Re-Defining Imperialism


Ultra-conservative commentator Max Boot, who normally just looooves the rattling of sabers, has decided that the only problem in Iraq was the way Bremer handled the PR. Along the way, he decides to re-define ‘imperialism’ as ‘foreign intervention’–and then defend it.

With the Coalition Provisional Authority disbanded and L. Paul Bremer III back at home, it’s time to ponder the future of American imperialism. Many, of course, will huffily reply that U.S. imperialism has no future, and they will point to all the troubles we’ve encountered in Iraq during the last year as evidence.But whatever happens in Iraq, there will continue to be strong demand for U.S. interventions around the world. Failed states and rogue states constitute the biggest threats to world peace in the foreseeable future, and only the United States has the will and the resources to do anything about them. Even many of those who detested the invasion of Iraq plead for the U.S. to bring order to places like Darfur, a province in Sudan where genocide is occurring. The U.S. cannot shrug off the burden of global leadership, at least not without catastrophic cost to the entire world, but it can exercise its power more wisely than it did in Iraq over the past year.

One of Bremer’s chief failings was that he tried to act the part of an imperial proconsul. He and his spokesmen hogged the media spotlight, which only exacerbated Iraqis’ tendency to blame them for everything that went wrong, from too many car bombings to not enough electricity.

Apparently it isn’t just Karl Rove and the BA who have an unstinting belief in the power of imagery. See, we didn’t make any mistakes in Iraq and nothing bad is really happening there and we didn’t cut the Iraqis out of the chance to reconstruct their own country in order to hand $$BILLIONS$$ in contracts to the Vice President’s Corporation, Halliburton, and other US companies with long histories of overcharging and shoddy work and fraud. No, uh-uh. The problem is, rather, that Paul Bremer was on tv too much.

Having once read a book about it, Boot goes on to argue for his favorite form of empire–the British Empire of the 19th century–a direct slap at Paul Wolfowitz who has made it quite plain that he prefers the Roman Empire as a model. Because that’s the real argument in proto-neocon circles. They’re not debating whether or not America is to become an empire; as far as they’re concerned, that train left the station when the Soviet Union collapsed (‘only the United States has the will and the resources’). No, no. America’s destiny is as an Empire. They’re arguing over which form the empire should take.

If you want to know which form a second Bush Admin would take, Mr Boot has thoughtfully laid it out for you: it will begin the formation of the New American Empire (format yet to be determined), an Empire we simply have no choice but to create, and it will do it openly–no more pussy-footing around, pretending occupations aren’t occupations and puppet govts are genuine. No, we will be calling the shots, and Mr Boot prefers that when we do it, we don’t do it in front of cameras so the whole world can see us doing it. He thinks we should run our New Empire…discretely. With rapacious ruthlessness, to be sure, but also with the good taste not to brag about it too much or be overly heavy-handed. He thinks it will last longer that way.

But I have an alternate suggestion, since it’s all PR anyway. The New American Empire: Let’s not and say we did.

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