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Rick Santorum Has the “Heart and Faith” Necessary For Imperialism

Despite sponsoring foreign-policy legislation while in the United States Senate and preparing to run for the presidency, Rick Santorum has embarrassed himself time and again during the GOP primary when making statements about the rest of the world. The most recent example is his cartoonishly simplistic understanding of the British Empire’s decline from its 20th-century peak.

Here’s what he told a crowd Monday in Iowa, as reported by The Huffington Post’sElise Foley:

“If you look at every European country that has had world domination, a world presence, from the French to the British — 100 years ago, the  sun didn’t set on the British Empire,” Santorum said at an appearance in Sioux City, Iowa. “If you look at that empire today — why? Because  they lost heart and faith in their heart in themselves and in their  mission, who they were and what values they wanted to spread around the  world. Not just for the betterment of the world, but safety and security and the benefit of their country.” “We have taken up that cause,” Santorum added. But now, he said, “We have a president who doesn’t believe in America.”

This proved too much for Daniel Larison:

Yes, it couldn’t have had anything to do with two exhausting global  conflicts that cost the lives of millions of British subjects, or the  financial ruin of Britain that followed these conflicts.  The British  just “lost heart and faith in their heart in themselves and in their  mission.”  Obviously, the only thing needed to maintain “world  domination” is self-confidence and resolve.

The mockery is deserved, and piling on is necessary, for it’s getting wearisome to take seriously someone who claims to venerate America’s founding values, bristles at the notion that foreign occupations in places like Iraq and Afghanistan suggest an imperial mindset, and yet asserts that Great Britain failed the world when it stopped trying to rule a fifth of its inhabitants. One wonders how long he thinks the British should’ve asserted their will in India, Ireland, and its North African colonies, among other places, and why he thinks maintenance of these colonies always enhanced rather than detracted from the safety and prosperity of the home islands.

“Believing in America” should entail an embrace of the values on which it was founded: the idea that all humans are endowed with self-evident, inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But in Santorum’s twisted formulation, belief in America requires an embrace of its military footprint in multiple foreign nations, something he apparently regards as our “cause.” In other words, the problem isn’t just that Santorum has a naive, simplistic and woefully inadequate understanding of how empires rise and fall, it’s that he regards global domination as this nation’s proper object — as if we’re called to be a hegemon on a hill rather than a city.

 

By: Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic, January 3, 2012

January 4, 2012 Posted by | Foreign Policy, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Abbottabad: Bin Laden Couldn’t Have Picked A More Unlikely Place To Hide Out

The main Karakuram Highway leading into Abbottabad, Pakistan on Monday, May 2, 2011. Photo by Balkis Press/ABACAUSA.COM

It is a special irony that Osama bin Laden, who made his name as an enemy of Western imperialism real and imagined, hid and died in a town that is itself a model colonial outpost of the British Empire. Bin Laden may have dreamed of renewing a caliphate, but he was killed in a city founded by and still bearing the unmistakable imprint of the West.

Even in its name, Abbottabad sheds any pretense of local origins: it bears the name of the town’s founder, James Abbott, a British army officer who was assigned in 1849 the task of pacifying and governing the Hazare region of the Punjab province that had been annexed by the British Empire after the First Anglo-Sikh War. Abbotabad is today a medium-sized city of nearly one million people, but no urban enclave existed there at all until Abbott decided that it would be a strategic location for an administrative capital. 

In a broader geographic and historic context, Abbottabad is a particularly unlikely epicenter of the type of future caliphate bin Laden dreamed of founding. Lying as it does on the old Silk Road, the area has always cultivated contact with diverse outsiders — especially with those from points farther east. (Today, it sits along the Karakoram Highway, which links Pakistan with China through the Himalayas.) In some ways, its historic and religious ties with the Middle East are more tenuous than its historic commercial ties with East Asia and the Indian subcontinent. As an Arab, Bin Laden would have been a member of a vanishingly small minority in Abbottabad: Hindkowans, an ethnic group marked by its late conversion to Islam from Hinduism, comprise the majority of the area’s population.

Today, the characteristics that Pakistanis associate with Abbottabad underscore its unlikeliness as a place for an international fugitive to make his home. First, it is something of a tourist spot, attracting Pakistanis from around the country to enjoy its verdant and hilly surrounds, temperate climate, and nearby national parks. James Abbott himself developed a deep attachment to the area in his years of service there, composing a poem“Abbottabad” after returning to Britain, in which he paid tribute to its beauty. A selection:

I adored the place from the first sight
And was happy that my coming here was right

And eight good years here passed very soon
And we leave our perhaps on a sunny noon

Oh Abbottabad we are leaving you now
To your natural beauty do I bow

Perhaps your winds sound will never reach my ear
My gift for you is a few sad tears

I bid you farewell with a heavy heart
Never from my mind will your memories thwart

Abbottabad is also a garrison city for the Pakistani military, home to its most noted military academy. And it’s also a favored location for retired generals and army officers, many of whom have houses there. It is an unmistakable company town: Much of the area has been parceled and divided, to great profit, by the Pakistani Army — a force that was ostensibly hard at work in search of Bin Laden in partnership with the United States, from whom it derives much of its funding (at least $1 billion every yearsince 2005).  Washington will have many questions about how Bin Laden could have hidden undetected for so long in the midst of the Pakistani military’s administrative apparatus, less than 100 miles away from the seat of government in Islamabad.

That Bin Laden ultimately was killed in Abbottabad is perhaps a testimony to his myriad weaknesses in his latter days. The head of al Qaeda was more than a terrorist — he was a political figure who derived much of his power from religious symbolism. But his final home was not in an area with any particular pedigree as a launching point for global jihad. Abbottabad doesn’t share a border with Afghanistan, where Taliban forces are struggling to re-establish a theocracy; and it is utterly alien to whatever grievances the Muslim world harbors about Palestine. In the end, then, Osama bin Laden died not as an historic emir, but as a hidden fugitive, surrounded by Western influence and allies of the U.S. military — a man utterly reliant on luck, until it finally ran out.

By: Cameron Abadi, Associate Editor, Foreign Policy, May 2, 2011

May 2, 2011 Posted by | Ground Zero, Islam, Justice, Middle East, National Security, Terrorism | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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