Combat troops are gone from Iraq

Does this mean the Iraq war is over?

The last American combat brigade in Iraq has left the country, the US military has said.

The 4th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division began crossing by land into Kuwait in the early hours of Thursday morning, said a spokesman.

The US combat mission in Iraq is scheduled to end on 31 August.

But the Pentagon has not confirmed that the move marks an early end to combat operations.

Most of the 4,000 Stryker Brigade troops drove out of Iraq in a convoy of armoured vehicles, say reports.

The journey along potentially hostile desert roads had been carefully planned for weeks.

Some of the brigade remained behind to complete logistical and administrative tasks but would leave the country by air later in the day, the Associated Press reported.

The BBC’s Jane O’Brien in Washington says the brigade’s departure after seven and a half years is a significant step.

But the Pentagon has stressed that the official end to Operation Iraqi Freedom – the US military mission in the country – remains scheduled for the end of the month.

Some 56,000 US troops are set to remain in Iraq until the end of 2011 to advise Iraqi forces and protect US interests.

Those soldiers will be armed but will only use their weapons in self-defence or at the request of the Iraqi government.

via BBC News – Last US combat brigade quits Iraq.

So did we win or lose?  Should we celebrate?  Or have we not seen the last of this war after all?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Porcell

    We defeated Saddam Hussein and eventually the insurgency; time will tell whether Iraq becomes a stable Middle East democracy that influences other nations in the region; should this come about Pres. Bush will be known as the liberator of Iraq.

    I am glad that Pres. Bush had the courage and conviction to fight this war through. He bids fair in the long run to be known as the liberator of the Iraqi people.

  • Porcell

    We defeated Saddam Hussein and eventually the insurgency; time will tell whether Iraq becomes a stable Middle East democracy that influences other nations in the region; should this come about Pres. Bush will be known as the liberator of Iraq.

    I am glad that Pres. Bush had the courage and conviction to fight this war through. He bids fair in the long run to be known as the liberator of the Iraqi people.

  • Doug

    I must admit this line gave me pause…

    “The journey along potentially hostile desert roads had been carefully planned for weeks.”

    I am guessing the war is over and that we did not win then.

  • Doug

    I must admit this line gave me pause…

    “The journey along potentially hostile desert roads had been carefully planned for weeks.”

    I am guessing the war is over and that we did not win then.

  • Winston Smith

    There are still American troops in Germany and Japan. Is World War II over?

    There is still an American “embassy” in Iraq that is larger than Vatican City. The American Empire will be in Mesopotamia for some time to come, funded by cash borrowed from China, Japan and other financially responsible countries.

    Meanwhile, Article 2 of the Iraqi Constitution guarantees that “‘Islam is the official religion of the State and it is a fundamental source of legislation.[...] No law that contradicts the established provisions of Islam may be established.”

    Prior to 2003, Iraq was a secular, socialist (Baathist) country that did not especially persecute Christianity. Now, Christians are in grave danger in that country, and many have fled, despite having a history that goes back to apostolic times.

    As taxpayers and as Christians, we lost.

  • Winston Smith

    There are still American troops in Germany and Japan. Is World War II over?

    There is still an American “embassy” in Iraq that is larger than Vatican City. The American Empire will be in Mesopotamia for some time to come, funded by cash borrowed from China, Japan and other financially responsible countries.

    Meanwhile, Article 2 of the Iraqi Constitution guarantees that “‘Islam is the official religion of the State and it is a fundamental source of legislation.[...] No law that contradicts the established provisions of Islam may be established.”

    Prior to 2003, Iraq was a secular, socialist (Baathist) country that did not especially persecute Christianity. Now, Christians are in grave danger in that country, and many have fled, despite having a history that goes back to apostolic times.

    As taxpayers and as Christians, we lost.

  • Winston Smith

    Dang. I used the word “5oc1al1st” in my last post and it got snagged in the sp@m filter.

  • Winston Smith

    Dang. I used the word “5oc1al1st” in my last post and it got snagged in the sp@m filter.

  • Dennis Peskey

    What I would suggest is citizen’s review the initial conditions which predicated this “war.” The case for invasion was laid out by Colin Powell at the United Nations consisting of six major points of justification. None of the six points were factual; this was amplified upon when we did overrun Iraq – no weapons of mass destruction, no nuclear weapons program, no terrorists linked to September 11, 2001. Win – no; massive waste – yes.

    We should have been targeting out efforts to capture Bin Ladin – remember him? He’s still out there (unless he has died of natural causes). The Trade Towers was his idea; the nightmare he inflicted on so many Americans. That tinhorn dictator in Iraq meant nothing on the world stage; he wasn’t nice but he certainly wasn’t/isn’t alone in this category.

    Iraq did not attack us – we attacked Iraq. And most importantly, we took our focus away from the person most responsible for 9/11 so we could beat up on some tinhorn. Correct me if I’m wrong here but didn’t the elder Bush lay a butt-wupping on Saddam? I only wonder what those who claim we “won” will propose the next time Al-queda manages to claim another thousand American lives in an attack. Do we respond by attacking Grenada or Panama – we know we can pound either one of these two. Time to get your heads out of the sand and realize who your enemies really are – before they give you another education.
    Peace,
    Dennis

  • Dennis Peskey

    What I would suggest is citizen’s review the initial conditions which predicated this “war.” The case for invasion was laid out by Colin Powell at the United Nations consisting of six major points of justification. None of the six points were factual; this was amplified upon when we did overrun Iraq – no weapons of mass destruction, no nuclear weapons program, no terrorists linked to September 11, 2001. Win – no; massive waste – yes.

    We should have been targeting out efforts to capture Bin Ladin – remember him? He’s still out there (unless he has died of natural causes). The Trade Towers was his idea; the nightmare he inflicted on so many Americans. That tinhorn dictator in Iraq meant nothing on the world stage; he wasn’t nice but he certainly wasn’t/isn’t alone in this category.

