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1 1 DYNAMIC OF IMPERIALISM Make the best use of what is in your power and take the rest as it happens. —Epictetus The epigraph for this chapter is from the Greek philosopher Epictetus, who was born a slave and then freed by his master, Epaphroditus. His words have a strange relevance in the twenty-first century. Epictetus belonged to the Stoic school of philosophy, which was based on the belief that all humans had a predetermined fate and that wise men were “free from passion, unmoved by joy or grief, and submissive to natural law.”1 The twenty-first century brought with it a sense that events were uncontrollable, and as a result, large sections of humanity began to feel powerless. The mayhem of September 11, 2001, and conflicts thereafter was the consequence of deliberate human action.War, death, and destruction showed above all that power and wisdom tend not to be companions . As fifteenth-century Italian philosopher Marsilio Ficino had observed, “Wisdom without power helps few, and power without wisdom harms many. Indeed power without wisdom is the more pernicious the greater it is; wisdom which remains distant from power is lame.”2 History is full of contradictions between what powerful leaders promise and what they are able to deliver. In his inaugural address in 1789, shortly after the U.S. Constitution was ratified, President George Washington spoke of the “eternal rules of order and right” and the “preservation of the sacred fire of liberty.”3 In fact,American Indians and black slaves endured white oppression for a further two hundred years. History records that the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, adopted in December 1865, abolished slavery—a cause for which Imperial Designs_13448.indd 1 3/12/13 2:44 PM 2   IMPERIAL DESIGNS President Abraham Lincoln had fought before his assassination in April that year. In truth, re-enslavement occurred quickly under different laws and was to persist for another century. In the early twenty-first century, in the midst of economic crisis, many humans still lived in extreme poverty and squalor in the United States. Workers paid meager wages and often toiling in unsafe conditions produced goods for Western societies in much more impoverished Asia,Africa, and South America. In contravention of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, these men, women, and children were modern-day slaves. They, too, endured humiliation in their daily lives. The gap between rich and poor illustrates the dynamic of power between communities in any society.The gap between nation-states with and without access to resources and military capacity reveals the dynamic of imperialist tendencies .These dynamics of power inevitably symbolize strong rivalries, competition for resources, and war. But power has its limits—always. In a humorous, yet serious, look at America’s conduct, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) political scientist John Tirman said,“When Harry Truman and Joseph Stalin kicked off the Cold War, they probably did not realize what a long game it would be.”4 In his 1961 inaugural address, President John F. Kennedy pledged to “pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”5 Yet the CIA was in close liaison with the South Vietnamese generals who staged a coup in November 1963 and executed the nationalist president, Ngo Dinh Diem, three weeks before President Kennedy was himself assassinated.6 Over the next twelve years, the military rulers of South Vietnam ran a brutal, corrupt, and incompetent regime. America bombed areas bordering the South and then throughout Cambodia between 1969 and 1973. King Sihanouk of Cambodia was deposed in a pro-U.S. coup by Gen. Lon Nol, whose regime fell to Communists in 1975.America, a nuclear superpower, with a capacity to obliterate its adversaries in Indochina withdrew its forces from the region, wounded.Vietnam also fell under Communist rule. According to a BBC report on the final American evacuation and the surrender by the U.S.-supported Saigon government on April 30, 1975, “The capitulation of the South Vietnamese government came just four hours after the last frenzied evacuation of Americans from the city. President Ford, who has requested humanitarian aid for the Vietnamese, let it be known that he was proud to have saved what Vietnamese he could in the last, frantic helicopter evacuation.”7 Imperial Designs_13448.indd 2 3/12/13 2:44 PM DYNAMIC OF IMPERIALISM   3 Jimmy Carter ordered the...


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