Obama As Anti-Colonialist … Again

by Zack Beauchamp

Lee Smith apes Dinesh D'Souza, but wants you to know he thinks D'Souza is kinda nuts:

Perhaps, as some right-wing critics claim, Obama’s policy is the product of something worse, or more sinister, like a blueprint to weaken America on behalf of its enemies? Except this doesn’t fly either. Obama’s no Manchurian candidate, brainwashed by U.S. enemies during his schooldays in Indonesia to ruin the country. Instead, what all these theories miss is that Obama is simply a representative man of the post-World War II American Ivy League intelligentsia, which came to see the United States in a context shaped by the collapse of the European colonial empires under the weight of greed and barbarity.

So it's not Kenyan anti-colonialism, just Ivy League anti-colonialism.  I see.  So what distinguishes this variant?

Anti-colonialism was the motor driving the Middle East policy of the American warrior who won Europe, Dwight D. Eisenhower, whose administration wished to make friends in the region by distinguishing itself from the great European powers and showing that Washington had no colonial ambitions. Ike put that premise into practice when he demanded England, France, and Israel stand down after invading Egypt in the Suez Crisis of 1956. Obama seems to understand the world similarly—the established order is wrong for us and wrong for the people of the region, morally and politically.

Obama may also reasonably believe that a United States in the grips of a financial crisis simply doesn’t have the money to meddle in the Middle East anymore. This country gets less than 25 percent of its energy resources from the Persian Gulf, so why should it be up to us to make sure that affordable oil transits the region? Let China, India, and Europe share the burden. Combine a bad U.S. economy, American exhaustion with our post-Sept. 11 commitments in the Middle East, and the nostalgic logic of decolonization and you can, finally, understand the origins of Obama’s regional policy.

As far as I understand this bit, Obama is motivated principally by anti-colonialism because he thinks "the established order" in the Middle East is immoral, just like Ike did.  But that elides a crucial distinction between now and Eisenhower's time: there ain't no more colonies in the Middle East.

Anti-colonialism doesn't just mean opposition to the status quo: it means opposition to colonialism.   I suppose a political philosopher could make the case that authoritarianism is a form of colonialism in that both are denials of self-determination, but a) that'd be a weak case and b) Smith doesn't do that.  Surely George W. Bush, who both famously despised the anti-democratic Middle East status quo and also attended an Ivy League institution, wasn't motivated by anti-colonialism.   So what makes Obama different?

A lot seems to rest on Smith's contention that Obama has "delusional nostalgia" for post-WWII anti-colonialism, but Smith doesn't cite any statements from Obama that he sees Ike as the inspiration for his view on the Middle East.  And as for Smith's actual analysis of the state of the Middle East and the effect of Obama's policies, well…let's just say I don't anticipate Israel being worried enough about U.S. aid to look for "other allies who will maintain the continuing supply of high-tech weapons" anytime soon.