Tuesday, September 14, 2010

From Sea to Oil-slick Sea

From my "Do I Have to Read This?" Department, it appears that Dinesh D'Souza published an article in Forbes magazine, which was picked up by Newt Gingrich, who told an interviewer from National Review Online, linked to by Steve Benen of the Washington Monthly, that Barack Obama "may follow a 'Kenyan, anti-colonial' worldview." Got all that? It's a few too many degrees of separation for my comfort, but I'm not going to dig up the roots because the interesting thing is not Gingrich's claim, but a liberal commenter's reaction to it.
Oh, for pity's sake - what kind of history professor doesn't know what anti-colonial means?
The original anti-colonialists are the Founders.
America is a colony that defeated its colonial masters.
To be American is to be anti-colonial.
Avedon Carol at the Sideshow liked this enough to link and quote it. But it's wrong. The "Founders" weren't anti-colonialist, and to be American is not to be anti-colonial. Just because the creole elites among the English colonists led a rebellion against the Home Office doesn't mean that they stopped being colonists, or that they were anti-colonial. Though at times they appropriated radical ideas to win over non-elites, they were mainly interested in being colonial for their own benefit and profit. Having severed their ties to England, they proceeded to colonize as much of the rest of North America as they could.

It surprises me how tenacious this bit of American mythology is. Of course it's not limited to the US. Latin American "anti-colonial" ideology has also been the province, until fairly recently, of descendants of Spanish conquerors and colonizers; real anti-colonialism, exemplified by the Zapatistas in Chiapas and indigenous resistance elsewhere in the hemisphere, has not been welcomed either by the US or by its allies in the capitals.

The real joke, of course, is the enduring right-wing fantasy that Obama is a leftist of any variety. Far from exhibiting any "anti-colonial" sentiments (other than the safe slogans of American mythology), Obama has proven himself most willing to protect, support, and sustain our empire. This has even been recognized by some prominent right-wing journalists who declared recently that Obama is a neoconservative, of the kind who drove foreign policy during the Bush II regime. Their only serious mistake, shared by some of their liberal critics, is believing that this is a new development, that Obama recently "embraced" their faith. (Some recognized the affinity from the beginning of his presidency.)

Daniel Larison commented on D'Souza's article at The American Conservative, "That must be why [Obama] aspired to become President of the world’s remaining superpower and military hegemon–because he secretly loathes the exercise of Western power and wants to rein it in! It must be his deeply-held anticolonialist beliefs that have led him to escalate the U.S. role in Afghanistan, launch numerous drone strikes on Pakistan, and authorize the assassination of U.S. citizens in the name of antiterrorism." That shows a better grasp of Obama's Presidency than most liberals do (not so difficult, after all), though, being a conservative, Larison must also declare Obama "a thoroughly conventional center-left Democrat," apparently because he "favors raising taxes on wealthier people." I don't know how Larison squares that with his recognition that Obama "seems pitifully captive to business interests in the worst way." Maybe because Eisenhower and Reagan, whose administrations saw taxes on the wealthy far higher than anything Obama has in mind, were both thoroughly traditional center-left Democrats?