(U.S.) Imperialism

Imperialism, specifically western imperialism (which is mostly U.S. imperialism today), is the overwhelming factor in world affairs today, and has been for several centuries.

One of the most important propaganda achievements in American society over the past eight decades is to shroud the nature of imperialism in a mist behind which it operates its brutal machinery. Many people are aware of imperialism, either as a sort of Marxist joke, or as so-called “cultural imperialism,” as if it were nothing more sinister than the opening of Euro-Disney in France or Starbucks in the Forbidden City. When imperialism becomes too obvious to ignore, such as in attacks on Yugoslavia or Iraq, the propaganda apparatus goes into overdrive, to paint these acts of aggression as “humanitarian intervention,” and to very tightly control the limits of debate so that the question of imperialism never arises. The corporate media does a very good job of shielding the public from the abuses of imperialism, such as the slaughter of labor organizers, priests and other “communists” in Latin America, or CIA backed coups to overthrow democratic governments to install fascist dicators, the imposition of harsh “re-structuring” conditions by the IMF, etc.

The propaganda effort reveals a serious flaw in the system, however, namely that it is necessary to enroll the public in the imperialist program, a program that the public would never support if the facts were known. But, since we pay for the imperialist wars, the killing of peasants in Latin America, the Middle East, East Asia, etc., it behooves us to understand the nature of the system, and help others to understand it. It is in our interests to oppose imperialism and its wars, not only because it is the only moral position, but because the primary enemy of the state is the domestic population. The goal of the imperialists is to turn the whole world into the Third World. They want to get rid of those annoying, irritating tendencies of democracies toward egalitarianism, respect for human rights and the environment, and so on. The goal is to create a world where there are no annoying labor unions or environmental regulations, where there are no “fifth columns” of dissident intellectuals, where there are just atoms of consumption and production sitting in their apartments watching sports, only venturing outside to work in the 10 corporations that rule the world, or to buy stuff from these same 10 corporations. Then every 4 years the atoms of consumption will be asked to ratify the selection of one or another member of the ruling class to rule them, and we will call this “democracy.” That is the ideal, at least, and progress toward this ideal is being made with mixed success.

There are many fine essays on imperialism. Here is one by Michael Parenti which you might find useful as an introduction:
Imperialism 101

At any rate, I would like to debate the nature of imperialism: whether it is good or bad, whether it is as described by Parenti, etc. I welcome every effort to point out flaws in the Parenti essay, or anything I have written, so that we may understand it better.

OP’s that just ain’t so O…

From Robert Conquest’s “Reflections on a Ravaged Century,” W.W. Norton, 2000, pg 251-252: (It’s late & I’m tired–I make no apoligies for any typos in the following quote)

In other words, the U.S. ain’t trying to build an empire, but help the world move to a more enlightened political & social state. Even where the U.S. is failing to live up to its core values of freedom & democracy & whatnot, it is still not acting as an imperial power; there is a big difference between an emperor and a hegemon.

As for the article, I’m too tired to read a great big load of crap, and since a skim brought me to this passage: “A central imperative of capitalism is expansion. Investors will not put their money into business ventures unless they can extract more than they invest. Increased earnings come only with a growth in the enterprise. The capitalist ceaselessly searches for ways of making more money in order to make still more money. One must always invest to realize profits, gathering as much strength as possible in the face of competing forces and unpredictable markets,” it appears obvious that this is a big load of crap, indeed! I’ll worry about it tomorrow.

p.s. Is “Chumpsky” a play on Chomsky?

I have a hard time finding much to debate here, though I don’t think you’ll find much support around here. It seems blatantly obvious that the Unites States is an empire; it’s widely accepted by people who aren’t even left-wing. The post by js africanus presents nothing in the way of argument. I can’t imagine how s/he can dismiss the idea of capitalism being focused on making profits.

The only real argument I’ve heard against the idea that the Unites States is an empire is from Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri’s book Empire. (I haven’t read it, so this is my interpretation of a friend’s interpretation of the book.) Basically, they argue that the rulers of the global apparatus are not exactly American but rather the international elite. It’s a global empire, not a U.S. one, as rulers in different countries have essentially the same interests and cooperate to impose policies that increase their power. I’m not sure if the argument holds water. After all, every empire I can think of has depended on the co-optation of the local ruling classes to maintain power. Also, the importance of U.S. military power in maintaining hegemony is not insignificant.

