“Obama’s Liberal Imperialism” Denounced, Compared with British Colonialism

The National Interest, a voice for the “realist” grouping within the U.S. foreign policy establishment, has posted an attack on Obama’s “liberal imperialist” policy, by David Rieff, who has previously written to attack humanitarian intervention.

Rieff notes the irony of the neo-cons attacking Obama for not embracing “American Exceptionalism,” when in fact, there is a remarkably close resemblance between the neo-con foreign policy of the Bush Administration, and Obama’s own policies.

“The consanguinity, you could even say, between the neocons and liberal hawks has rarely been more apparent,” Reiff writes, citing, as examples, Obama’s drone strikes, and the expansion of the powers of the intelligence agencies. Rieff then takes up the recent incidents involving the leaked phone call of Robert Kagan’s wife, Victoria Nuland, and Samantha Power’s sidling up to the punk-rock group Pussy Riot to denounce Russia’s human-rights record.

See LaRouche’s Nuland, Nazi Sympathizer, or Just Plain Loud-mouthed Jerk!

Power, the U.S. Ambassador to the UN, “seems to have been looking for a platform to denounce the Russian government,” and Nuland, Reiff notes, is not just any American diplomat, but she is the Assistant Secretary of State for Europe. “That even in an unguarded moment she could feel free to speak this way is not so much reminiscent of a senior foreign-service officer whose main task, Ukraine or no Ukraine, is to keep relations between the U.S. and the EU on an even keel, but rather of a British resident agent in one of the princely states of India during the Raj. These representatives of empire must have felt the same sort of exasperation. Ah well, such are the frustrations of indirect rule, whether in Baroda or Hyderabad in 1889 or in Brussels today.”

“At least the British resident agent could depose a recalcitrant maharaja if the interests of the Raj required it,” Rieff continues. “Poor Secretary Nuland: for a moment one almost feels sorry for her, as she—can there be another word for it?—conspired with the U.S. Ambassador to Kiev to overthrow the current President of Ukraine, only to have not only her opinions about the EU, but which opposition leader Washington wishes to install in his place, posted on YouTube. ‘Fuck the EU,’ yes, but ‘Fuck the Russians’ too, for making regime change so bloody difficult.”

Reiff’s conclusion is that, contrary to myth, there is no rupture of the old bi-partisan Cold War consensus on foreign policy, but “the reality is one of far more continuity than rupture,” and that neo-cons like Robert Kagan, and liberal hawks like Samantha Power agree on more than they disagree — as Nuland’s career illustrates. “Are we all liberal imperialists now?” Reiff asks, and says that if you work on foreign policy for the U.S. government (i.e., Obama), “the answer would seem to be an emphatic yes.”

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