Critics allude to America as an imperial power, an international bully trying to exert its influence on weaker countries. Any attempt at settling an international conflict (as it must, being the only superpower) is viewed as advancing its own agenda of controlling the rest of the world and showing its territorial ambitions. America cannot do anything right in the eyes of its faultfinders. The mantra of an imperialistic America has been played over and over again.
Yet, if America wants to stay out of the fray the same critics are the first ones to criticize it for its apathy. President Bush caught a lot of flack for trying not to enter into controversial politics and internal matters of other countries when he first came into power. Then he was blamed for being an isolationist by the same group of people who now blame him for meddling too much in other's affairs. Damned if you do, and damned if you don't!
Its past mistakes are often quoted as proof of America's ambitions. After all, C. I. A. helped mastermind the downfall of democratically elected governments in the past. Both in Chile and in Iran they supplanted elected governments and replaced them with totalitarian regimes. However, these actions were in the post second world war period, when both Soviet Union and America were fighting for superiority. Fear of communism and prevention of communist ideology was a priority for America. Even a dictator was better than a communist. This cold war lasted too long and influenced the policy of this bastion of democracy in a corrupt way.
But does America yearn to control the weak and the vulnerable now? Is its stance against the tyranny of Saddam Hussein and other nations of axis of evil in the aftermath of WTC disaster justified? The critics will never change their opinion about America but sane, thinking people surely do not believe America will attack anyone with the intention of gaining real estate. However the perception lingers. More than foreigners, it is the Americans on the left, who are on the drumbeat blaming America for meddling in other countries!
Post Vietnam America has proved over and over again that it does not intend to occupy another country even after liberating it. The first Gulf war was an opportunity to oust Saddam Hussein and establish control over his oil fields. In order not to tip the balance of the delicate geo-political situation, it did not do so. Other examples like Granada and Haiti also come to mind. Then in Bosnia and Serbia, the intention of America was only to alleviate suffering of the people and put an end to ethnic cleansing of minority Muslim population. Now in Afghanistan, despite all the rhetoric, Americans have liberated oppressed people suffering in the hands of a bunch of medieval mullahs terrorizing their own citizens. The government that replaced the tyrants is democratically elected. Unlike the Soviet Union two decades ago, America is not an occupying force in Afghanistan. If American presence in Afghanistan is not seen, the country will soon revert back to its old ways as it lacks infrastructure and most tribal people are beholden to few irrational fanatical leaders. Bush ironically did not support the business of nation building in the past, but that is exactly what is needed there if an encore is to be avoided. There is no imperialism here. King George II is not going to take over the world!
When America went hunting for al-Qeida in Afghanistan no one accused that it had imperialistic ideas. After all Afghanistan is a desolate country with no resources. Terrorism was its best export. (It is still a wonder to me why Soviet Union was interested in Afghanistan other than pure territorial ambitions for the sake of acquiring land.) But Iraq is a different situation. If an invasion occurs, it is imperative that stability in the country be established before handing it over to the people who have been liberated. The shell-shocked people of Iraq may not be ready to assume power immediately following Mr. Hussein's departure (or demise). Iraq is an oil rich country and America will have to deflect criticism that it is after Iraq's oil wells. The same critics who blamed America for the rise of terrorism in Afghanistan after it helped the Mujahuddin drive the Soviet occupants - saying it abandoned Afghanistan after the defeat of Soviets - will blame America for staying in Iraq to help in its transition to a civilian government.
That brings us to two conflicts that never seem to end i.e. the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Kashmir issue. Palestinians need their own homeland and Israelis need security. As soon as both sides realize this, peace can be achieved. It is doubtful if the current leaders (Sharon and Arafat) will be able to come to any kind of agreement. Israel's bellicose stance is offensive to Palestinians. On the other hand Palestinians are infested with terrorist groups that answer to no single authority. Their only aim is annihilation of Israel. America has historically sided with Israel but it still should try to create an atmosphere that is conducive for negotiations, once different leaders are chosen by both sides. Nonetheless, it is impossible to appear to be impartial in the region, as America has unequivocally supported Israel for the past five decades.
