Throughout history there is one concept that has always held: you are either the colonized or the colonizer.
This can be seen in many contexts including, but not limited to, slavery, imperial conquests and colonization by European nations and America.
In our specific context, America is a modern-day empire. In the book “Empire for Liberty,” Richard Immerman dates this idea to George Washington, who stated that as “unimportant America may be considered at present, there will assuredly come a day, when this country will have some weight in the scale of Empires.”
Imperialism has many definitions. According to the Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History, imperialism “is a policy aimed at extending political, economic, and cultural control over areas beyond a nation’s boundaries.” It can be as simple as military conquest, or something even more sinister, such as economical take over through private companies or support of despotic regimes. This detailed definition is critical in understanding how America is currently an imperial nation.
If you look in the history of America, we see early examples of this in the displacement of Native Americans, the idea of manifest destiny and ‘the white man’s burden,’ which resulted in an era known as American Imperialism and Expansionism. This new philosophy led to expansion of the US empire through events like the Mexican-American war, the coup and annexation of Hawaii and the Philippines and the further displacement and genocide of Native Americans.
This era is taught as a period that started in the 19th century and ended in the early 20th century, making it seem as if America’s imperialism stopped.
The reality is America never stopped. America has not abandoned its old ways. Many examples of new-age imperialism can be found in the history of the Cold War. We funded insurgencies that would overthrow newly established governments or stop Russian involvement in a nation. For example, we funded the mujahideen — which later became the Taliban— and funding the Contras in Nicaragua. Fortunately, these involvements have been noted in our history books.
However, there are times when these actions are not noted. The attempt to overthrown the Iraqi government is dated many decades before its success. The U.S. funding of Kurds was not to help them actually gain independence from Iraq, but as stated in the LA Times in the ‘90s, “They preferred instead that the insurgents simply continue a level of hostilities sufficient to sap the resources of [Iraq].” This was a long trend of trying to overthrow the Hussein regime, which was not actualized until the 2003 war in Iraq. That was a war supposedly started on false intel that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and was funding Al Qaeda, claims that were debunked a year after the war began.
The war was 11 years long.
How is it possible for a nation to impose its will on another, you ask? That is where military power and aid comes in.To sustain control, you need money and power, two things which America and European powers have. Currently, America has more than 800 bases in at least 70 disclosed countries but upwards of 130 including undisclosed countries.
Another example is America selling U.S. weapons to Saudi Arabia, which is fighting a proxy civil war that started in 2015 in Yemen. This resulted in a divided and destroyed country and mass famine affecting more than 14 million people.
Some may read this and call this unpatriotic or say this is un-American. I ask then, is the real patriot someone who stands idle as the country they are proud of exploits others for their resource and labor, or someone who stands for truth and justice for all, someone who acknowledges the problems and tries to fix them? If you find this hard to believe, do research and look into this matter.
I am writing about the reality of America as it has manifested and continues to manifest as flawed. However, I’m not saying its founding principles are flawed. Second, I am not discrediting the good that America has involved itself in. What I do see is that in the history of our foreign policy, we seem to get involved with conflicts or peoples of other countries disproportionately more for our benefit than theirs. Thirdly, although some can argue that there are bad things we need to fix outside of this nation, I say that we need to be more meticulous when choosing how we help other nations.
With this in mind, and hopefully a new perspective, where do we go from here?
America’s foreign policy is decided by our politicians, as such we must strive to be more politically engaged. We need to read and understand our history and how it shapes what we do today. We also need to be more aware of global news and politics, and what our politicians support. This should matter to us because our tax money is used to fund these foreign policies. On a more basic level, it’s what is moral. We must never forget the power we have as a country nor the power of our voices.
This country was founded on giving a voice to the people, the manifestation of which is the election of politicians who will truly represent our voices. So go out and be engaged, and never be complacent.