    Iraq did not attack us – we attacked Iraq. And most importantly, we took our focus away from the person most responsible for 9/11 so we could beat up on some tinhorn. Correct me if I’m wrong here but didn’t the elder Bush lay a butt-wupping on Saddam? I only wonder what those who claim we “won” will propose the next time Al-queda manages to claim another thousand American lives in an attack. Do we respond by attacking Grenada or Panama – we know we can pound either one of these two. Time to get your heads out of the sand and realize who your enemies really are – before they give you another education.
    Peace,
    Dennis

  • Tom Hering

    If we’re not rationing gas, we won.

  • Tom Hering

    If we’re not rationing gas, we won.

  • Kirk

    I think the Dennis has it right. We need to look at this in more of a nuanced sense than just “did we defeat our enemy?” If that is the condition for victory, then yes, I believe we did. As Peter said, we deposed Saddam Hussein and broke the back of the Iraqi insurgency. But looking at the war in a broader context, as to what we actually gained in the last 7.5 years by fighting it, I’d say we’re came out behind.

    It’s often said that the Iraq war should be considered a victory because we haven’t suffered another attach on our soil. But it’s certainly not for lack of trying. If anything, we’ve been very fortunate that the only terrorists that have gotten close were incompetents, like Richard Reid, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab and Faisal Shahzad. But still, you could argue that there would have been many more attempts were it not for the Iraq war. On the other hand, 4700 Americans were killed in Iraq, and another 32,000 injured, not to mention our allies’ casualties and the tens, if not hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians killed. Then there’s the billions in equipment lost, plus the logistical cost of supporting 150,000 soldiers living overseas. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad that the physical United States wasn’t attacked by terrorists, but to say that the Iraq war prevented American deaths and property destruction is a misnomer. And saying that ignores the damage done to Iraqi civil society. Iraqis are people too.

    Then there’s the question of radicalization. Did the Iraq war cause people to become violent who wouldn’t have otherwise? I suppose that’s unquantifiable, but I don’t doubt that the invasions stirred up some grievances. I feel that in many ways, the Iraq war did more for radical Islam than allowing Saddam to go on his merry way would have. It galvanized a lot of Muslims into fighting against the US and hating us more vehemently.

    On top of all of this, there’s the diplomatic cost, which has been well publicized, the economic cost of pulling guardsman and reservists from their jobs at home, there’s the strain that it put on families (my own included) and the psychological damage that killing does to young men.

    On the other hand, what did we gain from the war? The possibility of democracy in the Middle East? Call me jaded, but there’s no guarantee that Iraq will be friendly with us and less of a chance that liberalism will survive in that country. Did we destroy a state sponsor of terror? Yes, we did. But we also created a training ground for new terrorists and even saw the birth of new radicalized organizations. An unstable environment for a terrorist organization to exist in is arguably as valuable as a state funneling money to them.

    All in all, I see a lot more cost than benefit. I’m glad that we managed to turn around the mess that the Iraq war was becoming, and I’m glad that our combat operations were as successful as they have been. But I think we lost by engaging in the war, in the first place. It was unnecessary.

  • Kirk

    I think the Dennis has it right. We need to look at this in more of a nuanced sense than just “did we defeat our enemy?” If that is the condition for victory, then yes, I believe we did. As Peter said, we deposed Saddam Hussein and broke the back of the Iraqi insurgency. But looking at the war in a broader context, as to what we actually gained in the last 7.5 years by fighting it, I’d say we’re came out behind.

    It’s often said that the Iraq war should be considered a victory because we haven’t suffered another attach on our soil. But it’s certainly not for lack of trying. If anything, we’ve been very fortunate that the only terrorists that have gotten close were incompetents, like Richard Reid, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab and Faisal Shahzad. But still, you could argue that there would have been many more attempts were it not for the Iraq war. On the other hand, 4700 Americans were killed in Iraq, and another 32,000 injured, not to mention our allies’ casualties and the tens, if not hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians killed. Then there’s the billions in equipment lost, plus the logistical cost of supporting 150,000 soldiers living overseas. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad that the physical United States wasn’t attacked by terrorists, but to say that the Iraq war prevented American deaths and property destruction is a misnomer. And saying that ignores the damage done to Iraqi civil society. Iraqis are people too.

    Then there’s the question of radicalization. Did the Iraq war cause people to become violent who wouldn’t have otherwise? I suppose that’s unquantifiable, but I don’t doubt that the invasions stirred up some grievances. I feel that in many ways, the Iraq war did more for radical Islam than allowing Saddam to go on his merry way would have. It galvanized a lot of Muslims into fighting against the US and hating us more vehemently.

    On top of all of this, there’s the diplomatic cost, which has been well publicized, the economic cost of pulling guardsman and reservists from their jobs at home, there’s the strain that it put on families (my own included) and the psychological damage that killing does to young men.

    On the other hand, what did we gain from the war? The possibility of democracy in the Middle East? Call me jaded, but there’s no guarantee that Iraq will be friendly with us and less of a chance that liberalism will survive in that country. Did we destroy a state sponsor of terror? Yes, we did. But we also created a training ground for new terrorists and even saw the birth of new radicalized organizations. An unstable environment for a terrorist organization to exist in is arguably as valuable as a state funneling money to them.

    All in all, I see a lot more cost than benefit. I’m glad that we managed to turn around the mess that the Iraq war was becoming, and I’m glad that our combat operations were as successful as they have been. But I think we lost by engaging in the war, in the first place. It was unnecessary.

  • E-Raj

    We won.

