Carolyn Eisenberg is a professor of U.S. foreign policy at Hofstra University. She is a proud socialist and was a featured speaker at the 2004 Socialist Scholars Conference.
Impugning the U.S. for what she calls its history of “unbridled nationalism and racism,” Eisenberg says that “American imperialism and militarism are longstanding features of our national identity.” “American militarism in its Cold War incarnation,” she elaborates, “was never exclusively a device for protecting profit. It grew out of the specific circumstance existing at the end of the Second World War and was the means by which American officials could best enhance the power of the nation-state, while establishing a global economic framework for capitalism…. [B]y incorporating this view, we can more easily recognize that over the course of a half-century ‘American militarism’ has become an important phenomenon in its own right. It … actually shapes the way in which the U.S. government makes decisions in the international field.”
Eisenberg contends that not only have U.S. leaders been historically unwilling to seek peaceful solutions to international conflicts, but that they also have frowned upon potential breakthroughs for the furtherance of world peace – fearing that such developments might derail their quest for an ever-larger military and an ever-growing American empire. “Some of you may remember,” says Eisenberg, “when the Berlin Wall came down that George Bush Sr. forgot to smile. That was because he wasn’t very happy. What would justify the continuation of NATO, if the wall disappeared, if in fact Germany was reunited?”
“I would also suggest,” adds Eisenberg, “that a similar concern inspired senior Bush to go hurtling into the first Gulf War. It is not surprising that an American President would want the Iraqis out of Kuwait. Yet … Bush was absolutely determined to do this in a military way, willfully sabotaging any chance of diplomacy.”
Eisenberg casts President George W. Bush’s use of a preemptive strike against Iraq in March 2003 as a reckless and potentially disastrous precedent for future unprovoked attacks by nations around the world. “Since the inception of the Cold War and even before,” she continues, “the United States government had dispatched troops to other countries, when there was no likelihood that they were preparing an assault on us. The cases of Grenada, Panama, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia spring immediately to mind. This practice did not originate with George Bush, Jr.”
Viewing Operation Iraqi Freedom as merely one step in a long, calculated march toward expanded empire and global dominion, Eisenberg cast members of the Bush administration as “ideological extremists with a vision of a new world order … in which the United States, as the one remaining superpower, has the opportunity to use its military power in new ways and to create an international order in which the America government will be permanently dominant and in which their version of ‘free market capitalism’ can be extended.” “In their outlook,” Eisenberg continued, “the seizure of Iraq is not an end in itself, but a bold first step in a larger military plan.”
Refusing even to concede that a military response to the Taliban-supported al Qaeda attacks of 9/11 was justifiable, Eisenberg depicted that response as further evidence of America’s inherent predisposition toward unwarranted aggression and violence. “[A]s of September 10 ,” she explained, “the United States was a country ‘wired for war.’ This had been the case for decades. However, since Pearl Harbor, there had not been an attack on our shores. Given the American propensity to threaten or use military power in a wide range of situations, and the careless assumption that our military advantage would prevent any attack on our vital interests, it was a foregone conclusion that the response to 9/11 would be war.”
“U.S. foreign policy has always exacted a fearful price from people around the world and it has long been dangerous to our own populace,” Eisenberg adds.
As a historian and professor, Carolyn Eisenberg believes it is incumbent upon her to blur and even erase the line between pedagogy and political activism. “[H]istorians urgently need to educate the public,” she says. “In every possible venue, we need to put the subject of ‘militarism’ as well as ‘free market’ orthodoxy up for debate.”
Eisenberg helped organize an antiwar “Day of Inquiry” on the Hofstra campus in September 2004. “With a Presidential election looming over the semester,” she said at the time, “a crucial task for antiwar faculty is to devise campus events that go beyond traditional campaigns, raise significant issues and that can galvanize student engagement.”
Professor Eisenberg’s campus activism, both inside and outside the classroom, has not escaped the notice of her students. On the website RateMyProfessors.com, a considerable number of Eisenberg’s students note her virulent anti-Americanism and her habit of airing her personal political views in the classroom. Among the student comments are the following: