As long as there has been imperialism, there have been wars to enforce it and justifications – religious, humanitarian, strategic – to exculpate it. There has been no military aggression without a “civilising mission,” no armed occupation not blessed by “sacred trust.” For every General or oil corporate executive, a parson and a Fabian.
The latter have never been mere window dressing or supernumeraries. They have been an essential element in securing a broad domestic base for an aggressive foreign policy.
Blood and profit unaccompanied by high ideals of improvement from above, of leading the benighted by the hand towards a better future, would stand too naked before the world. One could write the whole history of the left in Britain, where imperial traditions run deep and steady, in terms of the struggle, not just between supporters and opponents of the general and the banker, but between those who march abroad with the priest and the social reformer, at the point of the bayonet if needs be, and those who oppose the hypocrisies of imperialism.
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