    “The Allied casualties figures for D-Day have generally been estimated at 10,000, including 2500 dead. Broken down by nationality, the usual D-Day casualty figures are approximately 2700 British, 946 Canadians, and 6603 Americans. However recent painstaking research by the US National D-Day Memorial Foundation has achieved a more accurate – and much higher – figure for the Allied personnel who were killed on D-Day. They have recorded the names of individual Allied personnel killed on 6 June 1944 in Operation Overlord, and so far they have verified 2499 American D-Day fatalities and 1915 from the other Allied nations, a total of 4414 dead (much higher than the traditional figure of 2500 dead).”

    That’s one day. Compare it with 7 1/2 years. How many of our Iraqi enemies were killed compared to our soldiers? I’d say that’s a huge victory. We’re talking about who won a war, not a PR campaign. People are going to die in battle. Could the stomachs of modern-day Americans even handle another D-Day without taking to the streets to “end the war” regardless of the consequences?

    This segues into the next quote:

    “Still, if you will not fight for the right when you can easily win without bloodshed, if you will not fight when your victory will be sure and not so costly, you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a precarious chance for survival. There may be a worse case. You may have to fight when there is no chance of victory, because it is better to perish than to live as slaves.” — Winston Churchill

  • E-Raj

    We won.

    “The Allied casualties figures for D-Day have generally been estimated at 10,000, including 2500 dead. Broken down by nationality, the usual D-Day casualty figures are approximately 2700 British, 946 Canadians, and 6603 Americans. However recent painstaking research by the US National D-Day Memorial Foundation has achieved a more accurate – and much higher – figure for the Allied personnel who were killed on D-Day. They have recorded the names of individual Allied personnel killed on 6 June 1944 in Operation Overlord, and so far they have verified 2499 American D-Day fatalities and 1915 from the other Allied nations, a total of 4414 dead (much higher than the traditional figure of 2500 dead).”

    That’s one day. Compare it with 7 1/2 years. How many of our Iraqi enemies were killed compared to our soldiers? I’d say that’s a huge victory. We’re talking about who won a war, not a PR campaign. People are going to die in battle. Could the stomachs of modern-day Americans even handle another D-Day without taking to the streets to “end the war” regardless of the consequences?

    This segues into the next quote:

    “Still, if you will not fight for the right when you can easily win without bloodshed, if you will not fight when your victory will be sure and not so costly, you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a precarious chance for survival. There may be a worse case. You may have to fight when there is no chance of victory, because it is better to perish than to live as slaves.” — Winston Churchill

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    I tend to believe that in the way of this world we had ample reason to invade Iraq, if only in this, that Saddam Husein broke the treaty that ended the first Gulf War.
    Had Clinton been more forceful in enforcing that treaty under his watch, the war probably would not have been necessary.
    However it remains to be seen what the eventual outcome of it is. So far Iraq is looking better than it did ten years ago.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    I tend to believe that in the way of this world we had ample reason to invade Iraq, if only in this, that Saddam Husein broke the treaty that ended the first Gulf War.
    Had Clinton been more forceful in enforcing that treaty under his watch, the war probably would not have been necessary.
    However it remains to be seen what the eventual outcome of it is. So far Iraq is looking better than it did ten years ago.

  • Winston Smith

    E-Raj @ 7,

    That’s like saying “well, I lost $100,000 in the stock market, but it would have been worse if I lost 10 million to Bernie Madoff.”

    Okay, a lot more mother’s sons were slaughtered on D-Day than in seven years in Iraq. That’s not the point. The point is, was the Iraq war necessary at all? For the reasons Dennis Peskey @4 has articulated, the answer is no. It was a massive waste.

    Saddam was a CIA asset from years back. In case no one else remembers, the United States supported Saddam (yes, with weaponry) in the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. I don’t claim to be a diplomatic genius, but I have to wonder: why did we back this guy for years, only to have him turn into some kind of monster?

  • Winston Smith

    E-Raj @ 7,

    That’s like saying “well, I lost $100,000 in the stock market, but it would have been worse if I lost 10 million to Bernie Madoff.”

    Okay, a lot more mother’s sons were slaughtered on D-Day than in seven years in Iraq. That’s not the point. The point is, was the Iraq war necessary at all? For the reasons Dennis Peskey @4 has articulated, the answer is no. It was a massive waste.

    Saddam was a CIA asset from years back. In case no one else remembers, the United States supported Saddam (yes, with weaponry) in the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. I don’t claim to be a diplomatic genius, but I have to wonder: why did we back this guy for years, only to have him turn into some kind of monster?

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Winston,
    I’ve just never thought that Colonel Powel actually expressed the true reason for us invading Iraq. Though I do believe he believed what he was presenting to be true.
    There was a necessity to stabilize the region. That could not be done in Afghanistan. But those reasons could not be articulated openly without causing scandal.
    Why did Saddam turn out to be a bad guy? because he forgot where his power came from.
    But I agree, there is more to this than who died, and how many. We killed a lot of Vietcong, more than they killed of us, look what that got us.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Winston,
    I’ve just never thought that Colonel Powel actually expressed the true reason for us invading Iraq. Though I do believe he believed what he was presenting to be true.
    There was a necessity to stabilize the region. That could not be done in Afghanistan. But those reasons could not be articulated openly without causing scandal.
    Why did Saddam turn out to be a bad guy? because he forgot where his power came from.
    But I agree, there is more to this than who died, and how many. We killed a lot of Vietcong, more than they killed of us, look what that got us.

  • kerner

    Kirk @6:

    I think you are right about about taking a more nuanced view of our war in Iraq (and maybe of all our wars), but I think that may be the limit of our points of agreement. I think you and Dennis are both naive about why this country went to war in Iraq, or why it ever goes to war. I don’t know whether time and space on a blog comments box will permit me to say all I have to say about this.

    First of all, all our wars (at least since 1812) have been wars of choice. We could have avoided all of them. Much of what Dennis @4 said about Iraq could be said about the European theater of WWII. For example, Germany and Italy did not attack us–we attacked Germany and Italy. And most importantly we took our focus off the people most responsible for Pearl Harbor to beat up on tin horns. Were the Italian Fascists any kind of a threat to us at all? And yet they were the first enemy country we invaded. Unless you count the Vichy French colonies we invaded in 1942, which were even less of a threat to us.

