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October 10, 2013
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In 1920, the American historian Theodore Lothrop Stoddard published his famous work ” The Rising Tide of Colour Against White World Supremacy“. The book is notable today for its frank discussion of the central role that racism played in geopolitics; especially in the context of the Western imperial project in Asia and Africa. In it Stoddard wrote:
“The brown world, like the yellow world, is today in acute reaction against white supremacy … when faced by non-white opposition, white men have in the past instinctively tended to close their ranks against the common foe …. Future generations have a right to demand of us that they shall be born white in a white man’s land.”
While we rightly recoil today from the crude racial categorisations espoused by Stoddard, during his time, such views were extremely popular and were openly echoed at the highest echelons of political power. President Woodrow Wilson argued to his cabinet in 1917 that the United States must ” keep the white race strong against the yellow” and that “white civilisation and its domination of the planet rested largely on our ability to keep this country intact”.
Going further, President Theodore Roosevelt openly discussed the benefits of ” the expansion of the peoples of white, European, blood during the past four centuries” and stated that in his view: “democracy needs no more complete vindication for its existence than the fact that it has kept for the white race the best portion of the new world’s surface”.
That such men were committed military imperialists flowed naturally from their worldview; one in which the races of the world were organised into a clear hierarchy and where it was their prerogative to brutally subjugate all others.
While it has become impolitic to publicly express the same views today, contemporary events suggest that just beneath the surface the same impulses motivate many supposedly rational advocates of military action against “the brown world” in our own era.
Of Persian snake charmers
Where Roosevelt and Wilson inflicted the brunt of their violence on the peoples of Asia and on the “coloured” populations of their own nation, their modern heirs have in recent years directed their own state violence overwhelmingly against the peoples and nations of the Middle East.
The neoconservative hawks who were the architects of Iraq’s destruction – apparently unfazed by their ghoulish record in this regard – have in recent years set their sights on the nation of Iran as their next target. To this end, crippling sanctions – designed to literally ” take the food out of the Iranian peoples’ mouths” – have been implemented in an effort to inflict maximum suffering on the civilian population and to generate favourable conditions for another war. Disregard for the basic humanity of the many Iranians who will die in the course of such policies is a necessary accomplice to this project.
However, in recent weeks it would seem that a major setback has occurred to the neoconservative plan for another US war. A new Iranian government – conciliatory in its tone where its predecessor was shamelessly provocative – has come to power with the stated intention of reaching peaceful detente with the United States. Such a development necessarily makes the possibility of war more remote, and, to the chagrin of the neoconservatives, these overtures appear to have been cautiously welcomed by the administration of President Barack Obama.
With their prized new war seemingly snatched from their grasp, it has been remarkable to watch the vast tantrum of anger and indignation among some hawks, in which the same racist beliefs which characterised past imperialism have bubbled back to the surface with remarkable speed.