It used to be said that the sun never set on the British Empire. The same may not (yet) be true of the US, but there are those who are worried about the strains of imperialism that they hear echoing in the American war against terrorism.
BERLIN, Germany -- As the United States began the task of finding Iraqi leaders to take power after the war is over, there were many in Europe and elsewhere who were reminded of an earlier period in global history — the era of imperialism.
"What cannot now be disguised, as U.S. marines swagger around the Iraqi capital swathing toppled statues of Saddam Hussein with the stars and stripes and declaring 'We own Baghdad,' is the crudely colonial nature of this enterprise," wrote Seumas Milne, a columnist in The Guardian, the leftist British daily.
Mr. Milne's comment, in a newspaper that rarely misses a chance to cast the United States in a negative light, was an especially virulent and hostile expression of a view that has become common in recent days.
That view, which Mr. Milne shares with many other commentators and government officials, is that the war in Iraq confirms the status of the United States as no longer just a superpower, but an unambiguously imperial power. It is seen as a country that uses its might to establish dominion over much of the rest of the world, as Rome once did, or as Britain did in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Being the only remaining superpower (and after 9.11), some would say the the US is looking for a fight anywhere it can find it. I would not necessarily disagree with that sentiment, but it also misses the point. If nothing else, 9.11 demonstrated our vulnerability to terrorism, and there are those out there who not only applaud those responsible for 9.11, but would love to duplicate the effort themselves. Are we to simply sit idly by and what for the next sneak attack before taking action? What some might call "preventitive aggression" might also be interpreted as an effort to strike before we are struck again.
Does this make us an imperialist power? Do we desire the trappings of empire? Perhaps so, if you are already predisposed to dislike American policy. Personally, I see nothing that indicates an American desire to recreate the British Empire. In a world where terrorism can easily strike inside our own borders, it only makes sense that we may have to chase the bad guys outside our borders. That reality hardly means the US can be fairly painted as an imperialist power.
If our efforts to protect our own take us to foreign countries, then so be it. Perhaps if enough folks who would do us harm come to realize our resolve, these extranational adventures would no longer be necessary. Until, then I suspect we'll be taking our show on the road. No, you don't have to like it, but don't be surprised when we don't get too worked up over your opposition to our efforts to protect our own.