    And correct me if I’m wrong here, but didn’t Woodrow Wilson lay a butt wupping on Germany (with less justification that elder Bush had, I might add)?

    Never mind the rhetoric of the time. I believe that the reason we invaded Iraq and eliminated Saddam Hussein was because it served our strategic interests to do so. We had just been attacked on our soil. The governments of Arab countries and Iran were considering whether they were better off being our friend or our enemy. Saddam was making a mockery of the economic sanctions the UN had imposed and in a couple of years his message would have been that a tinhorn like him could opposes the USA, even be invaded by the USA, and come out of it still on top. His people might have suffered, but the tin horn remained in control, fat and happy. It was a message we didn’t want other tin horns to believe. So we invaded Iraq and eliminated him.

    And the other tin horns have noticed it. Libya, Eqypt, and to an extent, Syria, are much happier taking our money than being our enemies. We now have military bases in Iraq that remind the entire region, especially Iran, that they are within our reach if they threaten our interests. And much as our bases in Germany, Japan, and Korea (and formerly the Philippines) did during the cold war, our bases in Iraq, and Kuwait keep our enemies focused on these forward outposts rather than on our homeland.

    We rebuilt Germany, Japan, and Korea in our image, and all these countries are far better off than they would have been otherwise. And they are our allies, not our colonies. They run their own governments and their (very successful, I might add) economies. But who knew, while these countries were being blown to smithereens by modern warfare, that things would turn out so well?

    So, let’s review. Did we win in the sense that we defeated our enemy in Iraq. For the present, we did. Did we gain a stronger strategic position in the Middle East. Yes we did. Did we create a political system in Iraq that will in the long run benefit the Iraqi people? We have started to. After the Spanish American War The USA gained control of Cuba, The Philippines, and Puerto Rico. Iraq will not be like Puerto Rico. It could turn out like Cuba, a corrupt dictatorship that ultimately becomes a repressive thorn in our side. Or, it could turn out like the Philippines, a more or less democratic country with whom we have had a beneficial alliance for over a century. For the moment, it looks like Iraq will turn out like the Philippines. But we could still blow it, and that WOULD be a tragic waste.

  • kerner

    Kirk @6:

    I think you are right about about taking a more nuanced view of our war in Iraq (and maybe of all our wars), but I think that may be the limit of our points of agreement. I think you and Dennis are both naive about why this country went to war in Iraq, or why it ever goes to war. I don’t know whether time and space on a blog comments box will permit me to say all I have to say about this.

    First of all, all our wars (at least since 1812) have been wars of choice. We could have avoided all of them. Much of what Dennis @4 said about Iraq could be said about the European theater of WWII. For example, Germany and Italy did not attack us–we attacked Germany and Italy. And most importantly we took our focus off the people most responsible for Pearl Harbor to beat up on tin horns. Were the Italian Fascists any kind of a threat to us at all? And yet they were the first enemy country we invaded. Unless you count the Vichy French colonies we invaded in 1942, which were even less of a threat to us.

    And correct me if I’m wrong here, but didn’t Woodrow Wilson lay a butt wupping on Germany (with less justification that elder Bush had, I might add)?

    Never mind the rhetoric of the time. I believe that the reason we invaded Iraq and eliminated Saddam Hussein was because it served our strategic interests to do so. We had just been attacked on our soil. The governments of Arab countries and Iran were considering whether they were better off being our friend or our enemy. Saddam was making a mockery of the economic sanctions the UN had imposed and in a couple of years his message would have been that a tinhorn like him could opposes the USA, even be invaded by the USA, and come out of it still on top. His people might have suffered, but the tin horn remained in control, fat and happy. It was a message we didn’t want other tin horns to believe. So we invaded Iraq and eliminated him.

    And the other tin horns have noticed it. Libya, Eqypt, and to an extent, Syria, are much happier taking our money than being our enemies. We now have military bases in Iraq that remind the entire region, especially Iran, that they are within our reach if they threaten our interests. And much as our bases in Germany, Japan, and Korea (and formerly the Philippines) did during the cold war, our bases in Iraq, and Kuwait keep our enemies focused on these forward outposts rather than on our homeland.

    We rebuilt Germany, Japan, and Korea in our image, and all these countries are far better off than they would have been otherwise. And they are our allies, not our colonies. They run their own governments and their (very successful, I might add) economies. But who knew, while these countries were being blown to smithereens by modern warfare, that things would turn out so well?

    So, let’s review. Did we win in the sense that we defeated our enemy in Iraq. For the present, we did. Did we gain a stronger strategic position in the Middle East. Yes we did. Did we create a political system in Iraq that will in the long run benefit the Iraqi people? We have started to. After the Spanish American War The USA gained control of Cuba, The Philippines, and Puerto Rico. Iraq will not be like Puerto Rico. It could turn out like Cuba, a corrupt dictatorship that ultimately becomes a repressive thorn in our side. Or, it could turn out like the Philippines, a more or less democratic country with whom we have had a beneficial alliance for over a century. For the moment, it looks like Iraq will turn out like the Philippines. But we could still blow it, and that WOULD be a tragic waste.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Well said Kerner!

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Well said Kerner!

  • Cincinnatus

    What kerner says is correct. What kerner says, however, is only good if America is rightly considered an empire.

    Do we want an empire? Is the reason for America’s existence to “make the world a better place”?

    I submit that it is not, and that are many better things we could have done with our national treasure rather than invest it in repeated wars of choice.

  • Cincinnatus

    What kerner says is correct. What kerner says, however, is only good if America is rightly considered an empire.

    Do we want an empire? Is the reason for America’s existence to “make the world a better place”?

    I submit that it is not, and that are many better things we could have done with our national treasure rather than invest it in repeated wars of choice.

