Where the World's Views of America Come into Focus
America is Not An Imperialist Power

Arab fears of U.S. imperialism began as a misunderstanding in the 1950s, and need not be compounded any longer.

By Fathi Abdul Ghani Hamed

March 15, 2005

Original Article (Arabic) Translation provided by    

The classification of America as an imperialist state is a mistake. Its own view of European colonization as a mistake shows that America is not England or France.

This error arose because America began its role as an international power as European colonization receded. It was the speed of this transition that blurred the differences and that has caused confusion in the mind's of America's critics. This is why Arabs have failed to differentiate between the Americans and Europeans.

Egypt was one of the countries under this misapprehension, because it was injured by British occupation for 72 years, and made to taste all the kinds of humiliation and disgrace. And Egypt went through a bitter and bloody struggle to remove the yoke occupation in the early 1950s. This made Egypt skittish of any outside control.

Then, [after World War II], America came into the region as a conqueror, but one willing to make deals with the region's leaders. But Egypt's leader, Gamal Abdel Nasser, believed that it was vital at that time for Egypt, as a regional power, to maintain its independence of action by participating in the extension of communism.

To fill the vacuum left after the withdrawal of the imperialist countries (Britain and France), and to prevent the Soviet Union from filling the void, U.S. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles began calling for the Baghdad Pact in 1952. [This was a U.S. peace plan for an association of nations in the region. Link is below.]


But Egypt, under Nasser's leadership, refused to enter into this alliance, not wanting to be under the American - or any other - sphere of influence.

Since it was unthinkable for Egypt to replace one occupation with another, or influence with influence, or control with control, this was certainly a natural reaction after the terrible suffering that Egypt and other countries in the region had endured.

Aside from this issue, John Foster Dulles' personal style compared unfavorably with the Soviet Union. Egypt was unused to his horse trading, pragmatic style. Egypt's leaders could not accept it at the time, drowned as it was in an idealistic and enthusiastic population of young men, who were nationalistic romantics, lacking experience.

Khrushchev [the Soviet Leader] understood this, and granted Egypt and the Arabs a high degree of respect and cordiality, which looked appealing compared to the arrogance of Dulles, who regarded the region's leaders as amateurs.

With their lack of experience as an independent nation, Egyptians felt that the Soviet Union was more accepting of their national aspirations.

And then the right-wing nation of Israel came into being, with David Ben-Gurion, in command of its armed forces, and then as prime minister. Disastrous events then followed.

The drama that unfolded [through the Cold War] and the resentment that accumulated through the years, culminating in the early 1990s, seemed to have proven the failure of left-wing politics, and the success of the right.

This is why America retains such a bad reputation, despite the fact that they themselves were victims of European colonization.

The United States has never been capable of understanding of Middle Eastern pride or its cultural symbols. But it was the fault of Middle Eastern leaders that they were incapable of making a pragmatic agreement on the handling of relations.

Despite their faults, the Americans, to a great extent, are pragmatists in their administration to their affairs.

A great misunderstanding has arisen between one party [the United States], and the other party [the Arab nations] because of Israel. This has increased mistrust and made things more complicated than they should have been. [The dispute over Israel] has increased hatred, and broadened to include nations and civilizations. The question now is: is there still time for us to sit together until each of us knows the other, and see the face of the other without masks and misunderstanding?

A mother would say it is not too late.

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