The Philosopher and Imperialism

In the Lexington Herald-Leader (McClatchy-owned newspaper in Lexington, Ky.) of 06 August is a column by Brian Cooney, a philosophy professor at Centre College, Danville, Ky. Cooney attempts to make the point that the U.S. has become an imperial nation. This is Cooney's concluding statement: "The Bush administration is telling the world to submit to our power in the name of freedom. That is imperialism."

Philosophers often have a built-in disadvantage, to wit, living in the world of abstractness while most everyone else lives in the world of blood, sweat, and tears. Philosophers believe that thoughts/ideas (not rationality) trump physical action and that words (not physical actions) solve problems, thus the constant drumbeat of dialogue/diplomacy as the proper tools to maintain a society, the presumption, of course, being that all people are thoughtful and civil.

The problem: All people are not thoughtful and civil, and some are downright malicious, merciless, mendacious, and mad, as in maniacal. Relatively thoughtful and civil people founded this country, but had to fight to maintain it – even had to fight each other at least once. On the world scene, maniacs strap bombs on their bellies and set them off where they can take the largest possible number of others with them into the hereafter. Rogue governments (Cooney apparently believes the U.S. is one such) kill hundreds of thousands or even millions (think Sudan, Japan, Russia, Germany, Iraq), often their own citizens, as a resurrected Joseph Stalin or Saddam Hussein would attest.

The definition of imperialism: "the policy, practice, or advocacy of extending the power and dominion of a nation especially by direct territorial acquisitions or by gaining indirect control over the political or economic life of other areas." Cooney mentions Iraq with respect to his charge of imperialism, but seems not to understand that if this nation had desired it could have enslaved all Iraqis by now, confiscated all Iraqi oil, and made Iraq into the 51st state. Instead, three elections took place there in 2005, with unbelievable numbers voting.

Cooney seems not to understand that in 1991, the U.S., with 500,000 troops on the ground, could have confiscated Kuwait, lock, stock, and barrel, notwithstanding anything the UN might have whined about. In fact, this country could have annexed the entire Arabian Peninsula, which is what Saddam himself had in mind when he invaded the hopelessly vulnerable Kuwait.

Cooney apparently has no sense of history, either, especially since history is all about blood, sweat, and tears, not the musings of academics in ivory towers, from where they look down on the ignorant and unwashed. The U.S. shared with the Soviet Union the title of "superpower" until 1989, at which time the USSR dissolved, making this country the only power capable of doing anything it desired. For nearly 20 years, the U.S. could have grabbed (not paid for) oil and anything else it wanted. It has annexed nothing and still pays through the nose in intolerable trade imbalances for things the manufacture of which keep other countries viable. It's the modern version of Lend-Lease or the Marshall Plan that saved England and put Europe back on its feet after WWII.

Because of U.S. airpower that kept Saddam's thugs within the allotted parameters, the Kurds and Shiites were not murdered from the air after the Gulf War. That's not imperialism – that's mercy, the hallmark of a thoughtful and civil people. Girls go to school in Afghanistan and Iraq now because of U.S. "imperialism." In China, girl fetuses are routinely aborted and the government sets the size of families – the penultimate example of thoughtlessness and incivility, as well as almost total lack of freedom. Perhaps Cooney should lecture China about Tibet, also, which it annexed some 50 or so years ago, with the Dalai Lama still on the run.

About the Bush administration, Cooney said that it announced in a 2002 document on defense strategy that the United States will prevent "potential adversaries from pursuing a military build-up in hopes of surpassing, or equaling, the power of the United States" and adds (i.e., we will maintain our global supremacy by force). God help the U.S. if this aim is thwarted…and that has nothing to do with imperialism, only survival, with the ancillary ability to help the vulnerable. The actual imperialists in this world are the Muslim nations intent on their merciless Jihad to kill or conquer all infidels.