What is the point of replying to a post if you are not going to even go to the trouble of reading the freakin’ essay!?

The points Conquest makes are mostly dealt with in the Parenti article, which you didn’t bother to read, apparently dismissing out of hand. For example, Conquest writes,

"First, it implies a malign force with no program but the subjugation and exploitation of the innocent peoples. "

This is the main point Parenti deals with. The point is that imperialism is about obtaining wealth, or rather extracting wealth from the rest of the world. The subjugation and exploitation of peoples (innocent is used as a red-herring) is a by-product. It is not that the imperialists like to slaughter peasants in El Salvador, or blow up the dissident press in Guatemala, or assassinate the Chilean head of state, etc. Rather, it is that these are seen as necessary steps for maintaining the system of exploitation which allows for the extraction of wealth from the Third World and the maintainence of the position of privilege of the ruling class.

“Nor does the hoped-for civilization and democratization of the world mean its subjection to American power. On the contrary, it implies the withdrawal of American power in favor of a congeries of mutually friendly nations.”

Withdrawal of American power!? Democratization!? Jeezuss! There is nothing so blindingly apparent from even a cursory glance at the world that the U.S. has been doing anything but withdrawing! Furthermore, the main goal of U.S. foreign policy has been, and continues to be, the deterrence of democracy.

"Second, it is used as a negative label for any effort by the United States, or the West, to encourage liberties, to block fanaticism, and to make aid dependent on positive economic policies. "

Acch! What can you say to these oft-repeated fantasies? The imperialists do not, and never have, “encouraged liberties” or “block fanatacism.” Unless you consider only the liberties of multi-national corporations, and think that the liberties of the people of Chile, Guatemala, Iran, Congo, Dominican Republic, Haiti, etc., are unimportant. Block fanatacism!? The CIA virtually resurrected the concept of “jihad” to mean “holy war” in the 1980’s, as it was recruting the most fanatical Islamic fundamentalists it could find to fight against the Soviets in Afghanistan. They then went on to commit vast acts of terrorism, such as killing school teachers who abided by the Soviet impositions of allowing girls into the schools.
Well, I could go on, but I will stop here. I hope those who would like to debate this issue will at least read the article I linked to, and offer some evidence for their assertions.

Gosh, sorry. I had the book handy, you asked for thoughts on colonialism, I thought you might enjoy the quote. I guess I was mistaken. I promise, I’ll never try to do something quick for you just to be nice again. That was a terrible error on my part.

As for the article, I merely applied Bayes’ rule. When the first thing that I see as I skim is an assertion that is completely ignorant of actual economics, and the text following seems to be expanding on the aforementioned flawed idea, then it’s safe to assume that it isn’t too important–because it never has been in the past.

EMPIRE:
n 1: the domain ruled by an emperor or empress 2: a group of countries under a single authority: “the Roman empire” 3: a monarchy with an emperor as head of state 4: a group of companies run as a single organization [syn: conglomerate] 5: somewhat resembles a McIntosh; used as both an eating and a cooking apple [syn: Empire]

If you wish to use the term metaphorically to mean “vast and extensive influence,” you may of course do so; but it does not aid communication.

Y’know, if you read a Chumpsky thread backwards, you get your job back, you get your freedom back, you get your democracy back…

He’s half-correct in one sense, though:

Several centuries? Bosh! Imperialism has been around for several millenia and started arguably with Sargon of Akkad, circa 3800 BCE, and has since been practiced by (just to hit the highlights) the Romans, the Mongols, the French, the British and the Soviets. The Americans are rank amateurs at empire-building. Their tactics are the merest pillowfight compared the excesses of the old empires.

How many of these threads do you plan on starting, anyway? Ever thought about visiting Café Society? It’s kinda fun and a lot more varied.

Funny, I came back to this thread to make some remarks about the definition of “empire.” Those who reject the label tend to use a narrow definition of the word and require that there be a formal and direct domination of political institutions. I’m not sure why they feel this is the only correct definition. Empires have varied greatly in the degree of domination of the cultural, political, and economic realms.

