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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 5/12/09

Imperialism Is Not Merely Irritating

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Message David Weiner

Tom Engelhardt tells us, in a well written piece titled


 "Obama Officials Talk About Countries Like They Own Them -- Anyone Else Think That's Strange?"-




"It's the norm for U.S. civilian and military leaders to say about what other countries "-must do'; that's called imperial attitude"-

This, he feels, is not such a good idea.
" For all our kindly talk about how the poor Pakistanis just can't get it together democracy-wise, the U.S. has a terrible record when it comes not just to promoting democracy in that country, but to really giving much of a damn about its people." "And this brings us to perhaps the most extreme aspect of the mentality of our national security managers -- what might be called their empathy gap. They are, it seems, incapable of seeing the situations they deal through the eyes of those being dealt with." They take it for granted that America's destiny is to "engineer" the fates of peoples half a world away and are incapable of imagining that the United States could, in almost any situation, be part of the problem, not a major part of its solution." I have no argument with Mr. Engelhardt, whom I admire greatly--except one.  He does not go nearly far enough, and in this failure runs the risk of distracting people from awareness of how truly serious this "empathy" gap may be. Imperialism is not merely irritating, as his article suggests, it  may be just plain dangerous, for us. Apparently it isn't politically correct on the Left to suggest that those we bother cannot effectively bother us back.  Mr. Engelhardt in fact, makes fun of the idea. He also ignores the fact that ongoing imperialism (the difference between Obama and Bush in this regard may not be all that great) has a much darker side than merely attempting to control foreign powers. To all in the world but us, it appears that our powers-that-be study George Orwell's 1984 as a blueprint for the future. Too many people, not enough energy; too little water, too much anger; etc. -- much easier to let people die than to include them. They're overpopulating anyhow--no need to explore  how our undermining the natural development of their societies may have contributed to this condition.

What no one will discuss openly, it seems,  is whether imperialism is in fact merely Machiavellianism, clumsy but doable; or social pathology. Can imperialism keep us safe at terrible cost? Or is it likely to bring cataclysm upon us all?  Mr. Engelhardt may well regard this suggestion as contributing to a kind of hysteria he rightly deplores, but I perceive more than enough evidence to  suggest that it needs to be seriously addressed by the best minds in the land. 


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David Weiner has been a sociology professor, high school teacher, community organizer, and anti-racism activist for more than half a century. Nowadays he teaches sociology and social psychology at a community college.
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