This is the full text of my speech to the National Policy Institute on October 31, 2015.
By Keith Preston
I was very happy when I was asked to speak to this gathering on the topic of the conflict between American imperialism and European identity, and indeed the identity of virtually all of the world’s peoples.
I have been an outspoken critic of American imperialism for several decades now, and as someone who has his political origins on the far Left, for much of that time I was mostly concerned about the relationship between the United States and the underdeveloped world. However, after spending some time in Europe off and on for the past fifteen years, I’ve also come to realize that much of the criticism that can be voiced concerning the relationship between the United States and the underdeveloped world is also quite applicable to the relationship between the United States and Europe.
I will explain why that is in a moment, but first let me say that I consider American imperialism to be the bastard child of European colonialism, and it was child that grew up to be a monster that ended up eating its father. I will explain what I mean by that in a moment as well. But I also think a bit of historical perspective is necessary in order to fully understand this question.
Two hundred years ago, most of the peoples around the world were still in the hunter and gatherer stage in terms of their level of social evolution. This is something that most contemporary people have no awareness of. It’s certainly something that my students are surprised to hear when I tell them about it. But during the thousands of years that civilization has existed, within the broader context of all of humanity, civilization has still been the exception rather than the rule, at least until very, very recently. While many of the criticisms of European colonialism that are frequently voiced are indeed quite legitimate in my view, it is also true that a major part of the legacy of European colonialism is that is brought the virtues of Western civilization to many other parts of the world. Now, I am not someone who thinks that white, Western civilization is all that there is and that everything else is garbage. That would be a totally ahistorical perspective, in my view. But I would argue that the legacy of European colonialism is comparable to the legacy of Alexander the Great, who brought the virtues of classical Greek civilization to what in the fourth century B.C. (or B.C.E. if we want to be PC about it, I guess I don’t need to worry about that here), but what in the fourth century B.C. was most of the known world.
When I say that American imperialism is the bastard child of European colonialism, what I mean by that is that on one hand America is very much a product of European colonialism. We Americans did get our start as British colonies, as we know. However, it is also true that during the middle part of the twentieth century, the Europeans happened to engage in a particularly fratricidal war, which was probably the most tragic episode in world history, and one of the long terms results of this war was that the old European colonial empires essentially came to an end because their European mother counties had largely been laid to waste during the course of the war.
Now, I have a longstanding debate with a number of friends who are conservatives in the American sense, that is, loyal Republicans who can’t enough of FOX News, we all know the kinds of folks I’m talking about, the kind of people who think that the America of the 1950s was the apex of human civilization. These mainstream conservative types are often a bit bewildered when I explain to them that the reason America achieved what amounted to world dominance in the postwar era is because all of its competitors had been wiped out in the war. All that was left was Communism, which was a severe aberration, and the Third World which was largely mired in a pre-industrial state. With economic and geopolitical competitors of that type, of course the United States achieved world dominance. And, in fact, the United States stepped in and essentially picked up where the older European colonial empires left off. During the Cold War period, many of the former European colonies in Asia and Africa became American clients, and along with the American puppet states in Latin America, which represented the United States’ traditional sphere of hegemony, all of these nations collectively became outposts of the American empire.
However, I would argue that American imperialism is different in character from European colonialism. European colonialism, in my view, was very much comparable to the old Roman empire of antiquity. The Roman Empire was certainly interested in exercising political, military, and economic hegemony over their subject peoples. However, the Roman Empire normally allowed its subject peoples to retain their own local cultures, traditions, religions, and ethnic identities. The Romans were mostly just concerned with collecting taxes and preventing rebellions, and not trying to transform their subject peoples in a fundamental way. Now, the subjects of the empire were expected to participate in the state cult of the emperor, but for most of the peoples of the Roman Empire this was not a problem since they were polytheists anyway. In fact, that’s what got the Christians into so much trouble with the Roman authorities. As monotheists, they could have only one god. The Jews were actually exempt from participation in the state cult, by the way, but the Romans refused to extend that privilege to the Christians as well. I guess they figured once was enough.
But as far as the difference between American imperialism and European colonialism is concerned, I think something I observed the first time I ever went to Europe illustrates this dichotomy quite well. When I first ventured to Europe, one of the first things that I noticed was how old everything was: the architecture, the designs of the streets and the sidewalks, the public buildings, the art, the museums. Yet everywhere in the midst of this very old European cultural experience, I saw signs of Americanization. I recall, for example, observing scenery where these very old cathedrals would be intermixed with signs advertising American fast food restaurants, like McDonald’s, or Burger King, or Kentucky Fried Chicken. As an American this was no big deal to me personally because I was already used to seeing this crass commercialism everywhere I went, but I recall thinking at the time that if I were a European I would be extremely offended by this form of cultural imperialism that was all around.