  • Cincinnatus

    In reference to Tom’s (quite fascinating and instructive) link, I have wondered all along why, exactly, we consider a defense of our strategic sources of oil and supply lines to be an outrage, an outrage I say!

    While I’m no defender of this war, I’ve noticed for the past seven years that the surest way to make its defenders look silly is to point out that it was all about the oil. And that, of course, is immoral and unacceptable!

    But is it? Why is that a point against the war? Are we afraid to admit that we are actually heavily dependent upon oil? Are we ignorant of the fact that we use lots of it in nearly everything we purchase and need for daily life in America? Do we not realize what would happen if we did not defend our oil supplies? Do we not realize that wars since beginning of time have been fought primarily to defend lines of commerce and trade that provide the goods necessary for a given civilization’s survival? Why is it shameful to admit that we fought a war to defend something that is in our national economic interest?

    This may go back to my response to kerner: we like to pretend that we are a benevolent empire, a savior of the world, and a light to the oppressed. But this, in my opinion, is not a worthy or helpful goal. Nor is it affordable. Let’s admit it: were we able to preserve our national interests in this war? Yes or no? Does our national interest include the protection of petroleum sources? If so, perhaps we succeeded to a greater degree than some here are willing to acknowledge.

  • Cincinnatus

    In reference to Tom’s (quite fascinating and instructive) link, I have wondered all along why, exactly, we consider a defense of our strategic sources of oil and supply lines to be an outrage, an outrage I say!

    While I’m no defender of this war, I’ve noticed for the past seven years that the surest way to make its defenders look silly is to point out that it was all about the oil. And that, of course, is immoral and unacceptable!

    But is it? Why is that a point against the war? Are we afraid to admit that we are actually heavily dependent upon oil? Are we ignorant of the fact that we use lots of it in nearly everything we purchase and need for daily life in America? Do we not realize what would happen if we did not defend our oil supplies? Do we not realize that wars since beginning of time have been fought primarily to defend lines of commerce and trade that provide the goods necessary for a given civilization’s survival? Why is it shameful to admit that we fought a war to defend something that is in our national economic interest?

    This may go back to my response to kerner: we like to pretend that we are a benevolent empire, a savior of the world, and a light to the oppressed. But this, in my opinion, is not a worthy or helpful goal. Nor is it affordable. Let’s admit it: were we able to preserve our national interests in this war? Yes or no? Does our national interest include the protection of petroleum sources? If so, perhaps we succeeded to a greater degree than some here are willing to acknowledge.

  • Joe

    Cincy – I love your second comment. I have been saying this to my friends for sometime. The oil factor is part of the calculation. It explains why we have not invaded every other mideast or African country run by a murderous nutjob. It takes many factors to justify a war – one of them is that there is some interest of the warring nation at stake – necessary resources are in this category. Had Clinton remembered this we could have avoided Somalia all together. They had nothing we needed.

    As too your first comment, is there anything between empire and fight defensive only wars? Can a nation ever be the aggressor to protect a self-interest without being an empire or aspiring to be an empire?

  • Joe

    Cincy – I love your second comment. I have been saying this to my friends for sometime. The oil factor is part of the calculation. It explains why we have not invaded every other mideast or African country run by a murderous nutjob. It takes many factors to justify a war – one of them is that there is some interest of the warring nation at stake – necessary resources are in this category. Had Clinton remembered this we could have avoided Somalia all together. They had nothing we needed.

    As too your first comment, is there anything between empire and fight defensive only wars? Can a nation ever be the aggressor to protect a self-interest without being an empire or aspiring to be an empire?

  • Tom Hering

    Cincinnatus @ 14, it’s hard to say if we won if we aren’t clear and honest about why we fought. If the reason was oil, then there’s no doubt we won. Our nation as a whole, and the daily lives of each and every one of us, depends on oil (transportation, food production, the vast majority of medicines, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera). It wasn’t just the American way of life that was at stake, but a post-19th century way of life.

  • Tom Hering

    Cincinnatus @ 14, it’s hard to say if we won if we aren’t clear and honest about why we fought. If the reason was oil, then there’s no doubt we won. Our nation as a whole, and the daily lives of each and every one of us, depends on oil (transportation, food production, the vast majority of medicines, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera). It wasn’t just the American way of life that was at stake, but a post-19th century way of life.

  • Porcell

    Dr. Veith asks a good question as to whether we should celebrate. I’m old enough to remember as a young boy the delight of celebrating VE and VJ days at the end of WWII.

    In the case of Iraq, I doubt whether we can celebrate, though there is room for a certain pride that we brought down an exceedingly brutal dictator and furthered our interest in stabilizing the Middle East, not only for its oil but for trade. Our warriors, also, learned how to effectively fight an insurgency.

    America, for all its faults, has successfully fought the Revolutionary, Civil, World Wars, and a few others; in the process we have helped to protect vital interests and liberate ourselves along with many nations. The verdict isn’t fully in yet on Iraq, though should it succeed in decent measure as a democracy, we could really celebrate an important victory.

  • Porcell

    Dr. Veith asks a good question as to whether we should celebrate. I’m old enough to remember as a young boy the delight of celebrating VE and VJ days at the end of WWII.

    In the case of Iraq, I doubt whether we can celebrate, though there is room for a certain pride that we brought down an exceedingly brutal dictator and furthered our interest in stabilizing the Middle East, not only for its oil but for trade. Our warriors, also, learned how to effectively fight an insurgency.

    America, for all its faults, has successfully fought the Revolutionary, Civil, World Wars, and a few others; in the process we have helped to protect vital interests and liberate ourselves along with many nations. The verdict isn’t fully in yet on Iraq, though should it succeed in decent measure as a democracy, we could really celebrate an important victory.

