Professor Sees War as Modern Imperialism

The Register Guard (Eugene, OR), January 14, 2004 | Go to article overview

Professor Sees War as Modern Imperialism


Byline: Greg Bolt The Register-Guard

America's invasion of Iraq is not part of a war on terror but the final stages of a centurylong pursuit of economic empire, according to a noted professor of political geography who will deliver a keynote lecture Thursday evening in Eugene.

Neil Smith, a distinguished professor at the City University of New York Graduate Center, sees America's involvement in the two world wars and now its incursions into Afghanistan and Iraq as part of an evolving imperialism aimed not at acquiring territory but dominating the world economy. But he said there are signs that America's reach is exceeding its leaders' grasp.

"This is not a war against terrorism," he said in a telephone interview. "It's the end game of globalization, and they're not doing very well at it."

Smith is this year's holder of the Wayne Morse Chair at the University of Oregon. He will deliver a free public lecture titled "Lost Geographies and Failed Globalizations: From Versailles to Iraq" at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Hilton Conference Center.

Sponsored by the UO's Wayne Morse Center for Law and Politics, Smith's visit to the university is part of the center's two-year look at "The Changing Geopolitical Order: Implications for Peace and Stability."

Smith sees the current state of world politics and economics from a liberal perspective, arguing that the United States and other world economic powers are pursuing a goal of opening up all of the developing world to commercial exploitation, with American corporations at the head of the line. And he believes Americans have a responsibility to challenge "this new and dangerous American imperialism."

"It makes sense to see American power as constituting an empire," he said. "It is an empire, an empire that is run first and foremost through the global economy rather than through geographical, territorial occupation of land. It is not colonialism in the proper sense, but it is a form of imperialism that involves economic domination."

Smith said America's efforts during and after the first two world wars amounted to failed globalizations and calls the war in Iraq part of its third push to control the world economy. But where the United States did not instigate the world wars and entered only after hostilities had begun, it was the aggressor in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

He dismisses the hunt for Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein's alleged weapons of mass destruction as credible reasons for the invasions. What he says is frightening is that America and its allies are prepared to engage in war to secure geo-economic goals.

"I think the danger is that what you have here is a group of people - not just (President George) Bush but including (British Prime Minister Tony) Blair and the British administration, who are prepared to be quite ruthless in the name of economic domination," Smith said.

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