The Persistence of Imperialism
Following World War II, the concrete nature of imperialism, or the subjection of people or groups based on a social, economical, or racial hierarchy, was seemingly in decline. For instance, India and Pakistan had both gained their independence from Britain in 1947 (p.761), and the French, though unwillingly, gave up their colonies in Vietnam (p.754), but with the development of the Cold War there became a need to ideologically separate the free “First World”, which was made up of western Europe and the United States, from the communist “Second World”, which was primarily made up by the Soviet Union. This separation unintentionally formed yet another hierarchy, and further perpetuated imperialistic notions. While the Soviets attempted to continue political imperialism in surrounding states to form a political and economic buffer from democratic nations, which due to globalization, or the mass integration of cultural and economic practices, would have been necessary to accomplish, many nations, such as the U.S., who subscribed to these democratic beliefs still counterintuitively practiced imperialism in their attempts to forcefully liberate communist nations based on the notion that their free way of life was superior to other’s communist status quo. Therefore, imperialism continued to surface through the dualist political line drawn by the Cold War, but also later through a need to stay competitive culturally and economically in a growing global community in states both subject to past colonizing nations, as well as the nations who relinquished their control over them.
Though the tensions, characterized by the Cold War, between the Soviet Union and the U.S. never escalated to direct violence between the communist and democratic super powers, there were numerous periphrastic feuds that occurred within nations that were once colonies such as Vietnam, that were financially supported by them. For these nations it was very much a “hot war” (Epstein, Lecture), for the differences in ideology did actualize into real conflict. The Vietnam War was a prime example of how the notion of a “liberating mission” was actually quite similar to past imperialistic doctrine.
During this time (1950 - 1968) the United States was undergoing an anticommunist movement headed by Wisconsin Senator, Joseph McCarthy (Tignor et al., p.770). One of the purposes of this movement was to inhibit the diffusion of communism to former colonial states such as south Vietnam, and was the primary reason the U.S. invaded Vietnam. Though the implicit imperial nature of the invasion eluded U.S. President Johnson, it was quite evident among the countries citizens and civil rights leaders, such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who noted this repetitious trend in American values for the past century.
In his “Beyond Vietnam” meeting at Riverside Church , New York, Dr. King took stance that the domestic problems the U.S. was facing was symptomatic...