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A Counter-hegemonic Political Project


Bhupinder Brar

MASKS OF EMPIRE
Edited by Achin Vanaik
Tulika Books, New Delhi, 2007, pp. xii 293, Rs. 595.00

VOLUME XXXI NUMBER 10 October 2007

Americans would have you believe that America is exceptional. Its aims are unlike those of lesser countries. Its foreign policy, for example, is rarely about pragmatic material interests. It is more of a mission, even a moral crusade. America fought the costly and consuming Cold War because the world had to be saved from the clutches of an ‘Evil Empire.’ As soon as the Empire fell and the Cold War ended, the Americans were ready to go home. They announced that History had ended happily and the promised Future had arrived: the world was now safe for flourishing markets and democracies. But, alas, as with men, so with nations: heroes can never breathe easy, and life has been no different for the Americans. In recent years, they have discovered to their complete dismay that many a new axis of evil have cropped up. And therefore once again, America must fight.   This is what America would want us to believe. Not all of us are convinced, however, and there are those who believe that such claims are nothing but a fraud sought to be played on a credulous world. Achin Vanaik, the editor of the volume under review, lists six so called ‘reasons’ which American policy-makers invariably offer for their aggressive, interventionist role in the post-Soviet world. All of these are couched in the language of necessity: only a global war against terrorism can save the world from its scourge, and only America can lead and guide that war; the world will not be safe so long as weapons of mass destruction are available to those who aid and abet terrorism, so these weapons must be eliminated; ‘failed’ states have become sanctuaries for those who wish to destabilize the world, therefore the US must do all it takes to contain these states; forcible humanitarian intervention is justified in the case of all those states where ethnic genocide or mass violence occurs; equally necessary and justified is forced regime change in countries where democracy is trampled upon; and, finally, there has to be a war on narcotics trade because this trade finances most sources of threat to world peace and democracy mentioned above. These six ‘reasons’ are subjected to threadbare examination in six chapters. Forming the most substantive part of the book, the chapters expose the inconsistency, opportunism and duplicity of American behaviour, establishing beyond doubt that Americans do not mean what ...


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