Yes, Ilhan Omar sometimes gets unfair criticism. Still, her comments on Western imperialism are absurd.
Standing alongside Bernie Sanders this weekend, Omar observed, "I am beyond honored and excited for a president who will fight against Western imperialism and fight for a just world."
What on Earth is Omar talking about? Western imperialism is dead and buried in 2019, and it has been so since the Suez Crisis of 1956.
Whatever you think about the rights and wrongs of the 2003 invasion of Iraq or the retention of U.S. forces in eastern Syria, those actions did not involve the theft of resources, nor did they impose viceroys on oppressed peoples. Indeed, as evidenced by protests in Iraq and Lebanon, the only imperialists on the march right now are the Iranian imperialists, the ones primarily responsible for those nations' present misery.
My gripe with Omar here goes beyond questions of history. In linking opposition to Western foreign policy to the arrival of "a just world," Omar suggests that the West is the main obstacle to a better world. This laughable idea is central to a broader philosophy of the Western far-left, which sees Western foreign policy as something centered on the theft of resources and rights from foreigners.
This idea of a new Western "imperialism" and "colonialism" assumes Westerners are taking what is not ours and using it for ourselves. British far-left writer George Monbiot recently described how Western "colonialism is a great big vacuum cleaner which sucks wealth out of other parts of the world and concentrates it in the imperial center."
Columnist Paul Bedard on the expanded Washington Examiner magazine
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Really? Take a step back and look at the data. America, which the Western far-left regards as the great Satan of imperialism, purchased and imported $621 billion more from Asia last year than it exported. U.S. trade with Sub-Saharan Africa also produces a net outflow of American capital to the poorest nations on Earth. This trade helps explain why poverty in those nations has been massively reduced since the turn of the millennium. It's precisely why Communist China saw such dramatic rises in living standards. The death of Chairman Mao and the abandonment of socialist ideas resulted in the opening of China's economy to the Western capitalist model of free (or freer) trade. This has enabled poorer peoples to make and sell goods to Western consumers, enriching themselves in the process.
The obvious moral takeaway is thus the exact opposite of what Omar claims. The West is empowering and enriching humanity, not stealing from it.
That speaks to the final problem with Omar's argument: its contention that the Western structure of the international order is broadly negative for the world. Again, Omar couldn't be more wrong.
Absent patrolling actions by the U.S. military and its allies in defense of that international order, poorer nations would lack the means to trade and engage with the world on mutually beneficial terms. Instead, they would find themselves blackmailed by crony capitalist regimes such as that of Russia, or made subjects to the feudal mercantilist behemoth that China is trying to become.
U.S. Navy patrols through the South China Sea and U.S. Air Force and Army units in Eastern Europe are vital to the security of an economic order that has already made poor people richer all across the world.
Put simply, the Western order is just, and it has demonstrably improved the lives of peoples across the world. Here, at least, Ilhan Omar has got it totally wrong.