two men are extremely influential on modern policy makers. Their line of thinking is the exact opposite of the standard view of democracy.
Since the u.s. is a relatively free country and the masses can’t be controlled by force then they must have their thought processes controlled(propaganda).
The whole Iran-Contra scandal was forced into light because of foreign news sources. Our media kept the lid on the scandal until they were forced to break the story.

biltritewave: Here is a classic example of the mass medias propaganda and the U.S. role in genocide.
Back in 1975 the elite media reported on almost daily basis the atrocities of Pol Pot in Cambodia. Calling his actions pure and simple genocide, which it was. However at the same time there was another bout of genocide going on in East Timor. It was carried out by Indonesia. The mass media said almost nothing if anything. Why? Because American weapons manufacturers were selling the Indonesian government copious amounts of weaponry and as long as there is a buck to be made then who cares if blood is being spilled half way across the globe. This is but one example of many!
The bottom line is when an offical enemy state carries out atrocities then it gets reported on but when a friend of the u.s. does the same thing the press is mute.
If the u.s. doesn’t have an imperialist foreign policy then why do we have troops in over 100 countries? Why do we invade soverign nations? Why does the CIA sponsor and/or participate in governmental coups? Why do we have military bases set up in so many other foreign countries were we are not wanted by the population?

Biltritewave: I would love to put my whole thesis on American Imperialism up here but A, it would get stolen and B, its waaay o long, so here is a snippit which I posted on another topic:
“If it helps some people call America’s empire a hegemony. Niall Ferguson argued why they were pretty much the same, but to be honest its all semantics, whatever you call it, its there! Now correct me if I’m wrong but the US likes to ‘get involved’ with the world. It wants to globalise free markets, the rule of law and representative government or as is so fondly used ‘export American values’. The last Anglophone empire set out with the same goals. It became known as the ‘white man’s burden’. Of course Britain occupied the countrys it invaded, and kept troops there for long periods, enforcing its will on the people. Capital ventures in these new lands were often by chance, someone would stumble on a particularly good field of tea plants or whatever. America’s empire is obviously very different. Washington took or bought various pieces of land- the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, the Adams-Onis treaty of 1819, the Treaty of Paris 1898 and all the others. Those ‘purchases’ went on to form America (not the Paris one, but the rest). Of course because America is seen as homogenised culturally people forget that it is actually diverse, and individual states can be seen in many ways akin to the empire building of England which gave us rule of Scotland, Wales and Ireland. What differs is the name ‘state’ and the name ‘country’- they’re both areas of people who were brought under one government forcibly. Hawaii is a great example- Hawaiians peacefully resisted American rule- a Home Rule party won the a majority of seats in the first territorial legislature. The Repulicans were only able to resist by using the local Prince Kuhio as a front man with whom sugar companies and missionaries were able to ‘marginalise’ local people. ‘Formal’ and ‘fundamental’ provisions of the constitutions were extended to Hawaii therfore it became a state. Puerto Rico, which was ceded to the US by Spain was, however deemed a ‘possession’, ‘organised but unincorporated’ so it has remained in a kind of limbo. Of course America also attempted annexation of the Philipines. Their experience there seems to echo in the current conditions of the world. Anyway, I believe in many ways country of America is an empire itself. Outside of that continent is where things become even more interesting though. America likes governments around the world to be sympathetic toward its values. In recent memory Milosovic is one of the classic examples of somebody who was not sympathetic to American values, thus he was removed (coincidentally the Serbian police brutality happened after Britain and America invaded, before that date the KLA were responsible for far more deaths). Going back further Roosevelt sent marines to Columbia (their 3rd trip there) to establish Panama as an independant state after the Colombian government refused to lease to land for construction of a canal. There was a secessionist coup sponsored by the marines and within 90 mintues of its success the US recognised Panama as a state. Panama coincidentally granted the US a 10 mile strip of land crossing their country shortly after. This is classic of post-Philipine approach of the US- intervention, not annexation. Washington has now been interveneing quite regularly, helping install favourable governments and the like. Ok the US is not in direct possession of these countrys, but there’s more than one way to skin a cat. America’s influence in effect means it gets what it wants- US companies receive the first and most lucrative contracts. In addition groups who don’t want to conform with American ideals, or American installed leadership, are quashed.” I would like to add to that the work of right-wing groups who have greatly influenced history over the years, for instance the military coup, again sponsored by Washington, of Brazil which was executed shortly after Kennedy’s death. The moderate, populist and ELECTED left wing government was overthrown for a right wing government which would ‘restrain left-wing excesses’ and ‘create a greatly inporved climate for private investment’- (Lincoln Gordon, ambassador to Brazil telex to Washington). On a side note I find this mis-trust of the left very funny, especially having grown up in a fairly left friendly country, Britain (where somehow we had Labour governments without turning socialist! Whoa! That, like blows my mind!). It seems state companies and workers rights equals communism to most Americans! I guess that’s because it limits private company’s rights to rape people and land for huge profits. I wonder how much of this conservative streak is down to Puritan hang-overs, I might look into that for my masters. Does anyone know how much Methodism took off in America?

dvldog- I’m sure in your eyes America did solely win WW2, of course I learnt about their pro-Nazi stance, then their intervention late in the war. I also learnt about the Battle of Britain and our cracking of the Enigma codes and the rest which we did for ourselves. Please don’t disrespect the millions of British who died for our freedom too by taking the stance it was 100% America. As for invading Britian? Ha! You didn’t whoop our asses 200 hundred years ago! It was the French! You know if America tried to invade Europe the whole Northern Hemisphere would be nuked before you could say ‘mmm toasty’. Even if the commanders kept their fingers off the red buttons do you really think an area like Europe, with its highly mechanised armies, enourmous amount of population centres… you know what, I feel my IQ going down even having this discussion.

