In what way can orientalism help lead to American imperialism in the Middle East?In what way can orientalism help lead to American imperialism in the Middle East?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that Western stereotyping of the Arab or Muslim worlds can help advance the cause of American Imperialistic thought.  The problem here is that this does not help America.  If one thing has become clear in the deemed "War on Terror," it is that American impressions of the Arab or Muslim world have to be differently constructed.  One way would be to clearly distinguish between both realms.  Not all Arabs are Muslims and not all Muslims are to be found in the Arab world.  I think that American impressions of "orientalism" do not help in trying to understand the root causes of terrorism.  It is essential for American interests in the region to take multiple forms and to shed the notion of Western Imperialism in order to disengage and deescalate the rhetorical pull of radicalized notions of Islam that are geared against America and her allies.  It is important that stereotypes on both parts are removed and a new forum for discussion replaces this.  This past week in Texas, a man found guilty of hate crimes following the attacks of September 11 was executed.  He shot three people, killing two and blinding one.  He thought he was shooting at men of Arabic descent, believing that the three were terrorists because they resembled Arab men. The three victims were Indian, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi.  This is a great example of how the traits of "orientialism" that stereotype might help advance American imperialism, which in turn, does not help anyone.  When assessing the effects of any type of stereotyping, and moreso true in understanding the world that has had to endure "the war on terror," one has to recognize that very few American interests are helped.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It is certainly possible to argue that orientalism of the sort that Edward Said talks about can help lead to American imperialism in the Middle East.  This is because it would lead Americans to look down on the inhabitants of that region and to feel that they in some way need to be reformed.

Said argues that orientalism is, in part, the idea that the "East" is inferior to the West and therefore deserves to be dominated.  This is an attitude that would clearly lead to imperialist tendencies.  If Americans truly do have attitudes towards the "East" like those that Said describes, they would feel that imperializing the "East" is justified or even a positive good.  They would say that the people of the "East" are inferior and that, therefore, it is in their best interests if the US dominates them so that the US can show them the "right" way to be.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The developed countries have always had a western focus.  This western-centric worldview leads us to beleive that Western Europe and the United States have an advanced culture, and all other countries are more primitive.  An example of this is our view toward India and China.  We see them as threats, but we also ridicule them.