  • Cincinnatus

    Tom and Joe, I agree with both of you. Your article and the leagues of others sharing OUTRAGE that we would fight this war for oil (and, indeed, the impetus to conceal that particular justification) seems a particularly post-modern conceit, an example of the modern West wallowing in its post-colonial, post-materialist guilt.

    I’m not sure if I can applaud this particular war that was fought (at least in part) to protect our oil, but I honestly see that as a more legitimate justification than an attempt to “liberate” an arbitrarily-selected tinpot dictatorship.

  • Cincinnatus

    Tom and Joe, I agree with both of you. Your article and the leagues of others sharing OUTRAGE that we would fight this war for oil (and, indeed, the impetus to conceal that particular justification) seems a particularly post-modern conceit, an example of the modern West wallowing in its post-colonial, post-materialist guilt.

    I’m not sure if I can applaud this particular war that was fought (at least in part) to protect our oil, but I honestly see that as a more legitimate justification than an attempt to “liberate” an arbitrarily-selected tinpot dictatorship.

  • John C

    It is still a bloody mess. Bush broke it and it ain’t been fixed. Elections were held a few months ago and still no government has been formed. Electricity is rationed, so is water and people are annihilated by suicide bombers.
    You may change your mind Porcell if you were to spend your next holidays in Bagdad.

  • John C

    It is still a bloody mess. Bush broke it and it ain’t been fixed. Elections were held a few months ago and still no government has been formed. Electricity is rationed, so is water and people are annihilated by suicide bombers.
    You may change your mind Porcell if you were to spend your next holidays in Bagdad.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Joe,
    That is just it. Is there anything in between?
    I might ask what qualifies as a defensive war also. It just may be that a awr is defensive, even when the enemy isn’t exactly invading the homeland. And it might be prudent to help your neighbor defend his country too.
    But back to Empire. Empires happen. I’m not so sure there is much middle ground. If there is I think America has more or less struck the balance. But there is a reality to this world where you tend to either be the colony or the empire, and the choice is not always easy.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Joe,
    That is just it. Is there anything in between?
    I might ask what qualifies as a defensive war also. It just may be that a awr is defensive, even when the enemy isn’t exactly invading the homeland. And it might be prudent to help your neighbor defend his country too.
    But back to Empire. Empires happen. I’m not so sure there is much middle ground. If there is I think America has more or less struck the balance. But there is a reality to this world where you tend to either be the colony or the empire, and the choice is not always easy.

  • Tom Hering

    Cincinnatus @ 18, I follow what you’re saying. I can’t support any of the officially-given reasons for the war, but I can support it if it’s real purpose was to keep the Middle East a place from which oil flows freely. There’s no such thing as a good war, but there are necessary ones.

    The best thing for us to do is to greatly reduce our dependency on oil, so we don’t have to fight any more wars for it.

  • Tom Hering

    Cincinnatus @ 18, I follow what you’re saying. I can’t support any of the officially-given reasons for the war, but I can support it if it’s real purpose was to keep the Middle East a place from which oil flows freely. There’s no such thing as a good war, but there are necessary ones.

    The best thing for us to do is to greatly reduce our dependency on oil, so we don’t have to fight any more wars for it.

  • Louis

    This is the thing: Very, very few wars are being fought for ideological concerns – most are because of realpolitik – including America’s wars. The US has, possibly as far back as 1812, but very definitely since the Monroe doctrine (on an ideological level), and the Mexican-American War (on a practical level), pursued a policy of what can be called Soft-Imperialism. Soft does not mean no war – there have been very few years since the beginning of the last century where America was not involved with some or the other conflict, somewhere on the planet. This is not because of the Avuncular role many perceive, but because of the Realpolitik involved in running an Empire, even if it is a “soft” empire. The success of the Empire until now has partly been because of it’s perceived softness (instituting democracy, etc etc), but one often misses the fact that the reconstruction efforts are often very cleverly disguised transactions for getting the money from the US government (taxpayers money), to US companies, who return some of that to the government as taxes again, with the foreign government having to pay back with interest (even if it is low), and the average Joe taxpayer carrying the bucket in the mean time. However, with the advent of Keneysian Economics, we have the added component of enriching bankers many of those Chinese. Really, a very clever scheme.

    At the same time, whereas most of the rest of the world would prefer to carry on with their business without the presence of an Empire, I’m sure most are more content with an American Empire, than with say a Soviet one. It is all Realpolitik. But one should recognise as well that Imperial machinations today have long lasting effects, some of which will lie for decades before jumping up and biting you in the butt: Mossadeq anybody? Also, more analysis should be done in the complex interplay of British-Russian-Japanese-American interactions in the pacific theatre in the 6 decades leading up to Pearl Harbour – there are some unpleasant realities there. Also, for instance, Woodrow Wilson and his role (together with the Anglo-French impact) at Versailles had quite a hand in creating the causes for WW II – some say the Weimar Republic was America’s first try at establishing (read – imposing) American-style democracy elsewhere – and a fat success that was.
    But – in analysing these things, one should realise it is but the Realpolitik of what they use to call “The Great Game”.

    PS – as an aside, I’d like to point out that the only major leader at Versailles who spoke against the harsh treatment of Germany and the effects it could have was Marshall JC Smuts, the representative of the Union of South Africa. Interesting, by the time the end of the Second World War rolled around, he was the only leader still left who was still there.

  • Louis

    This is the thing: Very, very few wars are being fought for ideological concerns – most are because of realpolitik – including America’s wars. The US has, possibly as far back as 1812, but very definitely since the Monroe doctrine (on an ideological level), and the Mexican-American War (on a practical level), pursued a policy of what can be called Soft-Imperialism. Soft does not mean no war – there have been very few years since the beginning of the last century where America was not involved with some or the other conflict, somewhere on the planet. This is not because of the Avuncular role many perceive, but because of the Realpolitik involved in running an Empire, even if it is a “soft” empire. The success of the Empire until now has partly been because of it’s perceived softness (instituting democracy, etc etc), but one often misses the fact that the reconstruction efforts are often very cleverly disguised transactions for getting the money from the US government (taxpayers money), to US companies, who return some of that to the government as taxes again, with the foreign government having to pay back with interest (even if it is low), and the average Joe taxpayer carrying the bucket in the mean time. However, with the advent of Keneysian Economics, we have the added component of enriching bankers many of those Chinese. Really, a very clever scheme.

