Sunday, June 24, 2012

Imperialism

I am not sure where the idea that the US relationship with every developing country in the world was the exact same phenomenon as the British, French, and Portuguese colonization of Africa came from. But, calling everything the US does abroad imperialism and referring to America's projection of power abroad an empire as if it was the same thing as British rule over India or the Gold Coast is not very helpful. To my mind there has to be some sort of political control over the foreign territory involved, economic exploitation of the ruled population, and a subjective feeling of being colonized by the inhabitants of the peripheral region for a relationship to be imperial. All three of these things for instance exist in Israel's rule over the West Bank. But, it is hard to find a single place where all three exist with regards to the US to any similar degree.

1 comment:

Walt Richmond said...

I see imperialism as a relationship between two states, in which one exerts greater or lesser control over the other's foreign and domestic policy. Any time one state behaves in a certain way not owing to its own interests but because of pressure of another state, I would say an imperial relationship exists. This of course falls on a spectrum, with genocide being the extreme example of imperialism. Certainly the British exercised greater imperial influence over India than the United States exercises over many states, but then Russia exercised even greater control over its colonies. Taking the example of Iraq, however, I would say the United States is behaving as a classic imperial power: unwarranted invasion, installation of a puppet government, establishment of multiple military bases, and preparations for appropriation of the natural resources of the country. For the most part, of course, Britain was much worse than the US ever was. But I do think it's helpful to think of imperial influence as something that falls on a spectrum, rather than an all or nothing concept.