machismo & imperialism

Doug Henwood dhenwood at
Tue Jun 2 10:51:16 PDT 1998

This post from Tom Kruse was addressed to owner-lbo-talk at, so came to me in my proprietary alias. Tom, drop the owner-!



There was discussion on this list recently about machismo and imperialism, and it was suggested by many that sheer machismo alone explains little, of, say the US destruction of Vietnam in the 60s and 70s.

Perhaps as a explanatory variable machismo doesn't have all that much power, but it certainly descrbes the language of choice that the imperial police/policy makers fall back on in a pinch. Take today's example, from the Washington Post. In reference to the situation in Colombia, and the need for increased and sustained US support to the Colomiban military, the SOUTHCOM commander noted:

"This is not a one-night stand," said the commander of U.S. military forces in Latin America and the Caribbean, Gen. Charles Wilhelm. "This is a marriage for life."

Oh shit. How do you 'spoze the Colombians feel about this shotgun wedding to the likes of Gen. Wilhelm?

Returning to the debate: I agree that imperialism can't be reduced to some macho impulses. However, I would suggest that such recourse to the language of patriarchy, fucking patterns with guys on top, etc., to describe foreign policy "commitments" ought to give us pause.

Though I haven't read it, I see on the back cover of Cynthia Enloe's book "The Morning After: Sexual Politics at the End of the Cold War" some enticing comments:

"...Enloe places women at the cencter of international politics ... focusing on the inextricable links between the politics of sexuality and the politics of militarism ... charts new defintions of gender roles, sexuality, and militarism at the end of the 20th century."

Hmm. Anyone out there with more time than I have who can review it for us?


Tom Kruse / Casilla 5812 / Cochabamba, Bolivia Tel/Fax: (591-42) 48242 Email: tkruse at

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