“I am an anti-imperialist. I am opposed to having the eagle put its talons on any other land.” –Mark Twain
I was so happy to find this article in “Foreign Policy.” It nicely summarizes and helps diagnose the neo-liberal displacement of the true values of the left.
“Are you a liberal imperialist? Liberal imperialists are like kinder, gentler neoconservatives: Like neocons, they believe it’s America’s responsibility to right political and humanitarian wrongs around the world, and they’re comfortable with the idea of the United States deciding who will run countries such as Libya, Syria, or Afghanistan.” -Steven M. Walt
In the article, “10 Warning Signs that You Are a Liberal Imperialist.” Steven M. Walt begins a much needed discussion among liberals about why they/we have fallen into many of the same bad foreign policies as the Bush administration. The answer, in my opinion, is that conservative and liberal ideologies can both serve as mere window dressings on the real divide which is and always has been between the “haves” and the “have nots.” When most Americans believe they are better than other nations, and that we have a right to intervene in the affairs of other nations, it does not matter so much to the people of the world whether they live under our left boot or our right.
So, you may be a liberal imperialist if:
#1: You frequently find yourself advocating that the United States send troops, drones, weapons, Special Forces, or combat air patrols to some country that you have never visited, whose language(s) you don’t speak, and that you never paid much attention to until bad things started happening there.
#2: You tend to argue that the United States is morally obligated to “do something” rather than just stay out of nasty internecine quarrels in faraway lands. In the global classroom that is our digitized current world, you believe that being a bystander — even thousands of miles away — is as bad as being the bully. So you hardly ever find yourself saying that “we should sit this one out.”
#3: You think globally and speak, um, globally. You are quick to condemn human rights violations by other governments, but American abuses (e.g., torture, rendition, targeted assassinations, Guantánamo, etc.) and those of America’s allies get a pass. You worry privately (and correctly) that aiming your critique homeward might get in the way of a future job.
#4: You are a strong proponent of international law, except when it gets in the way of Doing the Right Thing. Then you emphasize its limitations and explain why the United States doesn’t need to be bound by it in this case.
#5: You belong to the respectful chorus of those who publicly praise the service of anyone in the U.S. military, but you would probably discourage your own progeny from pursuing a military career.
#6. Even if you don’t know very much about military history, logistics, or modern military operations, you are still convinced that military power can achieve complex political objectives at relatively low cost.
#7: To your credit, you have powerful sympathies for anyone opposing a tyrant. Unfortunately, you tend not to ask whether rebels, exiles, and other anti-regime forces are trying to enlist your support by telling you what they think you want to hear. (Two words: Ahmed Chalabi.)
#8. You are convinced that the desire for freedom is hard-wired into human DNA and that Western-style liberal democracy is the only legitimate form of government. Accordingly, you believe that democracy can triumph anywhere — even in deeply divided societies that have never been democratic before — if outsiders provide enough help.
#9. You respect the arguments of those who are skeptical about intervening, but you secretly believe that they don’t really care about saving human lives.
#10. You believe that if the United States does not try to stop a humanitarian outrage, its credibility as an ally will collapse and its moral authority as a defender of human rights will be tarnished, even if there are no vital strategic interests at stake.
I am grateful to Stephen M Walt for opening this discussion. The lives of our brothers and sisters all over the world depend on Americans resigning both of our self-appointed identities: our conservative role as world sheriff, and our liberal role as global messiah.