Whenever someone makes a bold, sweeping statement it often pays to be sceptical. I recently saw an influential figure label the UK Labour party as a party of imperialism from the time of Attlee through to Blair. I couldn’t help but think to myself, how wonderfully simplistic. When you take 70 years of political history and reduce it down to such a forthright and provocative statement, I think it is your deep responsibility to be able to comprehensively support such an opinion with evidence. I’m not saying that this evidence doesn’t exist or that you could not make a convincing argument at the very least to support that statement, however no proof or further explanation of that declaration was given by the writer. It was just left there as if it should be taken as a given.
And I know full well in the heat of the moment and because of political bias I am well capable of doing this myself, I hope that I have not done it too frequently in my own political writings. I’m merely by writing this seeking to encourage cynicism of such sweeping claims and get to the bottom of a rationale and logic that appears to appeal to many in the West and yet doesn’t hold much water when it’s held up to the thorough light of inspection.
And that is the rationale of self hatred and the depiction of the West as a great evil with no redeeming features. The argument goes that because of Britain and the Wests’ unsavoury history of exploitation through empire, our civilisation now deserves to be put to ruin. We have developed a collective guilt for the actions of many individuals across huge expanses of time. It follows on that we cannot stand up for the interests of Western civilisation on a local or global scale, because people born in the aftermath of empire in western lands, need to have their livelihoods, culture and homelands sullied in order to repay the perpetual, subjective debt that hangs over us.
I would hope that the issues with this line of thinking would be self evident and yet I see it quite often. I’ve pondered on the motivations behind an incessant demonising of Britain and especially America and yes, undoubtedly there have been foreign policy decisions that have had horrendous impacts on the lives of thousands, probably millions of people. There have also been positive ones. (US repulsion of invading Iraqi forces from Kuwait in Operation Desert Shield in the early 1990s.) The positive ones, or the time when military intervention goes correctly, often get left by the wayside when intervention is considered.
What motivations could you possibly have for only focusing on the negative of liberal, capitalist countries? Well you could be a Marxist/socialist/communist. America is symbolically the nation of free enterprise, individualism and free speech. All things despised by those that would like to see the state emboldened and a move towards a collective orientation in government and culture realised. What better way than to push your political goals than demonising beyond reason the countries that embody the systems that you wish to see replaced? If you spin everything America does as this giant, crooked evil, destroying the defenceless, impoverished peoples of the world it makes for quite a compelling narrative doesn’t it? It only needs to contain a shade of the truth in order to be passable to those not interested in scrutiny, only in confirming their own biases.
Who else? Religious people who see Western values that embody freedom as anathema? People who want their religion to be imposed on the rest of the planet and believe that any other set of beliefs or lifestyles are decadent and corrupt, will obviously not find anything within Western civilisation worth conserving, worth protecting. There are potentially hundreds of reasons you could have that don’t exactly lend support for your credentials as an objective analyst of foreign policy.
Whatever the reasons it is clear that the game is rigged. Don’t intervene and you are left open to accusations that you stood by and did nothing when a dictator or a political group rampaged through a country raping and killing political dissidents. Intervene and it goes wrong and you are a typical imperialist, seeking to keep a small country down to maintain your own power and secure resources. Intervene and it goes right, and it is forgotten by your political opponents because it does not suit the narrative that they have constructed and carefully perpetuated until it has seeped into the education sector and become a widespread, mainstream belief.
I’ve always been somewhat perplexed that the idea of the nation seems to be anathema to some of those that hate the US and Britain. The line of thought is that the nation is a divisive tool, constructed to divide the homogeneous peoples of the world. But then when a small number of individuals presiding over a country, individuals that the collective had no direct control over, vote to bomb a country in the middle east, suddenly the idea of the nation state and its people becomes relevant to those that had previously sought to undermine national identity. The argument goes from, the concept of a nation is abhorrent, to Britain and its people are responsible for the decisions of its politicians. It’s almost as though concepts and tribal groupings are relevant as long as they suit the agenda of the speaker.
If the West and it’s long, unique history are to survive as anything recognisable going into the future, the region needs to pick up the water can and douse the flames that are destroying it’s skin, before they get to the vital organs. Because let’s face it, if the West loses its identity as a result of destructive, self hatred. Freedoms that the targets of this piece take for granted will very much be on the line.