American imperialism

Abraham Lincoln’s famous words, “Allow the president to invade a neighboring nation, whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion, and you allow him to do so whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary for such a purpose—and you allow him to make war at pleasure.”, seem to have gained resonance in today’s world. George Bush’s National Security document clearly state that America will strike any nation or any group that it deems dangerous, whenever and however it feels necessary, and regardless of provocation or lack thereof. America invites allies to join in these ventures but reserves the right to act with or without allies. No nation will be allowed to surpass or even equal American military power, and indeed other nations are advised to limit or destroy any “weapons of mass destruction” they may have, and that includes Russia, China and India. Only the U.S. will have large reserves of weapons of mass destruction, apparently because only they can be trusted to use them justly.

American imperialism is not recent but dates back almost a hundred years when America was a booming industrial country which needed a market for trade and commerce. Thus, the then president Willliam Mckinley launched a campaign centered on America’s need to “free the Cubans from the Spanish tyranny” since Cuba was a Spanish colony which America wanted to control.

The foreign policies of a ‘democratic’ America succeed because the arguments are carefully structured and they use fear to tilt popular opinion in their favour. Government uses fear to justify its imperialism as being a defense mechanism to save their country. Overthrowing Taliban and bringing down Saddam Hussein’s government was a part of this imperial policy. Unlike European countries, whose troops are getting involved in other constructive work like roads, clean water, sanitation, American troops are keen only on personal material aggrandizement. In describing the moral shift after 9/11 Joan Didion in her article “Fixed Ideas” (New York Review of Books, January 16) quotes Steven Weber of the Institute of International Studies: The first thing you noticed [after 9/11] was in the bookstores. On September 12, the shelves were emptied of books on Islam, on American foreign policy, on Iraq, on Afghanistan. In a calculated bid to position herself for the 2008 Democratic nomination, Senator Hillary Clinton told the New York Times Wednesday that, if elected president, she would keep significant US military forces in Iraq for the foreseeable future. As for Iraq’s importance to US “national security,” Clinton could not have been clearer: “It is right in the heart of the oil region.”

This brings into sharp focus how the United States is using its power to deplete the resources of the developing world, and is compelling the rest of the world to remain dependent on American management of the global economy. Contending that this situation is ultimately untenable, critics assert that the United States is entering a period of deep crisis. The best thing for American neo-imperialists to do to avert their worst nightmare–a strategic and economic alliance among Europe, Russia, China, and OPEC–would be to arrange for the orderly withdrawal of American power before it is too late for the human and environmental security of the world.

It’s a harsh reality but true nonetheless. Even in today’s world we are not free of imperialism and colonization. The only difference is that the shape and form of this thirst for more power has changed. Change is the only constant and hopefully soon we will put a stop to this kind of imperialism.

Ruma Kulshreshtha