Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Imperfect Imperialism

General Joseph P. Hoar, USMC (Retired)

America is an imperfect imperialist. We want to be loved, respected and admired for our wholesome commitment to democratic ideals, ideals that we espouse not only for ourselves but for others as well. Yet these idealistic qualities are at odds with our more base desire to control the destinies of other nations.

The outward manifestations of imperialism are almost always cloaked in inspirational hopes for the subjugated people. General Stanley Maude, Commander of the British Forces that captured Baghdad in March, 1917, promised peace and liberty. In 1920, Winston Churchill declared that the British were paying large sums for the privilege of living on "an ungrateful volcano".

The Muslim world, 1.2 billion strong, Europe and most of Asia have seen what many Americans are unwilling to accept. Whatever the excuse, it was wrong to invade Iraq. The flagrant inconsistencies which exist in our foreign policy, combined with the abrogation of alliances and treaties painstakingly built over decades of dedication to internationalism and the rule of law, have left us with few friends. That the Irish people, from whom so many of us Americans have sprung, could protest the recent visit of President Bush is an example of how our national reputation has been diminished.

Nations that have been governed by foreign aggressors, colonialists, or home-grown demagogues have seen from the start that the Iraqi policy was a manifestation of an imperialistic effort to control the fate of another country. We have replaced the British on the throne that is perched on an "ungrateful volcano".

Our course of action is clear. Create an environment that will be secure enough for popular elections. Let the results be untainted by our desire to influence the outcome. And then be prepared to leave that star-crossed country to work out its own future, when, almost inevitably the new freely-elected Iraqi government will ask us to leave.

General Hoar is a former commander in chief of US Central Command.

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