(Re-posted with the author's permission.)
We all know what Imperialism is. Throughout history many warrior emperors and then kings and then other heads of state have indulged in it, imposing upon and even fighting and killing other people in other lands in order to gain and maintain ever-greater wealth, power and domain in the world.
Imperialistic goals and tactics didn’t change much until the Twentieth Century, just before the Second World War. Ironically, while Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan were planning the most ambitious and widespread imperialistic efforts to rule the world by force of arms, some other nations that had a history of imperialism were beginning to realize its consequences and reevaluate their foreign policies. Their goals remained much the same, to exploit the natural resources of foreign lands, and/or to establish or maintain strategic military footholds on foreign lands. But their tactics changed, and for appearances sake and out of political expediency, they invented Neo-Imperialism.
I will discuss how and why they did that, because it was, and still is, more "politically correct" and palatable to most of the citizens of the nations that indulge in it. It especially suited and still suits the purposes of the wealthiest few who benefit most from it, and they do not see it as imperialism. In fact, they regard it as beneficent and beneficial to everyone, even though it really benefits them while it exploits the resources and the people in other countries who are negatively affected and victimized by it.
I raise this issue because we really need to put an end to any kind of imperialism, just as we need to establish true democracy in every country. In fact, we need to do both in order to improve the lot of all people in the world.
You see, I submit that we do not yet have true democracy. But even though it is obvious to most people that the opposite of true democracy is dictatorship, despotism, and tyranny, it is not so obvious that we do not yet have true democracy. Many Americans, for instance, believe they already have it even though they do not.
Most people have not yet realized that divisive partisan political systems cannot and do not produce true democracy. In fact, partisan politics divides and polarizes the people, and it produces rule by one party that wins a contest for power over others. The U.S. is a prime example of that, because while its pledge of allegiance to the flag declares it to be "indivisible," it is actually more sharply divided now than it has been since before and following the American Civil War during the last half of the nineteenth century.
Furthermore, we do not yet have true democracy because democracy cannot exist under monarchial or oligarchical rule, whether it be the ancient traditional monarchy of emperors and kings, or the modern monarchy of prime ministers and presidents and other heads of state. (I discussed that on the page titled Partisan Politics, and explained how we can have true democracy on the pages titled An Updated Declaration of Independence, and How the Meek Shall Inherit the Earth.)
I relate imperialism with monarchy, in whatever form, because it fosters imperialist designs. Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. That’s always been the main problem in the world. Sovereign heads of state have always found good excuses to increase their power, wealth and domain and gain and maintain control over their own people, and even over other peoples in other lands. That tradition was originally established by warlords, emperors, and kings who believed that their race, culture, religion, and government were superior and favored by God. They justified themselves on that basis, and many prime ministers and presidents have carried on with the same imperialistic traditions and justified it in the same way. In fact, many U.S. presidents have followed that tradition, including the one who ruled from 2000 to 2008. And now we need to realize and understand how and why.
Don’t get me wrong, though. Even though I must expose and rebuke wrong-doers, I am an American and I deeply love my country. I fully understand that most Americans are the most generous and possibly the least appreciated people on all the earth. Germany, Japan and, to a lesser extent, Britain and Italy were lifted out of the debris of World War II by the Americans who poured in billions of dollars and forgave other billions in debts. When France was in danger of collapsing in 1956, it was the Americans who propped it up. The Marshall Plan and the Truman Policy pumped billions of dollars into discouraged countries. When the railways of France, Germany and India were breaking down through age, it was the Americans who rebuilt them. When earthquakes hit distant cities, it is the Americans that hurry in to help. When famines hit Africa, Americans were there to help. In fact, there have been many thousands of times when Americans have raced to help other people in trouble around the world, and there have been many thousands of times that the American people have proven to be good humanitarians and good world citizens. All Americans can and should be very proud of that. It is our best quality, and in that sense we are a shining example to the world.
Even so, the U.S. Government has often been a bad example, and that’s essentially because of the idea of "divine right," originally created by emperors and kings, and it has been "rule of law" since ancient times. The ancient Roman Empire carried it to extremes. And, ironically, it became a Christian idea in the fourth century A.D. after Christianity was adopted by the Romans. Then the right of Christian emperors and popes and kings became even more "righteously divine," and that idea quickly spread and was accepted throughout all of Christendom. It was even in effect after the Protestant Reformation many centuries later, and it has been more or less in effect ever since, depending on the character of leadership.
For example, it was the basis for the American idea of "manifest destiny" in the 1840s and 1850s, and such ideas have persisted sporadically in America ever since. The idea stemmed from the traditions established by Christian popes and kings, and then by later Christian heads of state. It was justified by the belief that they were doing the "heathen and pagans" of the world a favor by bringing "civilized" Christian religion, rule, law, order, culture and government to "uncivilized" or "undeveloped" lands and countries. Like their modern-day counterparts, they considered this to be an "evangelical mandate," even if it meant taking control and ruling by force of arms, and even killing resisters and "unbelievers" if necessary.
The United States began indulging in that tradition even though the founding fathers had fully realized how wrong it was. The founding fathers had not only questioned the right of European kings and their military imperialism and colonialism. They decided to fight against it and started the American Revolution. They then issued a Declaration of Independence, which was written primarily by Thomas Jefferson and adopted and signed on July 4, 1776. And that propelled them to victory and the brought about the establishment of the United States of America.
Later, as U.S. President, Thomas Jefferson commissioned Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery in 1804, as a peaceful expedition to find a route to the Pacific Ocean. But, unfortunately Jefferson’s precedent of good will was not continued. In spite of the intent of the founding fathers, and in spite of Jefferson’s efforts, the U.S. idea of "manifest destiny" in the 1840s and 1850s expanded the U.S. empire westward by force of arms against Native Americans, and that was only the beginning. The U.S. then become an outright military imperialistic colonial power in the European tradition in 1898.
It is important to note the irony of that, because for 122 years after the American Revolution in 1776, and before the Spanish-American War in 1898, the U.S. had made a point of being anti-imperialistic (except for westward expansion on its own continent). After all, the birth of the United States of America was made possible by "throwing off the yoke" of British imperialism. Therefore, being against imperialism and colonialism on foreign soil was only natural for Americans. But, ironically, that changed after the Spanish-American War, and the reasons for that change are very interesting and worth noting.
The Spanish-American War started out being called a "rescue operation" in both Cuba and the Philippines. And, at first, the Cubans and Filipinos actually did look at the Americans as liberators who would conquer their Spanish oppressors, because prior to that both Cuba and the Philippines were Spanish colonies subject to Spanish rule. But, unfortunately, it turned out that the U.S. victory over Spain in both Cuba and the Philippines resulted only in replacing one imperial power with another. And the story of how and why that happened is also very interesting, because it sounds like it could have taken place just a decade or so ago rather than more than a century ago.