I think this experience illustrates very well a crucial difference between American imperialism and more traditional forms of imperialism or colonialism. American imperialism has a quasi-religious quality to it in the sense that it is not just about to whom taxes get paid, but instead it is about changing the way that people live in a much wider sense, changing the way they think, and altering their identity in very fundamental ways. And I think this is true of American imperialism as it pertains to Europe as much as it pertains to other parts of the world. But we see examples of this everywhere. A friend of mine, a national-anarchist by the name of Welf Herfurth, tells the story of visiting Saigon in Vietnam, supposedly a Communist nation, and observing Vietnamese youngsters on the streets of Saigon trying to emulate the mannerisms of American rap singers. Today in Japan, for the first time ever, the Japanese are starting to have a problem with obesity. Now, when we think of the Japanese we normally don’t think about fat people. We think of healthy people who have traditionally enjoyed comparative long life expectancies because of their healthy diets of fish and rice. However, due to the importation of American fast food culture into Japan, the Japanese are now starting to experience problems with obesity and the health difficulties that result from this.
American imperialism is not merely about exercising political hegemony, it is about facilitating what is thought to be a moral transformation of other peoples and cultures. And as I said, I believe there is a quasi religious mentality associated with this kind of moral crusading. One thing that is distinctive about Christianity is that it teaches that temptation is just as great a sin as acting on temptation. For example, Christianity teaches that hating someone is as great a moral failure as murdering them, or that desiring another man’s wife is the same as actually adulterating the wife of another. Most ethical or religious philosophies teach that the essence of virtue is the process of overcoming temptation or refusing to give in temptation, not that merely experiencing temptation and succumbing to temptation are one and the same. I believe that the morality that drives the ideology of the contemporary Western world is a secularization of this kind of traditional Christian blurring of the distinction between thoughts and actual deeds. For example, it has always seemed to me that the real problem that liberals and leftists have with racism, or homopohia, or patriarchy, or whatever Ism or Archy or Phobia happens to be on the chopping block this week, is not necessarily any tangible or identifiable harms that are associated with these as much as the mere idea that someone, somewhere, somehow might think racist or homophobic thoughts. It is the impurity of their hearts and not the malevolence of their deeds that is somehow the real problem. The greatest fear of the Left is that someone might be hiding away in a broom closet thinking about racism.
This is the morality that I also believe guides the American Empire. In fact, when the Islamists refer to American imperialists as the modern Crusaders, I think they have a point, not necessarily in the way they mean it, but it is an apt analogy. As an illustration, in a speech delivered in Chicago in June of 2014, Hillary Clinton suggested that if she were to become President of the United States that feminist ideology would be a central component part of her approach to foreign policy, and we can only imagine where that will eventually lead. Earlier this year, we observed the spectacle of President Obama traveling to Kenya in order to lecture their president on gay rights. And, of course, we remember the uproar a few years ago when a number of political forces in the Western world were calling for a boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia over Russia’s failure to, I don’t know, endorse gay marriage or whatever the problem was. In 1980, the United States under President Carter boycotted the Olympics in Moscow because of the Soviet Union’s invasion of the sovereign state of Afghanistan. Less than thirty-five years later, we saw Americans and others calling for a boycott of the Olympics in Russia in the name of gay rights, which I suppose says a great deal about the direction that the Western world has gone in during the past third of a century.
And we see that this liberal crusader mentality has produced disaster all over the world.
Recall, for example, the so-called “Freedom Agenda” of the former Bush administration, and that was part of the ideological rationale for the war in Iraq. I suppose we can gauge how well that worked out by observing what a paradise Iraq is today. Remember the military action against Libya in 2011, led by the Obama administration, and ostensibly under the pretext of defending human rights, which led to the creation of the failed state that Libya is today. Recall the so-called “Arab Spring” and the efforts of the United States to undermine secular governments in Arab nations, in the name of spreading democracy, which is supposedly something that all people everywhere want, irrespective of their history, culture, or traditions, I guess because Francis Fukuyama told us so, or whatever. But the real impact of the “Arab Spring,” as Mr. Putin recently pointed out, was the coming to power of Islamists in some countries and the growth of terrorist organizations in others. So we are able to plainly see that all of this crusading for democracy and human rights has actually led to a reduction of democracy and human rights, or at least a reduction in humans.
