U.S. Can’t Win Afghan War Because We Aren’t a Colonial Power

Now here’s an anti-war argument I hadn’t heard before, courtesy of conservative blogger/journalist Andrew Sullivan (on NBC‘s Chris Matthews Show, 3/18/12):

SULLIVAN: Again, it just shows that America colonizes without any real colonial talent because this is a country built on escaping colonialism, not actually imposing it.

MATTHEWS: Yeah. Well…

SULLIVAN: You’re doing something against the DNA of the United States.

While the idea idea that the United States is not and has apparently never been a colonial power struck Matthews as a reasonable one, it might strike other people as rather odd. The Spanish-American War would seem to qualify as a colonial endeavor, since it resulted in the United States having colonial authority over Guam, Puerto Rico and the Philippines. And the subsequent war and occupation in the Philippines would certainly qualify as a colonial endeavor. The same could be said for Hawaii. And it might be difficult to argue that the U.S. treatment of Native Americans would not qualify, at the very least, as colonialism.

When Barack Obama claimed the U.S. was “not born as a colonial power,” the Institute for Public Accuracy (1/28/09) got historian Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz to respond :

The United States was founded as a European settler state, with maps and plans already prepared to colonize the continent coast to coast, expanding from the 13 colonies of the founding state. Indeed the U.S. was the first state born as a colonial power, unique in the vast territories it brutally conquered, occupied, and administered, crushing over 300 indigenous nations, force-marching hundreds of thousands east of the Mississippi out of their homelands, crowding them into “Indian Territory” (Oklahoma), along the way annexing half the Republic of Mexico. Plantation agriculture, worked by enslaved Africans, drove U.S. territorial conquests during the first century, creating the economic base for industrial capitalism that would soon dominate the world.

Perhaps the better question is whether the United States developed “colonial talent” over time–or whether the country was born that way.

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.