“Unlimited Imperialism”

Civil resistance against war across America


In the wake of the stunning victory for international law, the United States Constitution, and the laws of war by producing the mistrial for Lt. Watada came the 5 February 2007 launch of a massive campaign of civil resistance by the Occupation Project initiated by the Voices for Creative Non-violence under the leadership of the long-time civil resister and repeated Nobel Peace Prize nominee Kathy Kelly of Chicago.[1] On 21 and 22 February 2007 members of the Occupation Project occupied the home offices of members of the U.S. Congress in Toledo Ohio, Portland Maine, Denver Colorado, Charlottesville Virginia, Seattle Washington, Medford Massachusetts, Madison Wisconsin, and Chicago Illinois in order to obtain from their respective Senators and Congress people a vote against President Bush Jr.’s supplementary budget request of $93 billion to fund its wars of aggression against Iraq and Afghanistan.

Widespread arrests occurred in Fairbanks Alaska , Chicago Illinois , Toledo Ohio , Portland Oregon , and St. Louis Missouri . This was on top of affiliated civil resistance activities conducted by the Veterans for Peace in Missouri at U.S. congressional offices that resulted in over 25 arrests in the preceding month alone.[2] These organized, systematic, and nationwide civil resistance activities and arrests are the harbinger of a massive campaign of national civil resistance directed against the Bush Jr. administration’s wars of aggression against Iraq and Afghanistan as well as against its self-styled global war on terrorism (GWOT).

Historically, this latest eruption of American militarism at the start of the 21st Century is akin to that of its opening the 20th Century by means of the U.S.-instigated Spanish-American War in 1898. Then the Republican William McKinley administration stole their colonial empire from Spain in Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines; inflicted a near genocidal war against the Filipino people; while at the same time illegally annexing the Kingdom of Hawaii and subjecting the Native Hawaiian people (who call themselves the Kanaka Maoli) to near genocidal conditions.

Today by exploiting the terrible tragedy of 11 September 2001, the Republican Bush Jr. administration has set forth to steal a hydrocarbon empire from the Muslim states and peoples living in Central Asia and the Persian Gulf under the bogus pretexts of (1) fighting a war against international terrorism; and/or (2) eliminating weapons of mass destruction; and/or (3) the promotion of democracy. Only this time the geopolitical stakes are infinitely greater than they were a century ago: control and domination of two-thirds of the world’s hydrocarbon resources. The Bush Jr. administration has already targeted the remaining hydrocarbon resources of Africa, Latin America, and Southeast Asia for further conquest.

This current bout of U.S. imperialism is what the late, great Hans Morgenthau denominated “unlimited imperialism” in his seminal work Politics Among Nations:

The outstanding historic examples of unlimited imperialism are the expansionist policies of Alexander the Great, Rome , the Arabs in the seventh and eighth centuries, Napoleon I, and Hitler. They all have in common an urge toward expansion which knows no rational limits, feeds on its own successes and, if not stopped by a superior force, will go on to the confines of the political world. This urge will not be satisfied so long as there remains anywhere a possible object of domination–a politically organized group of men which by its very independence challenges the conqueror’s lust for power. It is, as we shall see, exactly the lack of moderation, the aspiration to conquer all that lends itself to conquest, characteristic of unlimited imperialism, which in the past has been the undoing of the imperialistic policies of this kind. The only exception is Rome , for reasons that will be discussed later.[3]

In this regard, on 10 November 1979 I visited with Hans Morgenthau at his home in Manhattan . It was our last conversation before he died on 19 July 1980. At the end, I asked him what he thought about the future of international relations. He responded:

“Future, what future? I am extremely pessimistic. In my opinion the world is moving ineluctably towards a third world war—a strategic nuclear war. I do not believe that anything can be done to prevent it. The international system is simply too unstable to survive for long. The SALT II Treaty is important for the present, but over the long haul it cannot stop the momentum. Fortunately, I do not believe that I will live to see that day. But I am afraid you might.”[4]

The factual circumstances surrounding the outbreaks of both the First World War and the Second World War currently hover like the Sword of Damocles over the heads of all humanity. The only hope we have to prevent World War III and a Nuclear Holocaust is civil resistance.


[1] Rebecca Harris, The Occupation Project Begins, In These Times, Feb. 26, 2007.

[2] Institute for Public Accuracy, Arrests at Congressional Offices, Press Release, Feb. 22, 2007.

[3] Hans J. Morgenthau, Politics Among Nations 52-53 (4th ed. 1968).

[4] Francis A. Boyle, World Politics and International Law 73 (1985).

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Articles by: Francis A. Boyle

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