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Good Imperialism

August 26, 2011 2:40 PM

Is there such a thing as "good" imperialism? For some, that sounds like an oxymoron: Imperialism has a very bad reputation. What I want to write about here is how it got such a bad reputation, how its attackers tend to be extreme hypocrites, and finally, about how "imperialism" itself is a concept that creates more confusion than clarity: there are better ways to write about and speak about empires and their consequences. Do I personally approve of "imperialism"? I'm saving that for the last paragraph of Part 2 (or maybe even Part 3), to be posted later. Meanwhile, I'll confess that I used the title "Good Imperialism" for this blogpost especially to tweak the self-described "progressive left."

In 1916 Lenin wrote "Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism;" and as a result, when any leftist, "liberal," or for that matter almost anyone who went to college after 1968 automatically associates imperialism with the USA and with American capitalism. That, in a nutshell, is why imperialism has its bad reputation: the "left" and its fellow travelers have perpetrated such a successful propaganda campaign against what they call US imperialism, that it is virtually taken for granted as an evil force, perhaps the most evil force in the world today. Even neoconservatives go to great lengths to demonstrate that they do not favor imperialism, but nation-building and supporting "democracy" and politicians like the crowd that is now running Iraq.

One would then assume that the current occupant of the White House, Barack Hussein Obama, and his supporters would be opponents of imperialism. True, Obama appears to be a strong opponent of "US imperialism," as evidenced by his world America-bashing tour early in his administration, and by his equivocation about the US military. But is Obama really opposed to "US Imperialism?"

In 1973, Arthur Schlesinger, who had been President Kennedy's "court historian," came out with a book called The Imperial Presidency in which he severely criticized Franklin D. Roosevelt for flouting the Constitution and usurping executive power. Is Obama, in the FDR tradition, an "imperial president"? Do I have to ask? OK, read this, and this, and this. Can an imperial President of the United States be a genuine opponent of "US Imperialism"? Perhaps buried in the writings of leftists and of Bolsheviks like Lenin, there are disclaimers, just as many leftists insist that Blacks cannot be racist, but Obama, in my view, is more of an imperialist politician than his last few predecessors.

And, yes, there's more. What about the deployment of US troops in Afghanistan, which, for me, is very problematic. Does that make Obama a "good imperialist?"

Now let's have a look at the left in general: the Soviet Union, a renamed Russian Empire, was imperialist as they come. Just ask the Tatars, and the Ukrainians, and the Georgians: never mind the Chechens, Germans and Poles. After the USSR split up into many separate republics, it is no secret that many of these republics are still Russian client states. Bear in mind, however, that the Soviets evaded the fact of being imperialistic because they were enemies of capitalism, and as we have seen, Lenin viewed imperialism as redefined as a stage of capitalism.

I have started to present evidence of the hypocrisy of leftists and liberals who condemn "US Imperialism," yet support an Imperial President and are often apologists for the Soviet Union's unvarnished expansion of empire. I haven't even got started yet on the imperialism of Muslims, staunchly defended by liberals and others on the left. We'll save that for Part 2.

[Keywords: impeach-them-all.org capitalism good imperial imperialism left obama president ]