Not long after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Francis Fukuyama declared the “End of History,” arguing that the U.S. victory in the Cold War signaled “the end-point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.” With the Soviet bloc no longer standing in their way, U.S. leaders set out to organize a new world order, turning the “bipolar” Cold War world into a unipolar Western world, with the U.S. at the helm.
Debates about the U.S. role in the world did not end with the fall of the Soviet Union, however.
After the invasion of Iraq, conservative British historian and advisor to John McCain’s 2008
presidential campaign, Niall Ferguson argued in his book Colossus that Americans needed accept the idea that America is, and always has been, an empire. Ferguson argued that despite denials by most Americans, a self-conscious American empire willing to occupy other places and engage in “nation building” for decades would be the best outcome. For Ferguson, this self-conscious American imperialism was far preferable to what he considers to be the blundering, half-hearted, and timid American operations overseas. This thinking informed John McCain’s 2008 election call to spend “100 years in Iraq” if necessary.
Others, such as political scientist Michael Parenti, articulated trenchant critiques of American empire. Not long before splitting with his former friend Bernie Sanders over the latter’s support for the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, Parenti wrote his 1995 work Against Empire.
For Parenti, imperialism was not a benign force but instead “the process whereby the dominant politico-economic interests of one nation expropriate for their own enrichment the
land, labor, raw materials, and markets of another people.” throughout the 20th century, and continuing into the 21st, the U.S. was the most pernicious imperial actor. Invasions, occupations, bombings, CIA-backed military coups, economic strangulation, sanctions, blockades, and covert operations defined U.S. policy towards the “Third World.” These actions, meant to serve the rapacious needs of U.S. capitalist expansion, were designed to keep Third World countries poor and destitute while their resources were plundered and extracted by transnational corporations and political elites, Democrat and Republican alike.
Throughout this course you have engaged with the overarching theme and empire and imperialism. From the top-down, you have read primary source documents from stateplanners orchestrating the growth of American power and plotting covert operations overseas.
From the bottom-up, you have read opponents of American empire who sought to form alliances with like-minded internationalist movements across the globe. Finally, you have read Vincent Bevin’s book The Jakarta Method: Washington’s Anticommunist Crusade & the Mass Murder Program that Shaped the World.
Is Vincent Bevin’s analysis of the U.S. in The Jakarta Method an accurate portrayal of the U.S. role in the world during the Cold War?
- What is Vincent Bevin’s main argument regarding the U.S. role in the world during the Cold War? What does he mean by “Washington’s Anticommunist Crusade & Mass Murder Program”?
- Explain the role of the U.S. in Indonesia during 1965. What happened in Indonesia, and what did it have to do with the U.S.? Give background and context. How does Indonesia fit in with Bevin’s main argument?
- Who were some of the main actors devising U.S. policy in the Third World during the Cold War?
- How do places in South America like Brazil and Chile fit in with Indonesia and the U.S.?
- In Bevin’s view, what are the 5 ways that the U.S. anticommunist mass murder program shaped the world?
- Do you find Bevin’s analysis of the U.S. role in the world during the 20th century convincing? Why or why not? Give specific examples
- What are some other historical examples from class, either readings or video material, that support or detract from Bevins’ argument?