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U.S. Imperialism: Real or Imagined?

 
 
Khethil
 
Reply Mon 16 Mar, 2009 11:25 am
Good afternoon,

Definition of Imperialism:[INDENT]"The policy, practice, or advocacy of extending the power and dominion of a nation especially by direct territorial acquisitions or by gaining indirect control over the political or economic life of other areas ; broadly : the extension or imposition of power, authority, or influence" [1]
[/INDENT]Context:[INDENT]My country (U.S.A) and both its attempted, perceived and/or realized behavior in the international theater - its economic, formal and military interaction among nations.
[/INDENT]Examples of U.S. Imperialist Perceptions:[INDENT]Example 1, "The failure of its occupation of Iraq has provoked deep divisions among the US ruling elite over the future of foreign policy. The unilateralism promoted by the neoconservatives has been discredited, yet it is unclear whether the post-Bush era will be dominated by the `realists' or the `globalists', each of whom advocate different pathways for US imperialism. The `realists' - long the dominant trend in US foreign policy thinking - aim to maintain US leadership of the pro-western alliance formed during the cold war, whereas the `globalists', whose economic interests are those of transnational capital, seek to rethink US power within the context of an emerging polycentric world system, the parameters of which remain to be fully articulated. For the moment, there is a disconnect between the transnational economics of globalisation and the nationalist politics of the US ruling class, which remains committed to its belief that America has been uniquely chosen by history, culture and God to lead the world." [2]

Example 2: "
However, if we take Obama's words at face value, they reveal no such hope, and no "good" positions. His vision and plans aren't identical to Bush's, but they're imperialist to the core. They aren't designed to share the planet with the rest of humanity-they're designed to strengthen and extend U.S. global hegemony. They're not designed to help solve the crushing horrors threatening the world-they're designed to strengthen the very system of global capitalism-imperialism that's the root cause of these horrors." [3]

Example 3: "The United States is unique today among major states in the degree of its reliance on military spending, and its determination to stand astride the world, militarily as well as economically. No other country in the post-Second World War world has been so globally destructive or inflicted so many war fatalities. Since 2001, acknowledged U.S. national defense spending has increased by almost 60 percent in real dollar terms to a level in 2007 of $553 billion. This is higher than at any point since the Second World War (though lower than previous decades as a percentage of GDP). Based on such official figures, the United States is reported by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) as accounting for 45 percent of world military expenditures. Yet, so gargantuan and labyrinthine are U.S. military expenditures that the above grossly understates their true magnitude, which, as we shall see below, reached $1 trillion in 2007.[source cited] Externally, these are necessary expenditures of world empire. Internally, they represent, as Michal Kalecki was the first to suggest, an imperial triangle of state-financed military production, media propaganda, and real/imagined economic-employment effects that has become a deeply entrenched, and self-perpetuating feature of the U.S. social order" [4]

[/INDENT]Questions:

  1. Is the United States now an "Imperialistic" Nation, as defined above?
  2. If so, is such imperialism ethical, unethical or ethically neutral? Why?
  3. At what point - if ever - does expanding 'my country's' influence become unethical leveraging?