    At the same time, whereas most of the rest of the world would prefer to carry on with their business without the presence of an Empire, I’m sure most are more content with an American Empire, than with say a Soviet one. It is all Realpolitik. But one should recognise as well that Imperial machinations today have long lasting effects, some of which will lie for decades before jumping up and biting you in the butt: Mossadeq anybody? Also, more analysis should be done in the complex interplay of British-Russian-Japanese-American interactions in the pacific theatre in the 6 decades leading up to Pearl Harbour – there are some unpleasant realities there. Also, for instance, Woodrow Wilson and his role (together with the Anglo-French impact) at Versailles had quite a hand in creating the causes for WW II – some say the Weimar Republic was America’s first try at establishing (read – imposing) American-style democracy elsewhere – and a fat success that was.
    But – in analysing these things, one should realise it is but the Realpolitik of what they use to call “The Great Game”.

    PS – as an aside, I’d like to point out that the only major leader at Versailles who spoke against the harsh treatment of Germany and the effects it could have was Marshall JC Smuts, the representative of the Union of South Africa. Interesting, by the time the end of the Second World War rolled around, he was the only leader still left who was still there.

  • kerner

    I won’t have time to extensively respond to Cincinnatus, Louis, and others till later today, but while I’m off pursuing my vocation, would one of you mind defining what you mean by “Empire” or “soft empire”? The United States has no emperor, nor does it have colonies in a strict sense (unless you count Guam and our other small non-state territories). But I gather you are using the term”Empire” to mean something else, and I think it would be a good idea to define what you mean if you are going to say that the USA is an “empire”.

  • kerner

    I won’t have time to extensively respond to Cincinnatus, Louis, and others till later today, but while I’m off pursuing my vocation, would one of you mind defining what you mean by “Empire” or “soft empire”? The United States has no emperor, nor does it have colonies in a strict sense (unless you count Guam and our other small non-state territories). But I gather you are using the term”Empire” to mean something else, and I think it would be a good idea to define what you mean if you are going to say that the USA is an “empire”.

  • Cincinnatus

    kerner, I’ll provide a more thorough answer later perhaps, but just “shooting from the hip,” as it were:

    How can you not deem the United States an empire? How can you fail to regard a nation with military bases in 60+ foreign nations, a nation that prints the global reserve currency, that a nation that has fought numerous minor wars and countless proxy wars in remote provinces thousands of miles from the “metropole” to protect various interests–how can you fail to regard such a nation as an imperial power? This is just the beginning of my answer, but suffice to say that I think it is extremely difficult to deny that the United States is the center of some kind of empire.

    Colonies need not be called colonies in official documentation to be colonies effectually. Furthermore, the lack of many “official” appurtenances of empire is the reason for Louis’s usage of the term “soft empire.”

    Allow me to disclaim any approval of this status. America was designed to be and should return to being a modest republic. Republic and empire, as you will recall from Rome (and Nazi Germany) are ultimately incompatible.

  • Cincinnatus

    kerner, I’ll provide a more thorough answer later perhaps, but just “shooting from the hip,” as it were:

    How can you not deem the United States an empire? How can you fail to regard a nation with military bases in 60+ foreign nations, a nation that prints the global reserve currency, that a nation that has fought numerous minor wars and countless proxy wars in remote provinces thousands of miles from the “metropole” to protect various interests–how can you fail to regard such a nation as an imperial power? This is just the beginning of my answer, but suffice to say that I think it is extremely difficult to deny that the United States is the center of some kind of empire.

    Colonies need not be called colonies in official documentation to be colonies effectually. Furthermore, the lack of many “official” appurtenances of empire is the reason for Louis’s usage of the term “soft empire.”

    Allow me to disclaim any approval of this status. America was designed to be and should return to being a modest republic. Republic and empire, as you will recall from Rome (and Nazi Germany) are ultimately incompatible.

  • Louis

    By soft Empire I mean that it maintains strong spheres of interest, and promotes those groups who most closely alligned with what it wants from that region – thus it can promote democracy in one place (Iraq), but stand behind authoritarian autocracy (Saudi Arabia) on the other. Or, promote separation in one region (Kosovo), and condemn it in another (Abkhazia). It basically makes the world safe, not for democracy, or freedom, but for its commercial interests. The old British Empire did this in a more overt way, through conquest, but the American Empire does this through coercion, carrot and stick, and in the name of ideology when useful – but sometimes, also through coups, civil wars and outright conquest.

    America is not the first country/Empire to do this, nor will it be the last. It is not especially bad, neither is it God’s gift to humanity. It is just the day and age we live in. It’s Realpolitik, as I said earlier.

  • Louis

    By soft Empire I mean that it maintains strong spheres of interest, and promotes those groups who most closely alligned with what it wants from that region – thus it can promote democracy in one place (Iraq), but stand behind authoritarian autocracy (Saudi Arabia) on the other. Or, promote separation in one region (Kosovo), and condemn it in another (Abkhazia). It basically makes the world safe, not for democracy, or freedom, but for its commercial interests. The old British Empire did this in a more overt way, through conquest, but the American Empire does this through coercion, carrot and stick, and in the name of ideology when useful – but sometimes, also through coups, civil wars and outright conquest.

    America is not the first country/Empire to do this, nor will it be the last. It is not especially bad, neither is it God’s gift to humanity. It is just the day and age we live in. It’s Realpolitik, as I said earlier.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Good question, Veith. Great discussion too.

