Richter Scale

Dateline America: What’s So Horrible About Being Anti-Colonialist?

Is President Obama really an anti-colonialist, as Dinesh D’Souza argues? And so what if he is?


  • Once again, a broad-based debate about the historic record of colonialism, especially in its British provenance, is being postponed.
  • Mr. D'Souza presents an argument of "policymaking by genetic predisposition," since the 44th U.S. president never lived with his absentee father.
  • Mr. D'Souza fails to note that the Tea Party is in many ways refreshingly anti-colonialist.

The independence of the United States was won after a bloody fight with a colonial oppressor, Britain's King George III. And I thought most of his loyalists had gone up to Canada, a country that — despite its vast progress since — maintains a close affiliation with the British crown.

Evidently, in the age of Obama, all such historical truths are suddenly irrelevant. That at least is the proposition advanced by Dinesh D’Souza, a New York-based writer with immigrant roots who is much favored by arch conservatives.

While his original thesis on the cover of Forbes magazine in September 2010 had initially been considered misleading and falsely alarmist, the Washington Post’s op-ed page just breathed new life of respectability into Mr. D’Souza’s train of thought, essentially by allowing him to make the same case again in its own pages.

The Dartmouth-trained English major tells an entirely twisted tale that — mysteriously from the vantage point of any editor worth his or her salt — he is not asked to improve upon in this second rendition.

At the core, Mr. D’Souza says Obama’s Kenyan father was an anti-colonialist, which is why his son, the U.S. president, is keen on not extending tax cuts to Americans making over $250,000 a year. That is tantamount to expropriation, and hence a direct application of anti-colonial instincts to today’s America.

Sadly, Mr. D’Souza never explains this befuddling stretch of imagination. First, there is the fact that he presents an argument of “policymaking by genetic predisposition,” since the 44th U.S. president never lived with his absentee father.

Mr. D’Souza also claims that he knows something about matters of colonialism because he “grew up in India.” Against that backdrop, he defines anti-colonialism as “the idea that the rich countries got rich by looting the poor countries.”

I don’t know about your reading of history, but to me it sounds like a vital — but certainly not the only — part of any fair and balanced reading of modern economic history.

However, rich countries also got rich because of their ingenuity and the Industrial Revolution, and — despite the undeniable exploitation — in quite a few cases they did leave behind some valuable structures in the countries they colonized when colonialism eventually came to an end.

Mr. D’Souza also finds Mr. Obama guilty of an anti-colonialist stance insofar as the president believes that “plutocratic and corporate elites continue to exploit ordinary citizens” inside rich countries such as the United States.

Aside from the claptrap presentation of the analysis, I am reminded of proud American traditions such as being a destination for all those people tired of 18th- and 19th-century European feudalist economics, an era when the fruits of labor disproportionately accrued to the few at the top of the income pyramid.

Is there any denying, in light of hard and fast income distribution statistics, that the United States is in serious danger of abandoning its proud roots of democratic capitalism — and is getting dangerously close to its feudalist variant?

In addition, D'Souza fails to note that the Tea Party is in many ways refreshingly anti-colonialist. For example, the Tea Partiers want to bring the legions of U.S. soldiers home and end the United States' unending, costly foreign wars.

They want to dramatically curtail the reach and power of the federal government and restore political power to the state and local levels. And they vastly distrust the excesses, greed and disasters inflicted by unregulated Wall Street.

All in all, what is so disappointing in Mr. D’Souza’s attempts to explain Mr. Obama’s tax policies as a direct function of the African struggle for liberation is not just that he does not make any allowance for the human tendency to overreach after heavy doses of injustice had been hoisted upon that continent. That is certainly a charge Obama’s father is culpable of, but humanly so.

More disappointing is the fact that, once again, a broad-based debate about the historic record of colonialism, especially in its British provenance, is being postponed.

It’s a debate worth having, even if it’s half a century overdue by now. Anybody who has ever traveled the British Isles, and especially the charming parts of the countryside, cannot help but be astounded by one thing.

And that is the splendid, inglorious wealth accumulated by many a noble-in-name-only member of Britain’s upper classes in its chateaux and castles.

For a man of Indian origin, with the apparent articulateness and chutzpah of Mr. D’Souza’s proportions, not to apply himself to an investigation of this matter, and instead turn himself into a shallow, completely overstretched tool of, yes, American plutocracy, is an act of intellectual dishonesty of breathtaking proportions.

High time for the man to have a real come-to-Jesus moment, at long last.

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About Stephan Richter

Director of the Global Ideas Center, a global network of authors and analysts, and Editor-in-Chief of The Globalist.

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