Enjoy

~~~~~~~~~~~~~
[1] From Merriam Webster.com (Link). For you Wikki fans, their definition is here
[2] From "Sage Journals Online" Article from DeVry University (Link)
[3] From "Revolution: Voice of the Revolutionary Communist Party (USA)" (Link)
[4] From "Monthly Review: An Independent Socialist Magazine" (Link)
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Theaetetus
 
  1  
Reply Mon 16 Mar, 2009 11:51 am
@Khethil,
I think the U.S. has been a different type of imperialistic nation since WWII. We continuously go into countries that stand against the our interests. This is not a recent phenomena. From ours middling in the political affairs of South and Central America in the 70s and 80s (e.g. Guatemala, Chile, Columbia), to Vietnam and Korea, and now Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. continually demonstrates imperial tendencies when it comes to foreign policy.

If the imperialism was performed in the name of justice, there would be an argument for it. But when it appears that it is, there is always ulterior motives at work. Darfur is a good example. They have few resources that are of interest to us so we allow injustice to continue there, but Iraq with its oil and strategic resources, we make an attempt to end what we perceive as injustice as a cover.

I think the imperial actions become unethical when they use coercion as a means to ends that do not look out for the best interests of the other countries. Overthrowing democratically elected leaders (see Iran) or funding a coup (see Pinochet in Chile) are fine examples of unethical American tactics.
Didymos Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Mon 16 Mar, 2009 01:29 pm
@Theaetetus,
US imperialism extends far beyond the Second World War. The Spanish American War was one of imperial ambition, as were the wars on the great plains against native Americans. The Mexican American war, even the Louisiana Purchase.
Theaetetus
 
  1  
Reply Mon 16 Mar, 2009 01:36 pm
@Didymos Thomas,
Didymos Thomas wrote:
US imperialism extends far beyond the Second World War. The Spanish American War was one of imperial ambition, as were the wars on the great plains against native Americans. The Mexican American war, even the Louisiana Purchase.


You are right on that one. My bad for not clarifying. It is a different type of imperialism that the U.S. has practiced since WWII, which focuses on either coercion or regime changes. Rather than taking land for the country, the U.S. has forced leadership of other countries to play along by their rules.
0 Replies
 
xris
 
  1  
Reply Mon 16 Mar, 2009 01:38 pm
@Didymos Thomas,
I must say it before anyone else... power corrupts. total power corrupts totally.. have recalled the speach correctly?well it something like that..I have often imagined myself having complete benevolent power over the world..I think there is psychotic complaint named after this imagination...What would i do? Ide make a complete hollocks of it...
0 Replies
 
Khethil
 
  1  
Reply Mon 16 Mar, 2009 01:45 pm
@Didymos Thomas,
Yea,

I posted these questions after having listened to an NPR Show which bore the themes of terrorism and "why do they hate us"-type questioning of some 'expert'*. During this, much was said by the interviewee about "U.S. Imperialism" that extends beyond the land-grabbing stereotypical view.

These revolved around the allegations of political strong-arming, media-saturation, products and brands, military 'assistance', coercing international organizations, 'blacklisting' and other practices that - essentially - exert an inordinate amount of bullying over just about any nation.

I'm guessing this is probably true; to what extent I don't know. What I'm curious about is the ethics of the issue - is this wrong? Is it the "responsibility of the strong"?

Just curious where people stand on it


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
* I tried to find a link to this particular show or guest, but failed Sad
Aedes
 
  1  
Reply Mon 16 Mar, 2009 01:47 pm
@Theaetetus,
Theaetetus;53723 wrote:
I think the U.S. has been an imperialistic nation since WWII.
We've been imperialist since LONG before WWII...

Examples: the Mexican War in 1850 (a war manufactured by Polk in order to hugely expand American territory in the southwest); the Indian Wars (to eliminate resistance from Native American groups); the Spanish-American War (which ended the Spanish claims in Cuba and the Phillipines); the Panama Canal project, including "creating" the nation of Panama by kicking Columbia out of its own territory...
Theaetetus
 
  1  
Reply Mon 16 Mar, 2009 01:56 pm
@Aedes,
Aedes wrote:
We've been imperialist since LONG before WWII...

Examples: the Mexican War in 1850 (a war manufactured by Polk in order to hugely expand American territory in the southwest); the Indian Wars (to eliminate resistance from Native American groups); the Spanish-American War (which ended the Spanish claims in Cuba and the Phillipines); the Panama Canal project, including "creating" the nation of Panama by kicking Columbia out of its own territory...


I clarified what I was saying in the original post I made to say that the U.S. has been a different type of imperialist nation since WWII. I know the country was imperial long before WWII, but I was addressing what Khethil was approaching with his original post. As he later posted, "US imperialism that extends beyond the land-grabbing stereotypical view."
0 Replies
 
xris
 
  1  
Reply Mon 16 Mar, 2009 02:02 pm
@Khethil,
Khethil wrote:
Yea,

I posted these questions after having listened to an NPR Show which bore the themes of terrorism and "why do they hate us"-type questioning of some 'expert'*. During this, much was said by the interviewee about "U.S. Imperialism" that extends beyond the land-grabbing stereotypical view.

