Imperialists By Necessity?

Imperialists By Necessity?: I read a post today by Eric Raymond at Armed and Dangerous and I felt a need to respond. Eric wrote the following…

“…There’s a word for the process of conquering a third-world pesthole and imposing your culture on it. It’s called imperialism.

In the 19th century, the Western powers built empires for prestige and economic advantage. In the 21st century, we may be discovering that we need to get back into the imperialism business as a matter of survival….

…Envy the British of Sir Richard Burton’s time. They could conquer half the world for simple gain without worrying about the Fuzzy-Wuzzies or the Ndebele aerosol-dropping pasteurella pestis on Knightsbridge. We — and I mean specifically the U.S. now — may have to conquer the Islamic world a second time, simply because the risks of war and the moral hazards of imperialism are less threatening than the prospect of some Allah-crazed Islamofascist detonating a knapsack nuke on the Smithsonian Mall.

…Some of my readers will be screaming in horror. Imperialism? Barbarians? How dare I use such language? How dare I argue that the U.S. has the right to commit deliberate cultural genocide?

There’s a big hole in the ground in Manhattan. That’s my argument.

If Pearl Harbor was good enough reason for us to conquer Japan and run it like a proconsulate until the Japanese learned manners, then 9/11 was damn good and sufficient reason for us to do the same number on the Islamists. That meant Afghanistan, it means Iraq, and down the road it may mean Saudi Arabia as well.”

I’ll grant you that the global terrorist network is an outgrowth of militant Islam which is itself being fed by the stagnant culture of the Middle East. However, imperialism is not the way to deal with that problem.

Imperialism is not only morally wrong, it is diametrically opposed to every ideal that America strives to obtain. As Reagan said, “(T)here is a profound moral difference between the use of force for liberation and the use of force for conquest.” I believe we are militarily capable of conquering the Middle East and imposing our will on them. However, I would not advocate doing so. Not only because of Europe’s failed experiments with imperialism, but because it’s wrong in the same way that the Soviets were wrong for conquering Eastern Europe and trying to impose their values. While I will say without hesitation that American culture is far superior to that of any other nation in the Middle East (w/ the exception of Israel), I do not believe in imposing our culture at the point of a gun unless it is a necessity. If our culture is truly superior, over time it will be adopted.

Some people may argue that we cannot afford to wait for Western culture to take root in the Middle East and up to a point, I agree. I am fully in favor of using our military to force regime change in any nation that insists on threatening the United States by continuing to support terrorism. Moreover, if we have to invade these nations, the prudent and moral thing to do is to hang around, enforce order, and help the people of these nations build better lives for themselves. I say that not only because leaving decimated nations behind us may lead to further conflicts in the future (think Germany after WW1 and Afghanistan after the Soviets destroyed it in the Afghan-Soviet war) but because it is the right thing to do.

However, the difference between invading a nation because Americans may die if we don’t and invading simply to change their culture is in my mind as wide as the difference between killing in self-defense and first degree murder. The America I know is not a imperialist thugocracy that forces other nations to accept our culture whether they want it or not. Instead, I believe in a different America. An America whose culture people emulate because they CHOOSE to do so. An America that Ronald Reagan described as a city on a cliff,

“And how stands the city on this winter night? More prosperous, more secure, and happier than it was 8 years ago. But more than that: After 200 years, two centuries, she still stands strong and true on the granite ridge, and her glow has held steady no matter what storm. And she’s still a beacon, still a magnet for all who must have freedom, for all the pilgrims from all the lost places who are hurtling through the darkness, toward home.”

Whether you let people walk to that beacon of their own free will or force them towards the beacon at the point of a gun makes all the difference.

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