Imperialism, Theirs and Ours

Below is a conversation about imperialism, US and Pakistani, and my note about it.

  1. mehreenkasana
    While it is commendable that there is an upcoming documentary (The Invisible War) to highlight the sexual abuse female US soldiers suffer >>

    Sat, Jun 09 2012 13:00:28
  2. mehreenkasana
    by their very own American male counterparts, I doubt anyone will make a documentary on the Afghan, Iraqi and/or invaded >>

    Sat, Jun 09 2012 13:00:55
  3. mehreenkasana
    country victims of rape by US soldiers. And that hypocrisy or censorship of US military abuse on other civilians is what unsettles me.

    Sat, Jun 09 2012 13:01:23
  4. kaalakawaa
    @mehreenkasana While I’m all for docus exposing US excesses, I primarily wish we’d make one abt sexual assaults in 1971 by PK soldiers.

    Sat, Jun 09 2012 13:06:55
  5. kaalakawaa
    @mehreenkasana Yes, Empire is a terrible thing. But Empire is something PK aspires towards too. I’m far more concerned of our own excesses.

    Sat, Jun 09 2012 13:07:53
  6. mehreenkasana
    Agreed. @salmaan_H and I shared posts on ’71’s brutality. Rumor has it that a certain HR activist is making a documentary too. @kaalakawaa

    Sat, Jun 09 2012 13:08:27
  7. mehreenkasana
    @kaalakawaa Never disagreed. My criticism against US military abuse is never endorsement of PK force’s state-endorsed excessive violations.

    Sat, Jun 09 2012 13:10:43
  8. kaalakawaa
    @mehreenkasana Yes, but continued anger at US imperialism, while justified, come at the cost of anger at PK’s motives for empire.

    Sat, Jun 09 2012 13:12:04
  9. kaalakawaa
    @mehreenkasana The awful ‘strategic depth’ argument is in essence imperialistic and one that we have not discarded even now.

    Sat, Jun 09 2012 13:12:48
  10. kaalakawaa
    @mehreenkasana In reality the ‘strategic depth’ argument argues for a PK ‘sphere of influence’ that extends over all of Central Asia.

    Sat, Jun 09 2012 13:13:44
  11. mehreenkasana
    @kaalakawaa Agreed. That said, an equal and consistent criticism against *both* is essential to question either’s megalomaniac urges.

    Sat, Jun 09 2012 13:18:57

What Fanon and Cesaire required of their own partisans, even during the heat of struggle, was to abandon fixed ideas of settled identity and culturally authorized definition. Become different, they said, in order that your fate as colonized peoples can be different; this is why nationalism, for all its obvious necessity, is also the enemy.

Edward Said, Representing the Colonized: Anthropology’s Interlocutors

Imperialism takes varying and distinct forms in different places or colonies. At home it creates/shapes nation/nationalism as its anchor, and (eventually) in the colony as a reaction. In both cases, nationalism is the bastard child of empire. For the colonized, it was perhaps an anti-imperial necessity. Inter-national politics in the post-colonial era is still, however, formulated within the imperial field. If we were “strong,” the logic goes, we wouldn’t have been colonized in the first place, and so, we need to be “strong” and big to fight hegemonic designs of regional and global powers. In short, fight empire with empire.

Something of this convergence of these imperialisms can be seen in Pakistan’s “strategic depth” paradigm, a fantasy emerging within the context of Cold War super-power confrontation. The Pakistani state took the opportunity to expand, in imperialist terminology, its “sphere of influence.” As Eqbal Ahmad writes:

The attainment of “strategic depth” has been a prime objective of Pakistan’s Afghan policy since the days of General Ziaul Haq. In recent years the Taliban replaced Gulbadin Hikmatyar as the instrument of its attainment. Their latest victories, specially their capture of Mazar Sharif, the nerve centre of northern Afghanistan, brings the Pakistani quest close to fulfillment if, that is, such a thing as “strategic depth” does exist in the real world. … The Soviet intervention in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s support of the anti-communist Mujahideen ended Islamabad’s hostile relations with Kabul, and rendered its influence dominant over Afghanistan. Pakistan has misused this gain to its detriment. Its Afghan policy — the quest for a mirage mis-named “strategic depth” — has deeply alienated trusty old allies while closing the door to new friendships. Its national security managers have in fact squandered historic opportunities and produced a new set of problems for Pakistan’s security. … Policy-makers in Islamabad assume that a Taliban-dominated government in Kabul will be permanently friendly towards Pakistan. The notion of strategic depth is founded on this presumption.

A decolonizing force, nation-state is ultimately a mini-replica of the beast. As a hegemonic system, it is a foe to be fought. National politics may provide some relief, but solidarity and criticism needs to be formed above the nation and below it. Critique should not be against “both” nation as/and empire in a horizontal sense, as if the violence of/within the two forms is somehow disconnected and separate, but in a holistic manner, eschewing the analytic walls erected by them. We are complicit in, tied up with, and trampled on by both.

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2 Responses to Imperialism, Theirs and Ours

  1. Reblogged this on Mehreen Kasana and commented:
    Thank you for curating that very brief but important exchange of thoughts between me and KK. Highly important that we, as a post-colonial nation fighting against imperialism, realize the subtle difference between resisting imperialism and terrorizing others.

    More to show up in this place so stay tuned, my ever faithful and intelligent readers. It’s always good to interact with you all and I assure you I will be regular very soon. Till then, take care.

  2. waqarrizvi says:

    Reblogged this on Umeed (Hope) and commented:

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