These revolved around the allegations of political strong-arming, media-saturation, products and brands, military 'assistance', coercing international organizations, 'blacklisting' and other practices that - essentially - exert an inordinate amount of bullying over just about any nation.

I'm guessing this is probably true; to what extent I don't know. What I'm curious about is the ethics of the issue - is this wrong? Is it the "responsibility of the strong"?

Just curious where people stand on it


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
* I tried to find a link to this particular show or guest, but failed Sad
Dont think that being strong is right or wrong..it is the intent..I have many reasons to thank americas pragmatic approach to world events and hate it for its dogmatic faith driven crusades..I notice the delusional view on socialism by intelligent souls, expressed as if they were fundamentalist christians..It has a lot of problems by being very insular in its views and being ignorant of world events by the vast majority of its inhabitants.Bush is the prime example and he represented america for far tooo long.i appologise for my wine infested response....glug glug..
0 Replies
 
VideCorSpoon
 
  1  
Reply Mon 16 Mar, 2009 03:03 pm
@Aedes,
Americans "imperialism" goes farther than the mid nineteenth century. Tripolitan war in 1801. Americans use US naval power to project economic interests in North Africa and the Mediterranean. I'm sure US imperialism goes back farther than that.

I just finished this book called Culture and Imperialism by Edward W. Said (the name Said is pronounced Sai-eed). One of the things I found interesting in his first few chapters were the defintions of imperialism and colonialism. Imperialism is according to Said the, "... the practice, the theory, and the attitudes of a dominating metropolitan center ruling a distant territory" (Said,9) When he goes on to the topic of colonialism, he notes that colonialism, "...is a consequence of imperialism, is the implanting of settlements on distant territory." (Said,9) This seems very much in line with what Khethil had stated in post #1. But here is where it gets into the deep interpretation of imperialism. Said (quoting Micheal Doyle) states that "Empire is a relationship, both formal and informal, in which one state controls the effective political sovereignty of another political society. It can be achieved by force, by political collaboration, by economic, social, or cultural dependence. Imperialism is simply the process or policy of maintaining an empire." (Said, 9) But one of the more interesting thoughts of Said appears later at the end of the chapter in which Said notes that "...colonialism has largely disappeared... but imperialism has lingered in a cultural sphere influencing political, ideological, economic, and social practices." (Said, 29)

But throughout the book, Said imparts that imperialism is not about "accumulation and acquisition," but rather the existentialist notion of a people dominating another based on their conceptions of the others inferiority. Imperialism based in culture rather than force?

Interestingly enough, America is not mentioned as much as the French, the Germans, and the English. Said notes that American exceptionalism has not so much absolved but classified Americans in a different niche compared to the English, French, and Germans, etc. In so many words, Said says that The Europeans are primarily at fault for imperialism because "empire (to the french, british, and germans) was a major topic of unembarrassed cultural attention."I don't want to quote the entire book, but suffice to say that Both the Americans and the Europeans did it, but the Americans always provided a legitimate justification (whether or not it made sense to everyone else.) BAM! EXCEPTIONALISM!!!

Said in a way makes me think that Americans do not classify into the classic view of imperialism. It seems like a term which is unsuited to the American experience. For better or worse, I don't want to get into that, but I to a point do not agree with moniker of American "imperialism."

Is imperialism unethical? Sure. Especially if you consider the inextricable connection with Imperialism and Colonialism. It is a projection of power (by definition) which is imposed on a state. However, if you take Said's definition into account, McDonalds in England shows that America is exercising some manner of imperialism on Britons. Does this fit with our conceptions of imperialism... or maybe even capitalism? Is capitalism then a method of imperialism? Is that why, as Khethil had provided in examples 2 and 3 of his first post notions of American imperialism from the perspective of Marxists? This all seems to reduce things down to culture and not simple notions of political influence and notions of domination which are commonly associated with "imperialism."
xris
 
  1  
Reply Mon 16 Mar, 2009 03:10 pm
@VideCorSpoon,
show me power and i will describe a route to imperialism..I am thankful it is not so pronounced as it could be..
VideCorSpoon
 
  1  
Reply Mon 16 Mar, 2009 03:21 pm
@xris,
xris wrote:
show me power and i will describe a route to imperialism..I am thankful it is not so pronounced as it could be..


Black power? Women power? Minority power?
Khethil
 
  1  
Reply Mon 16 Mar, 2009 03:24 pm
@xris,
Good posts, thanks guys,

I believe I could spin the current sphere of influence (the various aspects of national power - as they're exercised now) either towards the 'good' or 'bad'. There is a part of me that says, "Because one can influence or bully doesn't mean it's OK because there should be respect towards nation's sovereignty." But what nation, given the opportunity, wouldn't try to use its sphere of influence to 'steer' the world to it's ideals? No matter how aloof, high-minded or sweetly-intended any country means to be, they're ultimately going to protect and favor their interests, their citizens and their priorities.

Given this...

