Saturday, January 28, 2006

Amerika ist nicht das Vierte Reich. And regarding Imperialism.

Some people are fond of comparing The United States, particularly its government, particularly the current administration of George W. Bush (HafiZahu-llaahu wa barakaatu-llaahi wa raHmatuhu 'alayhi), to "Nazi" Germany (more properly, NSDAP Germany), with parallels being drawn between Bush (HafiZahu-llaahu et cetera) and Hitler (la'natullaahi 'alayhi). This is utterly ridiculous.

We have studied the Third Reich (NSDAP Germany) from the rise of the NSDAP to the fall of Germany under the Allies. We have studied about Hitler. We, therefore, find it difficult to figure exactly where such people, who call Bush "Hitler" or America "Nazi Germany," find their arguments or justification. Let Us examine how this cannot be so.

NSDAP had a secret police force, the Gestapo. No such organization exists in The United States. Whereas it is true that various law enforcement agencies exist, primarily local police forces and federal agencies (the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, the Secret Service), none of these have the mandate the Gestapo had, nor the responsibilities the Gestapo had, nor the activities that the Gestapo carried out. People are fond of claiming that The Government is oppressing dissent. We find no evidence of this whatsoever. People who oppose The Government, particularly its popularly elected officials, are quite vocal in their disagreement and opposition. Newspapers regularly print news that reflects badly on The Government, if not challenging it outright. We have yet to hear of anyone being arrested, detained, or otherwise unjustly detained or silenced because of one's political or martial views. Indeed, We would go so far as to say that people who are right of center have deplorably failed in raising their voice as successfully, as loudly, and as vociferously as those who are left of center have done. We view the public discourse as unfairly tilted towards the left, with improper and insufficient representation of the right, whose members are often unjustly, unfairly, inaccurately, and viciously maligned by the vocal left. With such a state of affairs, how can one even consider that The United States is in any way like NSDAP Germany?

The Government of NSDAP Germany carried out quite shocking and inhumane persecution, prosecution, and other criminal activity towards certain classes (id est, categories) of people, such as Jews, homosexuals, Rroma (also known as "gypsies"), Jehovah's Witnesses, uncompromising Christians, Slavs, Communists, Socialists, and other political opponents. The rights of entire classes were restricted, if not eliminated completely. No one has done anything remotely like this in The United States, nor would anyone, even The Government, be able to carry something like this out.

NSDAP Germany had the goal of expanding its Lebensraum by expanding the Third Reich. (This is not a new desire. Various states such as The Soviet Union, The United Kingdom, France, Spain, Portugal, Austria, The Ottoman Empire, the Arab caliphate, various Indian kingdoms, Japan, China, and The Netherlands have desired the expansion of their empire. One ought to remember: The United States broke away from the British Empire, Canada still belongs to the British Empire, the Louisiana Purchase was made from France, a part of Canada was under France, and Spain ruled Florida and Mexico.) NSDAP Germany attempted to accomplish this by first uniting all German peoples with the German state (which was justified and popularized by the quite catchy slogan of: "Ein Volk, Ein Reich, Ein Fuehrer": referring to the desire that all Germans live in one state under one glorious leader.) As such, NSDAP took the Sudetenland from France, annexed Austria, and took parts of western Czekoslovakia. Then NSDAP Germany set out to expand GroƟdeutschland by enslaving the Slavs.

Various people like to use this trend to point out the imperialist impulse of The United States. In Our opinion, this is utterly ridiculous.

First: The United States have never announced in any way their desire to expand an empire, to rule any state, or to diminish the independence or sovereignty of any legitimate state. Indeed, The United States have been tirelessly pursuing the expansion of other states' independence, stability, and legitimacy. Thanks to the actions of The United States, millions of people live in more independent, sovereign, and legitimate states, while other illegitimate states and/or regimes now fear for their own survival.

Second: The argument that The United State have, through their foreign policy and foreign military operations, expanded their influence, control, rule, and power cannot be used to justify claims of American imperialism. This will be explained later.

