The Rationales Behind Empire Shift Again

Under the Age of Obama, as some conservatives like George Will begin to question how much these open-ended foreign occupations serve US interests, and the left is stuck with a president pushing for a war that many of them had opposed, the rationales behind continuing US imperialism are beginning to shift again. Now Code Pink, one of the most reliably antiwar activist groups on the left, is rethinking its positions on withdrawing from Afghanistan. The new reason to stay is a reason we heard a lot in 2002 but not much since then: That the US must protect women from the Islamist theocrats. With a humanitarian veneer, the US killing must continue, as was the rationale behind Clinton’s killing spree in Serbia. Whereas under Republican “national security” wars, the argument is: We must shed innocent foreign blood to protect Americans; under Democratic “humanitarian” wars, the argument is: Americans must sacrifice for the good of foreigners. In truth, all such wars are incredibly costly for all peoples involved. And now the leftist argument will be: Americans must continue to perish and bomb and kill Afghans to protect a greater number of Afghans in the long run. Let us hope this poisonous reasoning doesn’t come to dominate the left, for with most of the right still happily on board with the war on terror, such a political dynamic could spell horror for Iran and God knows who else. For more on the nationalist and internationalist arguments for war (and for peace) see my talk “The Shifting Rationales for Empire.”

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