Now, aside from the loss of blood and treasure that has been generated by American military imperialism, we are also able to observe the loss of identity that is taking place because of American economic and cultural imperialism. In nation after nation around the world, American television, popular music, popular culture, fashion, media, fast food, and consumer culture are increasingly everywhere. It’s as if the ambition is for the entire planet to become one giant, universal Wal-Mart. And what is happening is that the unique identities of people all over the world are being eradicated.
There are essentially three kinds of identity that are acceptable according to the value system on which American imperialism is implicitly based. One of these is the identity of a subject to state. Notice that I didn’t say “citizen.” I said “subject.” There is the identity of the worker or the professional, whereby someone’s identity comes to be defined by their place in the economy. And there is the identity of the consumer, the role of the individual as a participant in the marketplace. No other form of identity is acceptable within the context of this particular paradigm. Not ethnicity, not nationality, not race, not culture, not religion, not history, not tradition, not community, not ancestry, not family, and apparently, not even gender. Instead, the ambition is to create masses of helots that function merely as deracinated, working, consuming, tax-paying, obedient drones without any connection to the past, no regard for the future, no folklore, no distinctiveness, and no serious aspirations. That is the vision that is implicit in the rhetoric and in the practice of the American Empire.
Now, the question that emerges from this critique of the American Empire and its impact on the identities of the world’s peoples is the matter how to go about building resistance. This question in turn raises some very fundamental geopolitical questions. I have a generally optimistic view because already we see significant pockets of resistance developing all over the world. I interpret present day international relations largely in terms of what I call “Team A” versus “Team B.” Team A is the dominant coalition with the framework of the international power elite, or the international plutocracy, or international capitalism, or whatever you want call it. This dominant coalition is what I call the Anglo-American-Zionist-Wahhabist axis consisting of the United States as the senior partner, along England, Israel, Saudi Arabia, the other Gulf States, and most of the member states of NATO and the European Union as junior partners.
As far as the present day relationship between Europe and the United States is concerned, I’m inclined to think that it was ironically Mao tse-tung who had the best analysis of that. In the early 70s, Maoist China developed what they called the “three worlds theory,” which is not the same thing as the idea of the First, Second, and Third World that you found in Western political theory during the same period. Instead, the Maoist model argued that the world order of the time consisted of the First World, which was the United States and its satellites, including Western Europe, the Second World, which was the Soviet Union and its satellites, and the Third World of what they considered to be exploited nations. And I would suggest that a modified version of this theory is still applicable, with the modification being that the Second World has disappeared, and that most of the former Soviet satellites have become American satellites with Russia losing its superpower status.
And out of this situation is emerging what I call Team B. The foundation of Team B is what I refer as the triangular resistance, that is, three distinctive blocks of nations that are emerging in opposition to American imperialism. The most significant of these is the emergence of the so-called BRICS, that is, the economic alliance of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. There is also what is called the Resistance Block in the Middle East, which consists of Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, a variety of Iraqi and Palestinian groups, the Houthi in Yemen. The third pattern of resistance consists of what I call “resistance nations” or resistance movements in Latin America that resist their own incorporation into the American Empire. This block also includes Brazil, Venezuela, Cuba, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Argentina with varying degrees of consistency, as well as the wider set of Latin American populist movements that these nations to some degree represent. In addition to these three blocks of resistance, there are also outliers like Belarus, North Korea, Zimbabwe, and the Kurdish independence movement that has recently emerged. There are also a variety of non-state actors around the world reflecting a wide range of identities that are resistant to incorporation into the American empire ands program of global liberal capitalist imperialism. So resistance is building everywhere even as the weaknesses of the American empire become increasingly obvious.
In particular, Russia, China, and Iran have emerged as bulwarks against U.S. imperialism, and we have in recent times seen a greater cooperation between these nations, for example, in the currency swap agreement between Russia and China, or the collaboration between Russia and Iran in the war against ISIS, and I have seen discussion recently concerning the possibility of Iran joining the BRICS alliance.
Ultimately, however, we also need an independent and self-assertive Europe. If I could give any advice to the European nations it would be to break out from underneath the American Empire, dissolve NATO, and claim self-determination for themselves, and this includes military self-determination as well as political, economic, and cultural self-determination. The United States is on its way to becoming a failed state, with a $19 trillion national debt, the largest national debt in world history, and a society where virtually all of its institutions are increasingly dysfunctional. This is not system that will go on forever. Those of us who are Americans should be preparing ourselves for a post-America. Meanwhile, the Europeans should, in my view, strive to reclaim their own heritage and destiny. Ultimately, however, the salvation of Europe is dependent upon the abolition of the American Empire.
Thank you for listening to me.