Kashmir is as difficult an issue to solve. World attention is not on Kashmir and terrorism has gone on there unabated for a decade, until September 11. The death toll is higher in Kashmir than any other current conflict (including Israel and the West Bank) for the last decade. Perhaps a fair division of the state of Kashmir (as it is already divided along the line of control ' LOC) is the best solution. America can only play a secondary role here. It has to keep the pressure on Pakistan to stop cross border terrorism. If America gets involved in a more aggressive manner in settling Kashmir issue, it is bound to make two more enemies ' India and Pakistan.
North Korea on the other hand is a rehash of the old problem that never really went away since the 1970's, when it began its clandestine nuclear program. America is being baited to come to the table (again) to chart out another appeasement agreement, under the threat of nuclear attack of South Korea and Japan. China - North's closest neighbor - does not seem to be bothered and is helping it procure material to make the atomic bomb! In 1994 Clinton administration made a hasty deal with North Koreans to shove the problem under the rug. North took the money and aid given by South Korea (4.5 billion dollars) and fuel by USA (for generation of electricity in nuclear power plants) and continued to build its nuclear program (enriching weapons grade uranium), while the administration looked the other way. Now North Koreans are caught and had to admit that they were pursuing nuclear program all these years (after initially denying it). Jimmy Carter even received a Nobel Prize for his efforts in thwarting a problem in the Korean peninsula and preventing the North from going ahead with their nuclear program. Unfortunately, the Nobel Prize once given cannot be taken away. (However, Carter deserved his Nobel Prize for all his cumulative efforts at global peace). North Korea is citing the imperialistic ambitions of America as its reasons for resuming the threat of nuclear proliferation.
No one is talking about attacking North Korea militarily as they already have a bomb. It has successfully blackmailed the civilized world, consistently to its advantage. In fact, that is the mainstay of its foreign policy. The case in point is that Saddam Hussein needs to be disarmed before he gets his bomb. Clinton administration had North Korea build a bomb under its nose (and watch) and let Hussein off the hook when the inspectors were withdrawn from Iraq in 1998. But still Clinton's goons are trying to rewrite history and blame Bush for his foreign policy!
When a Republican is in the White House, talks about imperialism and territorial ambitions emerge. This despite the fact that for more than one hundred years America has not shown any inclination to expand its borders or to own foreign land. In Iraq the president is blamed for taking unilateral actions without the consultation of the world body, namely the U.N. But in North Korea the same world body is silent, wanting America to solve the problem unilaterally!
America is a generous country and its people are the most benevolent. Every conflict it has to solve either by diplomacy or by military action costs an enormous amount of taxpayer money. The largesse and altruism of America has been misused and misunderstood by the rest of the world. Some countries behave like the proverbial rebellious teenagers. They expect monitory support but do not want to follow the rules. While accepting aid they complain that the help has come with American strings attached to it.
America does not have an inexhaustible pot of wealth to spread around the world. There are instances when America can least afford it. Yet, in the name of bringing order to the world and to protect its citizens, it has taken bold steps in the past and will have to do so in the future. Free Europe owes America its freedom (which they seem to have forgotten conveniently). Even the Mad Man of the East, Kim Jong Il is feeding his people from the food given to him by Americans, despite his saber rattling and nuclear threats! When the flow of money stops everything is forgotten and the great benefactor becomes the great Satan.
As a superpower America is inevitably drawn into conflicts around the world. The possibility of spread of terrorism and nuclear weapons has made it imperative that it become more active in pursuing the criminal states. We know the prime target of terrorism is American interest and its citizens. Hence it is the duty of the American president to protect her citizens, even if it means pre-emptive strikes against rogue countries. The rest of the world, who are not the targets of terrorists, will always complain about American actions.
Law and order can be achieved in the world only by show of strength. Most American presidents understood this a long time ago. George Washington once said, 'To be prepared for war is the most effective way of preserving the peace.' Reagan also knew this well as he insisted on bargaining in a position of strength that eventually led to the dismantling of the Soviet Empire.
Protect its citizens America must, by all means, but territorial ambitions and imperialism ' those days are long gone.