Light reading: "Empires Without Imperialism"
Since I am temporarily in funds, I decided to buy some books, and when I get into bookbuying mode, I always buy too many; I can't just sit down and read a whole book anymore; maybe I should restructure my time so I can do that again; perhaps if I pretended I had a long commute again. When I was a courier, picking up advertising checks for a weekly, just coming up, I took public transportation around Boston, and I read several long novels on the trains and buses: Dickens, Zola, Balzac, James. Heavy books. I used the checks as bookmarks.
Anyhow, the first book I bought was Empire Without Imperialism (good luck with that) by Jeanne Morefield. Here she describes the theme of the work in the Introduction. After Staff Sergeant Robert Bales whacked a sixteen Afghani civilians, including nine kids:
President Obama responded to these events ... by claiming "It's not who we are as a country." His words prefigured and echoed almost exactly those of Hillary Clinton, Leon Panetta, and General John Allen, all of whom rendered some version of the same sentiment: This is just not who we are.
Except it is, isn't it?
This book is a sustained engagement with the prolix rhetorical phenomenon that makes this kind of response to political violence possible. At its core, however, this book is less concerned with the denial of political responsibility on the part of liberal imperial powers like the United States and Great Britain as it is with the sustained historical and contemporary narratives that enable these powers to deflect responsibility for imperial violence away from themselves in an ongoing, systematic way. .... This deflective impulse -- aimed at drawing critical attention away from the liberal empire's illiberalism by insisting on its fundamental charater -- has deep roots in the tradition of liberal imperial apologetics. We see this phenomenon in starkest relief, however, during those moments when critical numbers of politicians and public intellectuals begin to feel terrorized by the possibility of their empire's imminent decline and the rise of socities and civilizations they deem illiberal, barbarian, or, in Niall Ferguson's words "the Rest." As this book explains in greater detail, British liberal imperialists just before and during World War I suffered from what Lord Milner, a prominent colonial administrator, described as a "chronic" anxiety about the demise of the British empire -- waht many of them referred to simply as "the imperial problem" -- and it is hardly surprising that we see an upsurge in "who we are" narratives in the speeches and writings of the Empire's most ardent defenders of the time.
So this book seem like it has some efficient tools to slice up vast swathes of imperial rhetoric, especially if we imagine what is to come in 2016. Bonus points: The book includes a thorough demolition of the Kagan clan, whose patriarch was one of the members of the PNAC that brought us the Iraq War.
UPDATE I forgot to say: Obvious 12 points application: End the Wars.