You appear to be using Wordnet as your dictionary - not the best source. There’s no need to speak metaphorically; just use a better dictionary. I submit these as possible working definitions of “empire”:

Maybe the sentence you quoted wasn’t worded perfectly, but it’s not so unclear as to excuse your inability to understand it. Western imperialism has been the overwelming factor in world affairs for centuries. The United States is currently the dominant empire. The empires you cite are either not Western or not ancient, with the exception of the Romans. But it wasn’t until the past few centuries that empires went global. The vast majority of people living at the time didn’t even know the Romans existed.

Why does an Empire have to be ancient or Western to “count”?

In any event, empires have always existed as powerful countries dominate weaker ones. I just don’t hold with Chumpsky’s take that the American version is somehow worse than everything that preceeded it. Quite the contrary, actually. As imperialists go, the Americans are relatively benign. They certainly weren’t the worst (in terms of mass slaughters and whatnot) in the 20th century. Putting a “Starbuck’s” in the Forbidden City is downright trivial compared to, say, any of the various pogroms the Russians were so fond of.

Trouble is, Chumpsky makes no distinction between building a McDonald’s and building Auschwitz. They’re apparantly of equal evil in his world. This makes him fun to ridicule (so I will), but pointless to debate (so I won’t).

ummm… You seem to have missed the point.

I pointed out the example of Starbucks as an example of exactly the kind of trivial “cultural imperialism” that we are led to believe is the extent of U.S. imperialism. The point is that U.S. imperialism IS savage and barbaric, and is NOT characterized by Starbucks in the Forbidden City, but rather by mass killings of peasants in Third World countries, the forced underdevelopment of the Third World, undermining of democracy and human rights, continual war, and environmental catastrophe.

Wow, Starbuck’s is savage and barbaric?

Well, maybe if you order the “Coffee and Mace Combo”.

As for your other, serious points, what savagery the U.S. has perpetrated is still pretty minor compared to the brutality and slaughter that were casual instruments of policy in empires past. I’ve never seen evidence of “forced underdevelopment” and the Soviets were much better at “environmental catastrophe” than the Americans were, or likely ever could be.

I just have to pick out your most ridiculous points and run with them. There isn’t really any need for me to address your obvious and monomaniacal agenda, which has something to do with proving how icky the U.S. is. Got any suggestions for reforms? That should be good for a few laughs.

Let’s be serious for a moment. Do you have trouble reading? Or are you being deliberately obtuse?

No one said that. You’re the one who claimed there was something wrong with his statement. It’s just a simple, factual statement to introduce the topic, not some grand conclusion.

I don’t hear him making this argument. I wouldn’t, and it’s not necessary to establish the U.S. imperialism is worse than all others in order to establish that it’s bad. The reason why people focus on the U.S. empire rather than Hitler is because Hitler is dead and the United States currently engages in policies that cause suffering.

It’s sounds like you need to be reminded of what forum you’re in.

One of the reasons Hitler is dead is because of the US. One ‘empire’ destroyed another. Do you doubt the better one won? The main reason that the USSR doesn’t exist anymore is because of the US. One ‘empire’ destroyed the other. Do you doubt the better one won? What would the world be like if either of the other two had prevailed?
If the US has influence on other nations it is because those nations allow it to happen. They want US greenbacks, nothing more, and are willing to subjegate their own citizens to get them. That is the US’s fault?

Ah, you young’uns!

Where were you when we were marching in the streets, pumping our fists, and chanting, “Down with the Amerikan imperialist capitalist fascist pigs waging war against the innocent Vietnamese people!”?

My, Lib, you must have one mighty strong right arm, if you have been pumping over every US nasty since then. :wink:

You forgot ‘running dog’ :smiley:

I read the articl mentioned in the OP and think Cecil needs to pay Mr Parenti a visit.
His point seems to be that:

Appartently while no one was looking large companies have been invading third world countries and carry the plunder back to the US. These companies also set the tax rates and control the rents in these countries. They then force these countries to buy their products.

I thought the dumbest thing in the whole article was that he equates conquering a nation and enslaving its people with opening a factory in a poor country.