Of course because America is seen as homogenised culturally people forget that it is actually diverse, and individual states can be seen in many ways akin to the empire building of England which gave us rule of Scotland, Wales and Ireland.

This is patently false. Come visit America a little bit more.

On a side note I find this mis-trust of the left very funny, especially having grown up in a fairly left friendly country, Britain (where somehow we had Labour governments without turning socialist! Whoa! That, like blows my mind!).

It did? Funny Britain is top of my list for a socialist country.

Hey wise ass-

I didn’t disrespect all of Englands Soldiers that died in WW2. All I was saying you people were getting whipped. Once America got involved things changed. Don’t feel like your I.Q is going down. I’ve read your posts for awhile now and am tired of you bashing America.

So what you don’t like America that is fine I personally think the British think they are self rightous people who think they are better than everybody else. Doesn’t mean I get on a British website and bash your country. You love your country don’t you? Well I Love America

And yes we did whip England in the American Revolution- Einstein

Biltritewave- You know after living in America I’ve seen how things such as Native American culture is reduced to quirky pots and dream catchers. I’ve seen how MTV and Fox and all the rest constantly spew out the Sex in the City/ Friends lifestyle. I’m saying America has enormous diversity, yet people somehow can’t see how just the act of colonisation (which has the same stem as ‘colonial’) back in the day was the beginning of American hegemony/empire. Now I’ve spent the better part of 2 years studying the British Empire and American culture. When an argument with straight facts comes to me about why America is NOT a colonial power I will revel in hearing it. I truly will. As a former philosophy student I hate one sided discussions and this one is increasingly one sided the more research I do, the only counter-arguments I find are government propaganda and the odd bit of hype about aid. Well there are more US soldiers stationed around the world than aid workers, and anyway, just because certain private groups give aid it doesn’t negate the possibility of a US hegemony, there is no logic to that. Sure the new empire is different from ones that have gone before but that doesn’t mean it cant exist. Modern cars are nothing like the first ones but I’m pretty sure there’s a VW outside and that it IS a car. Why don’t I give you a short reading list? Some of them are heavy going but try reading them and then putting together all their evidence then find a counter-argument then post it here. here it is:
‘Colossus’- Niall Ferguson, Penguin Press 2004
‘Hegemony or Survival’- Noam Chomsky, Hamilton 2003
‘Conflicting Missions’- Piero Gleijeses (sorry don’t have the book and therefore publisher to hand)
‘Cuba Confidential’- Ann Louise Bardach, Random House 2002
‘The Sorrows of Empire’- Chalmers Johnson, Verso 2004

There’s a lot more but those are good oversights. For the alternative viewpoint check out Bush’s website and take a look at his speeches, he summarises the propaganda nicely. The argument ‘America is not an empire because it is not’ doesn’t win me over by the way.

dvldog-
A wise ass I am, and I’m sorry, genuinely. I don’t hate America at all, I lived there quite happily and have no ill intentions against it or her people, especially as half my friends are from there. I refer you to my previous post ‘Dictators and Patriotism’ with regards to my views on seeing criticism as ‘hating America’. I don’t doubt that you love America, the crazy thing is so do so many critics of it. They criticise in order to help her evolve and because they believe she is going wrong somewhere, which is completely plausable. Nobody expects things to go right all the time. Now my stating my beliefs that America has an empire is not really criticism, I mean the word ‘empire’ without the negative conitations it can carry. When I do criticise it is because the actions taken were underhanded, immoral and often covered up. I am in the unique postion of being able to study America’s culture as a profession and I will be one of 14 people in the world with my degree when I graduate. Many of the posts I make on here are almost a running commentary on my thesis, the latest thing I study I put up here. I am truly sorry if my findings insult, offend or hurt anybody, but all is not right with the world and the truth is often nasty, especially in politics! I am not immune either, I liked Tony Blair, but he has gone off the rails in a big way. That hurt me, because I grew up with Thatcher and it seemed Blair finally made things bareable in Britian, especially in the North East. Now the prime minister I like has gone gimp, and that hurts but I have to accept it. I thought my country was finally getting some common sense and liberalising, but because of flawed immigration policies racial tension has flared and the BNP (read neo-Nazi) party has reered its ugly head. Finding that your country isn’t all its cracked up to be hurts like hell, but if the facts are there you just have to get on with things try to make a difference.

I think everyone involved in this post should take a deep breath…and relax. Deep senses of nationalism are making this thread a little heated. Some of the arguments here are fairly pointless as they are not accomplishing much except to infuriate those with opposing views. As entertaining as it may be to watch this go on, you all calling each other names in your posts is fairly pointless. I’ll get down off my soap box, but please, if your going to post on this one make your point without getting pissed off and resorting to name calling.