Confessions of a former anti-imperialist

Should America leave other countries alone? It’s an easy thing to agree with – why should we bother them? But what does that mean, exactly? Is it even practical in the modern world, with air travel, open internet, and the like? Are we even leaving countries alone now? Or is our culture infesting everything, are our corporations franchising everywhere? What’s the difference between what we do now, and colonialism? This is the key point.

So what is the difference? It’s simple. Before, we came in and managed things, while sharing (forced sharing, I contend, is still sharing). Nowadays, we go in, take things and people, and leave them alone. What do I mean? The easily example is resources, of course, but the most damaging example is talent. We take the most talent people from other countries, train them in our universities and – what? We give them VISAs and incentivize them to stay in America. Talk about a brain drain. What do we expect to happen in those countries? Stability? No of course not. Perhaps we expect a workforce that never gets out of its poverty, so they can continually be abused for the sake of profitability.

I was taught, as I suspect many, many people were, that colonialism was an utter human travesty, and to be sure, mistakes were made (by the colonizers), and things could have been handled better – but they can’t be better if we leave them alone, right? I guess we’re assuming that isolation is the better to which we were striving. This is an important point to clarify: conquering, though violent and death-dealing, is a kind of connection at the societal level. We’re not talking about genocide here, we’re talking about integration by force (where have I heard that before? Nevermind). I suppose I’m saying Ghandi was wrong. Who knows, I don’t actually know much about his ideology, but the point should be made: what if all our heroic figure were just wrong, fundamentally, generally, about a great many things?

What actually happens in America leaves everything alone? Isn’t anti-imperialism and anti-interventionism a pro-China policy? Or, dare I say it, pro-Russia policy? I mean simply, and more generally, and if it’s not us, then it will be someone else. Am I wrong? China, Russia, whoever, ultimately it doesn’t matter, but their values may be something other than ours, and if we sit still in our isolated country, not intervening, then one day we might wake up and one of those countries may suddenly be twice as powerful, twice as big, and with three times the territory as we remembered. What then? Would we be next?

The liberal fantasy to date has been that by pushing our culture, and the very real physical expansion of our corporations, we can somehow transform foreign cultures into liberal democracies, which will, by the quality of being paralyzed by democracy (a joke), exist as peaceful trading partners with America, and every country, with their eternally unchanging borders, will achieve something like world peace. Honestly I sounds ridiculous, and I can’t see how it would be less ridiculous without hindsight. What were our policymakers thinking? Are these the people who lead us? Other countries don’t necessarily want to become America. Should we expect it? Integration without war? But was it really without war? What were those corporations really doing out there. I’m not sure I’d qualify it as peace, but what do I know. And what about our clandestine services? All those coups and coup attempts. Very peaceful.

In any case, we have, as I see it, a couple of choices. First, we can non-intervene, and hope no one tries to expand too much. Second, we can intervene, and hope we can, through the force of money and the threat of military action, force everyone to stay inside the lines on the coloring book, I mean map, while pushing our cultural products everywhere in the hope of converting the world. Third, we can actually conquer. Ridiculous, right? Dangerous. Evil. I agree. It’s terrible. Like most of the things I’m coming to believe, I hate it. Can’t we all just get along? Sure we can. But then one asshole comes along and takes all the resources and then what do you do, get along? Isn’t that just surrender? I understand I’m talking about a potential future, however inevitable it seems to be, and I get that other countries will see America as the foreign power with dangerous designs. I can’t deny that, nor can I find another answer. Maybe I’m missing something. Maybe the European Union is a better answer, on a global scale – but no wonder people resist, it’s conquering through diplomacy: everyone has different fundamental beliefs, and no one gets to fight to see who ‘deserves’ the reigns of the future.

Nationalism. Nationalism and isolation, on a globe, with real space, and real territory, and real resources, and real powerful countries? I don’t see how that doesn’t just help those other countries. And if we do conquer once again? What happens? We get to show our strength, and take the reigns, and (I hate it, honestly, I’m not a warmonger, yet here I am) we can expand our territory and therefore expand our ideals, expand The West. Ultimately, however, we’re saying: let the winner take the globe. I honestly hope it’s us. I honestly hope it isn’t China. Would we want that? Would we let that happen? I’m not saying, by any stretch, that our current allegiances are good – or that we shouldn’t make new ones – but our policy of forced political stasis can’t be maintained. Among other things, it’s patently exhausting.

And what have our ‘liberal-democracy’ wars done? How have they gone? More importantly, what would it have mattered if they’d succeeded? If we force other countries into being liberal democracies, will it last? Will it matter? Is Russia a democracy? Yes, maybe, ask again later. You see, we still go to war with option two, but we get no satisfaction, if you’ll excuse the term, from our exertion. Maybe money goes to the richest, slavery-like jobs to the locals. I don’t know. I know nothing, really, I can only tell you how it seems. We go to war, and we don’t conquer. We fight, and we don’t really win, even our victory condition isn’t a win, not really, no one worth the cost of our dead soldiers, anyway. If we conquered, instead, and controlled – then they really would be peaceful allies, because they would be us.

Isolation, option three, is perfect – idealistic – ideal, actually, so long as everyone else does the same. And wouldn’t we have to enforce that behavior?Isn’t that what we’re doing now? In fact, it sounds, sometimes, exactly the same as the liberal-democracy option, only without sharing ideology, sharing government types, compatible economic systems, and with the real risk that our military ability will atrophy after decades without any real conflict, riding the hope that our technology would outpace others. But I think the monstrous dystopian options, such as China, might be too strong, and if we aren’t careful monsters will rise, win, and through their lack of morals will take over the world. The good must also be strong, the good must also fight, because it’s too easy for evil to be strong. We must be willing to pay the price in pain, lest something darker and more comfortable with pain rises up and take the reigns of the future. After all, would the western world exist today without the Roman conquerors? Without Alexander before them?

I have to be honest, this is one point where I really hope I’m wrong.

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