Stephen Walt points out some embarrassing truths about empires (especially the British one) that should make us think twice about the path we’re on.
Not only does “empire” inevitably mean subjugation and brutality, it also means “multicultural.” After all, the whole point of empire is to force different cultures to conform to one political system. Tamping down self-determination becomes the imperialist’s full-time job. To pretty up the brutality, empires resort to Lesson 2:
2. All Empires depend on self-justifying ideology and rhetoric that is often at odds with reality.
You’ve heard them before: “White man’s burden,” “world democratic revolution,” “liberty, equality, fraternity,” blah-blah. All nothing but window dressing to dress up imperial rule. But sooner or later, the window dressing fails, and all empires run smack dab into Lesson 9:
9. Nationalism and other forms of local identity remain a potent obstacle to long-term imperial control.
Britain’s supposedly “liberal” empire contained a deep contradiction: a society that emphasized individual liberties could not hold in bondage whole societies and deny the inhabitants independence. Once nationalism took root in the colonies (intermingled with other tribal and/or religious identities), resistance to imperial rule increased apace. As the United States is now discovering in Iraq and Central Asia, most peoples don’t like taking orders from well-armed foreigners, even when the foreigners keep telling them that their aims are benevolent.
What the globalists of various flavors denounce as “racism” is actually the most human of impulses, to self-organize into compatible governing units. Nationalism, which is the loyalty people naturally feel for their own people, destroyed the Soviet Union, and it is today ungluing the Communist Chinese empire.
By the way, it’s happening here, too. The Confederate Battleflag that roused the peoples of Eastern Europe against Communism still stands for the same things it always has: resistance to foreign control, liberty, cultural preservation. And just as in the final days of Communism, as resistance grows, the impulse toward freedom will be denounced by those who feed off imperial rule.