Third: A characteristic of imperialism has been the undeniable and obvious control of another state over a state. This point is relevant where imperialism is concerned when one considers non-territorial imperialism. An example of this would be the actions, policies, attitudes, and desires of Russia and The United Kingdom with regard to the Persian Empire. There was no doubt that Russia and The United Kingdom were imperialist powers in Persia. Large swaths of the country were under the exclusive control of the imperialist powers. This trend cannot be used against The United States. Whereas it is true that The United States have attempted to exercise control and influence on other governments, The United States do not compromise the popular sovereignty or independence of any state. The people of every state, regardless of what influence The United States may exercise over it, have the freedom to elect whom they please and when they please. The Government of The United States recognizes these officials to the extent that The Government, by law, may. (For example: with the recent election of Hamas into the Palestinian government, The Government's policy becomes complicated. On the one hand, by all external appearances the Palestinians voted Hamas in of their own free will and choice. On the other hand, Hamas has been listed, rightfully so, as a terrorist organization and The Government has a policy not to deal with terrorists. If, therefore, The Government refuses to recognize a Hamas-led or -dominated Palestinian government or refuses to maintain relations with Hamas, it would not be out of any American imperialist impulse and its consequent policy to enforce its desires on foreign peoples by recognizing or not recognizing their governments based on whether the peoples follow The Government's will or not. It would simply be because the policy of The United States is not to maintain relations with terrorists. If a law were passed to grant an exemption with regard to Hamas, then The Government would treat a Hamas-led or Hamas-dominated Palestinia government as it has treated previous Palestinian administrations.)

People tend to confuse "imperialism" with "systemic hegemony." While the former is a choice, the latter is not. States such as The United Kingdom, Russia, and NSDAP Germany made the conscious choice to engage in imperialist ventures, to give in to their imperialist impulse. At some point, systemic hegemony also played a role: between the World Wars, The United Kingdom was simultaneously imperialistic and the systemic hegemon: both factors fed on each other. After the Second World War, however, The United Kingdom remained imperialistic but had lost its status as systemic hegemon. That role passed on to The United States. During the Second World War, or, rather, just prior to it, the Soviet Union took advantage of opportunities to give in to is imperialistic impulse. Stalin made agreements with Hitler which allowed Stalin to expand the Soviet empire. The alliance between Stalin and Hitler was doomed to fail, though: NSDAP Germany's desire for Lebensraum, the enslavement of the Slavs, and attaining the position of systemic hegemon all conspired against the alliance and against the Soviet Union. To fulfill its desires, NSDAP Germany would have no choice but to challenge and oppose, indeed, to conquer even, the Soviet Union. After NSDAP Germany's defeat, the Soviet Union's imperialist impulse remained: it capitalized (no pun intended) on its territorial and systemic gains. Concerning the latter, it began to use the post-bellum potentially bi-polar system to exert its qualifications and characteristics as systemic hegemon, attempting to unseat The United States. The Soviet Union miscalculated, however: assuming the position of systemic hegemon is not something one can work towards, only something that comes to be as a result of the international state system. If the Soviet Union wanted to become the systemic hegemon, it would have to make it an integral and necessary part of the system, which it basically excluded itself from by rejhecting systemic economic structures, which is what made The United States the systemic hegemon.

The United States never chose to become the systemic hegemon. This role was thrust upon them by their military and economic superiority. Because of both, they could maintain their relative superiority over all other states. Simultaneously, the integral, pivotal, and necessary character of their involvement with the system made them the foundation, supporting pillar, and other necessary supporting structures of the system, thereby being able to perpetuate their hegemony.

The system that exists, though, cannot be maintained through inaction, inactivity, or uninvolvement. If The United States withdrew from the system (militarily, politically, economically, either of these ways, or all of these ways), the system would collapse, and another hegemon would arise after a bitter and bloody contest. It could be possible for The United States to regain the position of hegemon, but only if it became involved in the system - it would necessarily have to be a continuation of the current system rather than simple involvement in a new system. Each system is utterly different: different rules, different major players, different arrangements.

Now, on to American imperialism versus American hegemony: The United States' involvement in the world is partly out of self-interested perpetuation of the system and partly out of a desire to exert influence over others. It is a cardinal rule that every state desires to exert influence, if not control, over others. To say any state is different or unique regarding this matter (either in desiring or not desiring control or influence over others) is utterly ridiculous and, additionally, plainly wrong. It is a natural impulse of every state in order to safeguard its own interests (ultimately, its security) by neutralizing the ability of others to act against the state, which can be accomplished by controlling others or, if that is not possible, to influence it so that it will follow the will of the influencing state. No state ought to be praised or blamed for this. We say this because people behave that such an impulse is unnatural, wrong, uncalled for, or simply immoral. Utterly ridiculous: that a state desires to control or influence others does not matter a bit. Similarly, a state having control or influence over another ought not to surprise one, as if a state can exercise control or influence over another, it will do so.

