The myth of the American frontier valorizes death and atrocity – this makes savage war an act of American heroism and drives the United States to the extremes of total obliteration Slotkin 85 [Richard Slotkin, Olin Professor of American Studies @ Wesleyan, The Fatal Environment, p. 60-61]
This ideology of savage war has become an essential trope of our mythologization of history, a cliché of political discourse especially inwartime. In the 1890s imperialists like Theodore Roosevelt rationalized draconian military measures against the Filipinos by comparing them to Apaches. Samuel Eliot Morison, in his multivolume history of naval operationsin the Second World War, recounts the posting of this slogan at fleet headquarters in the South Pacific: “KILL JAPS, KILL JAPS, KILL MORE JAPS!” Suspecting that peacetime readers may find the sentiment unacceptably extreme, Morison offers the following rationale; This may shock you, reader; but it is exactly how we felt. We were fighting no civilized, knightly war . . . We were back to primitive days of fighting Indians on the American frontier; no holds barred and no quarter. The Japs wanted it that way, thought they could thus terrify an “effete democracy”; and that is what they got, with the additional horrors of war that modern science can produce.17 It is possible that the last sentence is an oblique reference to the use of the atomic bomb at the war’s end. But aside from that, Morison seems actually to overstate the extraordinary character of the counterviolence against the Japanese (we did, after all, grant quarter) in order to rationalize the strength of his sentiments. Note too the dramatization of the conflict as a vindication of our cultural masculinity against the accusations of “effeteness.” The trope of savage war thus enriches the symbolic meaning of specific acts of war, transforming them into episodes of character building, moral vindication, and regeneration. At the same time it provides advance justification for a pressing of the war to the extreme point of extermination, “war without quarter”: and it puts the moral responsibility for that outcome on the enemy, which is to say, on its predicted victims. As we analyze the structure and meaning of this mythology of violence, it is important that we keep in mind the distinction between the myth and the real-world situations and practices to which it refers. Mythology reproduces the world with its significances heightened beyond normal measure, so that the smallest actions are heavy with cosmic significances, and every conflict appears to press toward ultimate fatalities and final solutions. The American mythology of violence continually invokes the prospect of genocidal warfare and apocalyptic, world-destroying massacres; and there is enough violence in the history of the Indian wars, the slave trade, the labor/management strife of industrialization, the crimes and riots of our chaotic urbanization, and our wars against nationalist and Communist insurgencies in Asia and Latin America to justify many critics in the belief that America is an exceptionally violence society.
Colonlialism is bad, I don’t think I need to explain more.
(James Thuo. Associate Dean for Research and Scholarship; Governor George E. Pataki Professor of International Commercial Law. Neoliberalism, Colonialism and International Governance: Decentering the International Law of Governmental Legitimacy. Michigan Law Review, Vol. 98, No. 6, 2000 Survey of Books Related to the Law, pp. 1996-2055. The Michigan Law Review Association. Accessed: 6/24/11. EL) In my view, colonialism, like liberal democracy and free markets, is in one way or another embodied in the institutional, polemic, and political projects of which the various rules of international law are part. Here, I differ from Roth, who sees colonialism as an exceptional case of illegitimacy. Instead of understanding colonialism as extinct or even exceptional, I argue that debates on legitimacy cannot be seen outside the dynamics of identity, power, wealth, and inequality at the international level. Colonialism has signified and continues to signify the manner in which ideologies based on racial and cultural differences legitimated expropriation, conquest, conversion, and outcomes such as Slavery Governmental Illegitimacy does not fall into nineteenth-century racism and in fact criticizes liberal internationalists for embracing a view of democracy that is liberal and Western in its outlook in a pluralistic society of nations. Yet, this celebration of pluralism could be broader.First, it could be mobilized to delegitimize the uncritical liberal ambition that is shared even in non-Western societies, to the effect of establishing that people are necessarily the repositories of governmental power without a concurrent examination of the quality of governance. Second, and more importantly for this part of the Review, Roth's analysis could have argued that pretensions of universality in the norms of international law have historically been promoted by colonizing and dominant countries. This universalism presupposes that there are primitive societies that fall below the so-called great civilizations of the West. International law has deployed cultural and racial stereotypes in delegitimating societies outside the West because they fell below conceptions of the state whose standards are naturally and necessarily assumed to be those of the so-called great Western civilizations. In other words, Roth's acknowledgement of pluralism in international society does not extend to acknowledging that non-Western societies can legitimately organize their own societies on the basis of their own civic and political virtue - without any interpretation of their legitimacy by outsiders. Roth acknowledges cultural pluralism, but this cannot be equated with the ethical pluralism that flows from the various cultures of the world. While these cultures are not self-contained, Roth simply wants to predicate legitimacy of governments on a Western state denominator - effective control of the population.