BY ZAMIRAH HUSSAIN — STAFF WRITER
Colonialism is defined as “the quality or state of being colonial; control by one power over a dependent area or people.” While this definition can easily be argued, it does provide a base for the much larger social concept of colonization.
The European colonial period often referred to as the “first wave of colonialism” started in the early 15th century to the mid-20th century. This first wave can be divided into very distinct time periods. First the “Age of Discovery” kicked off during the Renaissance and was led by Portuguese and Spanish exploration of the Americas, African coasts, and essentially the majority of non-European countries.
Then after the first era of decolonization started with the United States declaring independence, many of the European empires turned to the “Old World” or Africa, India, and South East Asia. The era of “New Imperialism” started after the industrial revolution of the 19th century and the “Scramble for Africa” occurred. It was not until the end of World War II did much of the East gain independence.
With the end of World War II, new superpower countries rose to take the place of the United Kingdom and France, who were recuperating from the wars. The United States emerged victorious from the war and after a bout of isolationism, there was a huge shift to being the new example. Naturally an opposing force also rose, and in this case, it was the Soviet Union who provided a perfect counterbalance to the idealized American democracy.
The Cold War was so much more than just a contentious showdown. It can be argued that it was in fact not a “cold” war and that many of the fights against Communism were in fact proxy wars and a direct accusation towards the Soviet Union. The Cold War provided the perfect opportunity for new superpowers to develop and overtake countries like the United Kingdom, France, and Germany.
It was during that time that the United States, the USSR/Russia, and the People’s Republic of China emerged as new “big three.” This is where the concept of neocolonialism comes into play. These three countries have used methods of interventionism for economic well-being and subsequently are participating in the “new” form of colonialism.
I have always associated colonialism with religion, money, and greed. Neocolonialism can be considered a blend of intervening in foreign affairs to better the economic success of the home country and its allies. I consider this way of thinking as very self-centered and transitory types of policy.
Out of the three countries, it can be argued that the United States has had and continuously has the most impact. It is difficult to pinpoint an exact starting point, but the very beginning of the 20th century seems appropriate as the Reconstruction after the Civil War had finally begun to die down with the election of President Rutherford B. Hayes.
Around 1910 to now the U.S. has been in a near-constant state of war. More importantly is who they were at war with. Many people don’t know that the US invaded and occupied Nicaragua, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic between the years 1912 to 1934.
The US was implementing a new concept into their foreign policy – interventionism. Under this concept, the United States would “intervene” in Central and South America, Korea, Vietnam, Somalia, and the entire Middle East.
I would argue that this same interventionism is the cause of many current foreign policy issues. For example, the U.S. involvement in the Soviet-Afghan War can be directly traced as the root of Islamic radical movements in the Afghani region.
The United States developed a type of espionage unseen of before the 20th century. The American government was actively influencing the policies and structures of foreign government’s while simultaneously denying involvement.
Many countries in South and Central America have weak economic and governmental systems due to the direct actions of the American government. For example, the Reagan administration actively backed the Contras, a collection of right-wing militant groups in Nicaragua, against the orders of Congress and to the dismay of the Nicaraguan people.
However, it wasn’t just dismay. The Contras were responsible for a slew of human rights violations that the American government actively supported. The Contras are just one example. The U.S. was also heavily involved in Chile, Cuba, Panama, Mexico, and other countries in the region.
American intervention in the Middle East could be detailed in a novel but I will only comment on the overarching themes. One of the most exemplary situations of negative American intervention was in 1979 when President Jimmy Carter launched Operation Cyclone. This operation was led by CIA agents and American forces in arming Afghani Mujahedeen to combat the USSR puppet government of Afghanistan. Those same Mujahedeen trained and inspired the soldiers that the U.S. fought against in the Gulf War of 1990. Presidents Carter and Reagan, in particular, continued this persistent interference.
I won’t disagree with the fact that some countries have benefitted by the U.S. helping to dispose of a dictator like in Panama in 1989, or helping to end the Iran-Iraq War. However, many of the countries that were once helped by the United States were left with a power vacuum that destabilized the country as a whole.
How can a dictator be disposed of with no solid replacement or reconstruction left to be set into motion?
That leads me to the final question about the United States: why get involved at all? I do not understand why the United States as a singular entity must be the “world police.” Why isn’t the government leaving international organizations to tackle these issues? Without help, the United States’ legacy as a neocolonial empire will be cemented.