Ghosts of Empire: Reducing the Specter of Imperialism in Modern Stability Operations   [open pdf - 544KB]

"During the colonial era, the empires of Europe (and the United States to a lesser extent) covered the vast majority of the world's territory. These great powers reshaped their colonies to reflect their own political and cultural images, which has deeply impacted the psyche of today's developing world. Partly due to this legacy, the populations of former colonies as well as international commentators often charge that modern stability operations are simply manifestations of 'neo-imperialism'. While it may be impossible to completely quash the specter of imperialism, the United States must take steps to avoid inducing imperial déjà vu with its stability operations. It is first important to understand the roots of the oft-made comparison between imperial adventures and modern stability operations. What are the commonalities? In what ways do they differ? Some military scholars such as Steven Metz downplay the value of studying imperialism to improve modern stability operations; but, this fails to recognize that today's perceptions are largely shaped by the experiences of the past. Consequently, imperialism has created a number of challenges for the United States such as leaving an inherent distrust of Western motives in former colonies. This article argues that the U.S. government (USG) can mitigate the specter of imperialism by reshaping key aspects of its planning and implementation process. In particular, the USG should partner with developing countries, provide a credible guarantee of withdrawal, and work more prudently to build indigenous governing capacity. Also, policymakers must strengthen civilian capacity to carry out the non-security components of operations as well as incorporate indigenous socio-political structures into institution building efforts."

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