Those of us who grouse about the human cost of America’s hegemony should be ashamed of ourselves. Every time we raise our voices in protest, there are those who remind us that empire, i.e. corporate dominance, is America’s “destiny.” The destruction we rain on other countries is an altruistic destruction, a baptism of fire, and out of the smoldering rubble will arise an advanced civilization that will enjoy the fruits of democracy, capitalism and prosperity, though not necessarily right away.
David Bromwich has an excellent post on our serial wars in which he quotes Michael Ignatieff, a just war theorist, who threw his support behind the invasion of Iraq. In an article in the New York Times Magazine, Ignatieff argued that war is “a matter of American civic duty.”
In the article he tells us:
Regime change is an imperial task par excellence, since it assumes that the empire’s interest has a right to trump the sovereignty of a state. Regime change also raises the difficult question for Americans of whether their own freedom entails a duty to defend the freedom of others beyond their borders…Yet it remains a fact…that there are many people who owe their freedom to an exercise of military power.
He then goes on to cite Afghanistan and Iraq as recipients of American benevolence, a gift I’m sure the citizens of these countries celebrate daily.
Yes, in addition to the above, we have brought freedom the Philippines, in the years following the Spanish-American war, just as we brought freedom to the citizens of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We tried our damndest to free the Vietnamese, but those ingrates just wouldn’t buy it. Then there were the British in the 1920s who taught Iraqis the meaning of freedom by bombing villages that didn’t pay their taxes.
Finally, there is that penultimate missionary of freedom, Kurtz in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.
Yes, it’s the White Man’s burden all over again, that missionary zeal to convert the natives and to slaughter all those who refuse to listen to reason. So blinded by hubris is the White Man that he fails to see that empire is, and always has been, a gentle slide into self destruction. It’s an addiction, and like all addictions, the addict either bottoms out and seeks recovery, or he dies.
The jury’s still out.