April 9, 2003

Neo-imperialism and the 'Anglosphere' – pro-war immigrants want an American Empire

Due to a death in his family, Justin Raimondo will be away this week. He will return Monday.

Imperialist chic is in bloom on the left as well as the right, with weepy liberals like Michael Ignatieff joining neoconservatives Max Boot and Dinesh D'Souza in hailing the American Caesar. "People are now coming out of the closet on the word 'empire'," noted Washington Post resident neocon Charles Krauthammer. It's a measure of the new shamelessness. No idea is too obscene as to not enjoy its momentary fashion, not even the repeal of the American Revolution.

Adding insult to injury – and adding to the suspicion that the whole idea is inherently un-American – the most vocal are immigrants: Ignatieff and Mark "imperialism is the answer" Steyn hail from Canada, and though Krauthammer was born in New York, he grew up in Montreal. Historian Paul Johnson, who poses colonialism as the solution to the terrorist challenge, is British: D'Souza, who pines for the days of "jodhpurs and pith helmets," was born in India.

I always wondered why it is that foreigners seem to be among the most militant of the neo-imperialists, and an interesting piece by Jeet Heer in the Boston Globe, "Operation Anglosphere," traces the history of the idea of American expansionism as primarily an attempt to mimic Great Britain:

"For many years, supporters of the British empire tended to be anti-American in outlook; they regarded the upstart republic as disorderly and disloyal. But with the rise of German power in the late 19th century, 'Anglo-Saxon unity' became the watchword and British imperialists began encouraging American expansionism."

This explains, in part, the Canadian connection, but none of this is new. The idea of the Anglosphere was first broached by Clarence K. Streit, and other Anglophiles, in the 1940s, who promoted the idea of a formal U.S. merger with the United Kingdom through such organizations as "Union Now." Winston Churchill's book, A History of the English-Speaking People," inspired the movement. The Unionists believed (and still believe) that the Pax Britannia must be replaced by a Pax Americana: in their view, the American Revolution was a mistake that ought to be rectified forthwith. Today, the neo-Unionists (otherwise known as neoconservatives) are touting the rise of the Anglo-American Raj in Iraq, and urging its expansion to Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and beyond.

I particularly like Heers' take on neo-imperialism as a career move as well as an ideology:

"Imperialism is often seen as an expanding circle, with power radiating outward from a capital city like London or Paris to hinterlands. But a quick review of history shows that imperial enthusiasm doesn't emanate only from the center. Often, the dream of empire is nursed by those born on the periphery of power, precisely because empire would give them a place in a larger framework."

He goes on to cite Alexander the Great and Napoleon as two examples of this trend. I would also point to the Visigoths and other "barbarians" who became Roman emperors. The modern manifestation of this Visigoth-mercenary trend is the increasing amount of foreigners who serve in the U.S. armed forces, underscored during the Iraq fighting by the number of foreign-born casualties. Promised citizenship and financial benefits in exchange for a term of service, these foreign fighters are the modern equivalent of the German tribes brought into the Roman army who eventually became a power in their own right, ensconcing themselves in the Praetorian Guard – and toppling Emperors at will. It all ended in the sack of Rome….

Attracted to the Imperial metropolis by the opportunities available to ambitious young immigrants in an ever-growing Empire, a whole new interest group has arisen in this country dedicated to overseas expansionism. Their intellectual spokesmen are not shy about their origins, as Heers reports:

"'I think there's more openness among children of the British Empire to the benefits of imperialism, whereas some Americans have never gotten over the fact that our country was born in a revolt against empire,'' notes Max Boot, currently a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. 'But lots of people who are advocating pro-imperial arguments - such as Bill Kristol and me - are not Brits or Canadians.' (Boot, who was born in Russia, moved to the United States as a baby.)"

Yet others, such as the Canadian David Frum, shy away from the idea of an American empire, and instead refer to "neo-Wilsonianism on the right." Boot accurately avers, however, that the issue is more semantic than substantial. In any case, Frum is the chief critic of those of us on the right who oppose empire-building, yet he wisely perceives that the American people don't see their anti-colonialist heritage as something to be gotten over. The smart money is on a de facto imperialist policy effectively pursued and supported by the majority of Americans under a false flag of Wilsonian "idealism" and "democracy"-worship.

The tragic irony of an overseas crusade to export liberal democracy at gunpoint is that to the degree we are successful we undermine our system of constitutional limited government on the home front. The tax burden alone is enough to permanently crush any hope of freeing up the American economy, and, besides that, an empire cries out for an Emperor – or a President with monarchical powers. The Founders warned against the dangers of foreign entanglements and overseas wars precisely because they feared the restoration of royalism.

We got rid of one King George, the hard way; which is why the effort to enthrone another one is intellectual sedition. American patriotism does not consist of unthinking loyalty to the policies of whatever party is in power, but fealty to the ideals promulgated by the Founding Fathers of this country. And surely our forefathers are rolling over in their graves as they listen to these latter-day Tories – most of them foreign-born! – calling for the overthrow of our Republic paid for in blood of patriots.


As much as I don't like to interrupt my schedule, a death in the family is going to keep me away from my computer at the end of this week. I'll be back on Monday.

– Justin Raimondo

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Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of Antiwar.com. He is also the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement (with an Introduction by Patrick J. Buchanan), (1993), and Into the Bosnian Quagmire: The Case Against U.S. Intervention in the Balkans (1996). He is an Adjunct Scholar with the Ludwig von Mises Institute, in Auburn, Alabama, a Senior Fellow at the Center for Libertarian Studies, and writes frequently for Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard.

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