What does matter is: How does the state's control and influence affect the controlled or influenced state's people?

And here We can draw a glaring comparison between past systemic hegema (plural of "hegemon" according to the rules of Greek, whence "hegemon" comes) and The United States, the current hegemon. If The United States were, as is claimed, interested solely in spreading their empire and hegemony, then one could expect certain behaviors and tendencies. History provides ample examples of precedence with this regard. However, The United States does not act in a similar manner.

The pattern of past hegema was to force other states to enter its influence, if not control. This would include recognizing the hegemon's supermacy, paying tribute, contributing to its foreign policy, and so on. Those who resisted would have been invaded or otherwise compromised, either by the hegemon or its subjects. In contrast to this, during its hegemony, The United States has never forced any state to join The United States in any way whatsoever or in any way to recognize The United States' superiority by paying tribute, contributing troops, or otherwise placing its resources at The United States' whim and caprice. Those who have opposed The United States have benefitted from being defeated by The United States: the glorious rise and success of Germany and Japan are a result of The United States' development of and contributions to these states defeated by The United States. The contrast between The United States' treatment of Germany (Western Germany) and the Soviet Union's treatment of Germany (Eastern Germany) amply shows how The United States, although sharing certain common impulses and desires, are different nonetheless. Whereas Western Germany retained its independence and sovereignty, and whereas Western Germany's rise was thanks to substantial support from its hegemon, Eastern Germany was practically a part of the Soviet Empire, which did little to contribute to its well-being.

Even recent events have shown not only how The United States are different but, importantly, how they positively affect other peoples. There is nothing in the rules of warfare or defeat that dictate that the victor must assist, develop, or advise the defeated. As a matter of fact, it is quite commonly accepted that the defeated is obligated to serve the victor in whatever way the victor determines. Despite this, The United States have spent considerable resources (military, political, and economic) on defeated states, such as Afghanistan and Iraq. The very involvement of The United States has been beneficial: the people of these two states live in regimes wherein they are given far more rights, liberties, freedom, and participation (true, effective participation) that they have never had in any time in their past. This is significant considering that for some time Iraq was under another hegemon, The United Kingdom, under whom it enjoyed none of the rights, liberties, freedom, and effective participation it can exercise now under The United States.

What is significant is that these actions by The United States have not been undertaken out of a desire to spread American influence, control, hegemony, or imperialism. (Spreading their hegemony would, in any case, be utterly useless for The United States: as the systemic hegemon, The United States exercise potentially unlimited hegemony over every state in the system, which today includes every state in existence.) The Government of The United States saw Iraq as a threat to its survival and security, and so it moved to neutralize that thread. All of these benefits, which is expected of The United States in any case, are side benefits considering The Government's actual intentions and motives.

And with this, We desire to refute two claims that are commonly slung against The Government and/or The United States: That The United States is imperialistic or acting on its imperialist impulses, and that The United States or their Government can be likened to NSDAP Germany - which, in Our mind, are both fundamentally incorrect, wrong, and utterly ridiculous.

As far as comparing America to NSDAP Germany, we are reminded of this wonderful cartoon by the eminently talented Chris Muir, who produces a daily cartoon, Day by Day, and whose comic We cannot recommend enough):

wa naHnu a'lamuun.


At 3:43 PM, Blogger sonicfrog said...

NSDAP had a secret police force, the Gestapo. No such organization exists in The United States.

Oh, but it does. That's why it's called SECRET!!! Diese post ist ausgetzeichnet!

PS. "ausgetzeichnet" My teachers favorite word in High School German class. Haven't a clue what "post" would be in Deutch.

At 5:25 PM, Blogger Muslihoon said...

Thanks for your comment, sonicfrog! A very hearty welcome to you!

"Ausgetzeichnet" is a favorite word of mine too. Used it a lot when I took German.

(I added your blog to my blogroll.)

At 5:55 PM, Blogger Vie said...

Muslihoon, your writing never fails to impress.

What is the deal with the royal "We"?

At 6:03 PM, Blogger Muslihoon said...

I use the "royal we" to separate myself from the world in order to analyze it appropriately - I am separate from and above the madness that often runs around in the guise of wisdom or scholarship.

Plus, I think it's cool. (Although I try not to use it in the comments section. Unless I become the king of something.) Thanks for stopping by!


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