Interesting enough opinion piece, I am not too sure about some of the author's assertions though.
I wholeheartedly agree with him that there is a real push to establish legitimacy in our present military endeavors and those of the last half century. I am not too sure, however, that the impetus for this is white guilt as he proposes.
I would argue that there is a drive for legitimacy in any action, simply given the nature of power and people?s desire to maintain power once they gain it. One who is in power must decide to take any given action, this action must be seen as at least marginally legitimate in order for one to maintain favor with those who have the power to preempt the continuation of that action, to aid, hinder or preempt their future actions, to remove that person from power, to limit their power or to affect change in the perceived legitimacy of that person.
The author says that our endeavors have to be cast in the light of a social project of sorts, lest it be called part of an imperialist and racist ambition. This supposedly means that ?today the United States cannot go into the Third World simply to defeat a dangerous enemy.? I think that there is a major oversight in the author?s assertion, particularly in light of the examples of our present forays into the Middle East. The thing that he fails to note is that the ?dangerous enemy? in these situations (more so in reference to Afghanistan) is thoroughly embedded in the localized cultures of these regions, making at least some reform on par with a social project necessary. Moreover, an improvement in general standards of living and the opportunities afforded citizens is necessary in the countries both presently and historically given the role of patronage in the foregoing government structures. Particularly in light of the role of patronage, the necessity for a social project of sorts can be argued to exist in the military events that the author references (Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam and Korea).
I don?t give the assertion that such military actions are imperialist and motivated by racism as much value as would the author. The racist claims arise, in my view, from the more marginal voices involved in debate on these issues. From a purely numerical standpoint the likelihood is that any military action taken by this country is likely to involve countries with racial majorities that are not white. Most, if not all of the countries in the world that have white majorities also have a number of treaties and pacts with the US, which serve to make military conflict far less likely. I don?t expect such assertions to go away any time soon as the likelihood is that conflict will not involve majority white countries, I just don?t give these claims as much weight as does the author ? I do not think that they are nearly as detrimental to one?s legitimacy as he would have us believe.
Sorry if that was a little long.