There will always be a "top dog"; perhaps many, whether economically, resource-controlling or militarily (separately or in combinations). In this light, how 'right' or 'wrong' would be wholly irrelevant (since someone's going to wear that tabard); this is - I believe - simply the nature of these human collections.

I will; however, gladly admit the following irrational thought: I don't like what over-influence the U.S. has in any of these areas. It strikes me as self-absorbed, egotistical and narcissistic. The times I've spent living overseas emphasized this; it's not everywhere or that horrible, but where it is prevailant, I'm embarrassed for it. We have some bad reputations for disrespecting local cultures and traditions and to the extent elements of "Modern U.S. Imperialism" remain, I simply wish there weren't.

Thanks again - good stuff
0 Replies
 
Aedes
 
  1  
Reply Mon 16 Mar, 2009 03:24 pm
@Khethil,
We might want to clarify one thing, and that would be (for the purposes of this discussion) to divest imperialism from any moral judgements. Clearly American involvement in the Indian Wars was a crime against humanity. But American involvement in the Spanish-American War astoundingly improved the standard of living and quality of life in Cuba, not the least of which by virtually eradicating yellow fever.

If we're to consider ALL things resembling imperialism as morally bad, then we'd have to go to pre-Babylonian times to find an acceptable society.
Khethil
 
  1  
Reply Mon 16 Mar, 2009 03:43 pm
@Aedes,
Aedes,

I'd agree with the intent and gist of your post. But (aside from your main point) in the light of "Can the ends every justify unethical means?" - this stuck me:

Aedes wrote:
But American involvement in the Spanish-American War astoundingly improved the standard of living and quality of life in Cuba, not the least of which by virtually eradicating yellow fever.


Entering the assumption that we did act in an 'imperialistic' fashion (and by association 'disrespectful'), could the benefits ultimately realized be used to justify such action? How might such an answer bode for the invasion of Iraq?

Just a thought - thanks

P.S: I realize you had a disqualifier there, just had to plop that out there Smile
0 Replies
 
xris
 
  1  
Reply Mon 16 Mar, 2009 04:07 pm
@VideCorSpoon,
VideCorSpoon wrote:
Black power? Women power? Minority power?
Yes if the power is strong enough.It goes beyond its remit..
0 Replies
 
Aedes
 
  1  
Reply Mon 16 Mar, 2009 07:21 pm
@Khethil,
Khetil, is disrespect inseparable from imperialism?

And what if the Spanish imperialism, which was displaced by the American imperialism, had been worse?
Phronimos
 
  1  
Reply Mon 16 Mar, 2009 11:18 pm
@Aedes,
Aedes wrote:
We might want to clarify one thing, and that would be (for the purposes of this discussion) to divest imperialism from any moral judgements. Clearly American involvement in the Indian Wars was a crime against humanity. But American involvement in the Spanish-American War astoundingly improved the standard of living and quality of life in Cuba, not the least of which by virtually eradicating yellow fever.

If we're to consider ALL things resembling imperialism as morally bad, then we'd have to go to pre-Babylonian times to find an acceptable society.


Really who realistically considers every consequence or result of an imperialist endeavor morally repugnant? It looks to me like you're either stating the obvious or attacking a straw man. I don't think anyone really clings to the belief that every single aspect of imperialism must lead to morally bad things. In light of this, I'd also ask you clarify what you mean by saying we should 'divest imperialism from any moral judgments"?

BTW, if I'm misconstruing your meaning please tell and correct me.
xris
 
  1  
Reply Tue 17 Mar, 2009 03:53 am
@Phronimos,
Imperialism brings certain advantages to those who suffer from its advances.The british united India and constructed a rail system that benefits the continent even now.It brought stability, a sense of identity and an administration capable of government.The African states ceased their tribal wars and had stability while the empire ruled.It is not to be recommended or even admired but its benefits must be considered.The same goes with the American dream of a world subject to its political ideals, some suffer but a lot benefit.
0 Replies
 
Khethil
 
  1  
Reply Tue 17 Mar, 2009 06:33 am
@Aedes,
Hola Aedes,

Aedes wrote:
Khetil, is disrespect inseparable from imperialism?


I'm not sure. On first-blush I think yes; any pressure exerted upon a nation - one to another - most likely fits into the category of 'disrespect' towards the other's sovereignty. I suppose it's possible, but it's hard to conceive of a scenario where the definition would apply, yet not equate to some form of disrespect.

On the other hand, this exertion of influence towards 'my own goals' could be mutually beneficial. In this case, the core question of "Weight of Intent" comes into play; If I do something for me (i.e., selfish goal) whose results are "good", is it a good act?

Absent of these considerations and with the assumption that the outcome isn't known at the time of the action, is strong-arming another country an ethical act? Can we press our own interests upon another, who didn't ask, and call it ethical because it "might" turn out 'good' for all? This strikes me as both patriarchal and spurious.

Aedes wrote:
And what if the Spanish imperialism, which was displaced by the American imperialism, had been worse?


I'm not sure that any single source of imperialistic behavior is necessarily better than another. One could easily replace all the country-names I've posted with others, and the core question of imposing-Imperialism's ethical-ness (and complications of intent-vs-outcome) would likely stand as is.

Outstanding points, bravo.
0 Replies
 
 

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