I am talking completely out of my ass
White Guilt and the Western Past
Why is America so delicate with the enemy?
BY SHELBY STEELE
Tuesday, May 2, 2006 12:01 a.m. EDT
There is something rather odd in the way America has come to fight its wars since World War II.
For one thing, it is now unimaginable that we would use anything approaching the full measure of our military power (the nuclear option aside) in the wars we fight. And this seems only reasonable given the relative weakness of our Third World enemies in Vietnam and in the Middle East. But the fact is that we lost in Vietnam, and today, despite our vast power, we are only slogging along--if admirably--in Iraq against a hit-and-run insurgency that cannot stop us even as we seem unable to stop it. Yet no one--including, very likely, the insurgents themselves--believes that America lacks the raw power to defeat this insurgency if it wants to. So clearly it is America that determines the scale of this war. It is America, in fact, that fights so as to make a little room for an insurgency.
Certainly since Vietnam, America has increasingly practiced a policy of minimalism and restraint in war. And now this unacknowledged policy, which always makes a space for the enemy, has us in another long and rather passionless war against a weak enemy.
Why this new minimalism in war?
It began, I believe, in a late-20th-century event that transformed the world more profoundly than the collapse of communism: the world-wide collapse of white supremacy as a source of moral authority, political legitimacy and even sovereignty. This idea had organized the entire world, divided up its resources, imposed the nation-state system across the globe, and delivered the majority of the world's population into servitude and oppression. After World War II, revolutions across the globe, from India to Algeria and from Indonesia to the American civil rights revolution, defeated the authority inherent in white supremacy, if not the idea itself. And this defeat exacted a price: the West was left stigmatized by its sins. Today, the white West--like Germany after the Nazi defeat--lives in a kind of secular penitence in which the slightest echo of past sins brings down withering condemnation. There is now a cloud over white skin where there once was unquestioned authority.
I call this white guilt not because it is a guilt of conscience but because people stigmatized with moral crimes--here racism and imperialism--lack moral authority and so act guiltily whether they feel guilt or not.
They struggle, above all else, to dissociate themselves from the past sins they are stigmatized with. When they behave in ways that invoke the memory of those sins, they must labor to prove that they have not relapsed into their group's former sinfulness. So when America--the greatest embodiment of Western power--goes to war in Third World Iraq, it must also labor to dissociate that action from the great Western sin of imperialism. Thus, in Iraq we are in two wars, one against an insurgency and another against the past--two fronts, two victories to win, one military, the other a victory of dissociation.
The collapse of white supremacy--and the resulting white guilt--introduced a new mechanism of power into the world: stigmatization with the evil of the Western past. And this stigmatization is power because it affects the terms of legitimacy for Western nations and for their actions in the world. In Iraq, America is fighting as much for the legitimacy of its war effort as for victory in war. In fact, legitimacy may be the more important goal. If a military victory makes us look like an imperialist nation bent on occupying and raping the resources of a poor brown nation, then victory would mean less because it would have no legitimacy. Europe would scorn. Conversely, if America suffered a military loss in Iraq but in so doing dispelled the imperialist stigma, the loss would be seen as a necessary sacrifice made to restore our nation's legitimacy. Europe's halls of internationalism would suddenly open to us.
You know, I've never called in an artillery strike on so much anything other than a Squad Leader Board or computer screen. But one of my oldest friends has. He did it in peacetime, but he NEVER said the sight was less than stunning.
Minimalism in war? What is he talking about? Has he seen any film of an air strike in Vietnam? Obviously he's never actually been to a war, because I've never heard a Korean or Vietnamese say we dropped too few bombs on them. I don't remember the US accused of restraint as the Vietnamese deal with Agent Orange 30 years later.
Professor Steele doesn't know anything about modern warfare before twisting reality to fit his new thesis that white people suffer from too much guilt. I don't think anyone who survives Gitmo or Abu Gharib or had their car shot up by a passing US patrol.
Professor Steele is a sad man, endorsing genocide, because that is the ONLY way we conquer Iraq. What does he think? We can send B-52's over urban Iraq? Torture more people? Shell more houses? Destroy more cities. There are 25 million Iraqis and 140,000 US troops. Our power has limits.
But Professor Steele, who if he was a historian, would know the West's sins are not minimal. And maybe in his fantasies white skin remained unquestioned, but WWII was the coda to decades of challenging white supremacy. There were rebellions in every decadeof European colonialism. Our best allies where people who wanted to end colonialism. From Algeria to India to Vietnam, men and women volunteered to help the allies, at a price: the end of colonialsm. And when that promise was reneged upon, they started killing to be free.
In 1947, the French killed upwards of 30,000 Malagasy to keep controlof Madagascar.
White supremacy took the unlimited wealth of the Congo and left it an abatoir. When the Belgians left in 1960, there were three doctors.
White Europeans are just now coming to terms with their guilt. Even now, the German genocide in Namibia remains a footnote, the Belgians still have not fully accepted the horrors committed in their name, the Dutch still don't fuily comprehend the crimes of their management of Indonesia.
Guilt? The only question of guilt is in Professor's Steele's mind. The historical record of the US in the Philippines is shameful, complete with genocidal acts by both black and white units.
The West IS guilty of great crimes, but that is not why we don't bomb Iraq into the ground.
It is because we were supposed to be liberating them. The Iraqi resistance can only be beaten by the Iraqi "government". This horiffic and ignorant call for mass murder has nothing to do with "white guilt" but humanity.
posted by Steve @ 3:11:00 AM