Steve Martinot



The Cultural Roots of Interventionism in the U.S.

The author links U.S. foreign policy to the racialized nature of the American nation. He looks at the cultural roots of interventionism in the U.S. to explain the apparent institutional and popular support for military actions over two decades, from Grenada, Panama, and Kosovo to Afghanistan and Iraq in the wake of September 11, which initiated a period of “endless war.” Each action violated principles of democracy, sovereignty, and international law, but was carried out with impunity. For Martinot, the antiwar movement is mistaken to rely on arguments decrying such injustices, even if they are consistent with American traditions, because there is an overriding cultural ethic at work based in a consciousness of the U.S. not as a political entity, but as a racialized “white nation.” The author traces American nationalism from the initial desire to separate from England, through the defense of slavery after the Revolution, and into the phase of military interventions that accompanied colonial expansion. He concludes that U.S. interventionism has three structural elements that are homologous to corresponding elements of white racialized identity and white supremacy: an allegiance to itself as a messianic concern, a paranoia that reflects itself as an arbitrary denigration or criminalization (the dis-humanization of others as undemocratic or chaotic), and a reliance on gratuitous and self-justifying violence.

nationalism — United States; racism; slavery — United States; United States — foreign relations — Afghanistan; United States — military intervention; whiteness; whiteness studies

Citation: Social Justice Vol. 30, No. 1 (2003): 112-137