    And of course we should celebrate this obvious victory for the Empire of Squishiness and all our soft and wealthy friends and enemies! Hugs to all (just don’t forget your well oiled toys and weapons)! – that would be a proper way to celebrate, eh?

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Good question, Veith. Great discussion too.

    And of course we should celebrate this obvious victory for the Empire of Squishiness and all our soft and wealthy friends and enemies! Hugs to all (just don’t forget your well oiled toys and weapons)! – that would be a proper way to celebrate, eh?

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    “Allow me to disclaim any approval of this status. America was designed to be and should return to being a modest republic. Republic and empire, as you will recall from Rome (and Nazi Germany) are ultimately incompatible.”
    Cincinatus,
    And yet it seems Empire is unavoidable.
    I guess I’m more or less with Louis on this one. Better us than China or the Soviets or who ever comes in their place.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    “Allow me to disclaim any approval of this status. America was designed to be and should return to being a modest republic. Republic and empire, as you will recall from Rome (and Nazi Germany) are ultimately incompatible.”
    Cincinatus,
    And yet it seems Empire is unavoidable.
    I guess I’m more or less with Louis on this one. Better us than China or the Soviets or who ever comes in their place.

  • Louis

    Bror – I did not say I approve – as a rule I dissaprove of Empire (even the British one, although I’m quite the Anglophile). Even today I’d prefer London over Washington. But things are what they are.

    My biggest problem is when people pretend they are something else….

  • Louis

    Bror – I did not say I approve – as a rule I dissaprove of Empire (even the British one, although I’m quite the Anglophile). Even today I’d prefer London over Washington. But things are what they are.

    My biggest problem is when people pretend they are something else….

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    didn’t mean to put more in your mouth than you meant to say.
    I was just agreeing that most of us are more content with America than the other options on the menu now or in the last 50 years.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    didn’t mean to put more in your mouth than you meant to say.
    I was just agreeing that most of us are more content with America than the other options on the menu now or in the last 50 years.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    And yes Louis, I think it is probably time that America Wake up to the reality of what it has become.
    I hold out no Romantic notions that we can just return to being a simple republic. Not sure that was ever an option. To be our own and mind our own business. But perhaps being sober about what we are doing will prevent the republic from being eroded completely.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    And yes Louis, I think it is probably time that America Wake up to the reality of what it has become.
    I hold out no Romantic notions that we can just return to being a simple republic. Not sure that was ever an option. To be our own and mind our own business. But perhaps being sober about what we are doing will prevent the republic from being eroded completely.

  • Louis

    Bror – I’m not offended. Not that I’m content with modern politics, but then who is? As you say, it could have been worse. But let’s not, and this is my point, pretend that it is perfect, or that any country is God’s chosen country, or all that hogwash. There are plenty of skeletons, in cupboards all over the place. Some of them are very, very gross.

  • Louis

    Bror – I’m not offended. Not that I’m content with modern politics, but then who is? As you say, it could have been worse. But let’s not, and this is my point, pretend that it is perfect, or that any country is God’s chosen country, or all that hogwash. There are plenty of skeletons, in cupboards all over the place. Some of them are very, very gross.

  • Cincinnatus

    Bror: Empire always end ignominiously.

  • Cincinnatus

    Bror: Empire always end ignominiously.

  • Louis

    Cincinnatus – quite true. Of all empires that I can recall, the least traumatic demise that I can come up with is probably the British Empire – no bang, more a whimper…

  • Louis

    Cincinnatus – quite true. Of all empires that I can recall, the least traumatic demise that I can come up with is probably the British Empire – no bang, more a whimper…

  • Porcell

    America is best regarded as the leader of an Anglo-American empire. Churchill understood this well when the isolationists and pacifists were overcome and we defended Britain during WW I/II and the Cold war. Just now it is the Anglo-American nations that are doing most of the serious fighting in the war against militant/savage Islam. It’s why even the liberal Tony Blair joined us in the Iraq war.

    Samuel Huntington in his excellent last book Who We Are argued that America is essentially an Anglo-Protestant country in that the culture of America was shaped for the most part by Anglo -Protestant settlers and constitutional founders during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. While the Anglo people are presently a minority, their charter culture is still predominant, though under threat from the secular liberal multi-culturists and Latinos who tend to resist assimilation.

    Huntington, also, correctly argued in the Clash of Civilizations that the West is essentially a Christian civilization involved in inevitable tension with other civilizations, especially those of Latino, Muslim, and Asian Buddhist, Shinto, and Hindu civilizations. Of the extant civilizations, the Muslim one has historically had the bloodiest of fault line borders. Much of the conflict in the world is along civilization fault lines. He, finally, argued that very likely Western civilization has reached the period of decline that all civilizations in history eventually suffer.

  • Porcell

    America is best regarded as the leader of an Anglo-American empire. Churchill understood this well when the isolationists and pacifists were overcome and we defended Britain during WW I/II and the Cold war. Just now it is the Anglo-American nations that are doing most of the serious fighting in the war against militant/savage Islam. It’s why even the liberal Tony Blair joined us in the Iraq war.

    Samuel Huntington in his excellent last book Who We Are argued that America is essentially an Anglo-Protestant country in that the culture of America was shaped for the most part by Anglo -Protestant settlers and constitutional founders during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. While the Anglo people are presently a minority, their charter culture is still predominant, though under threat from the secular liberal multi-culturists and Latinos who tend to resist assimilation.

    Huntington, also, correctly argued in the Clash of Civilizations that the West is essentially a Christian civilization involved in inevitable tension with other civilizations, especially those of Latino, Muslim, and Asian Buddhist, Shinto, and Hindu civilizations. Of the extant civilizations, the Muslim one has historically had the bloodiest of fault line borders. Much of the conflict in the world is along civilization fault lines. He, finally, argued that very likely Western civilization has reached the period of decline that all civilizations in history eventually suffer.

  • Louis

    Porcell (here I go again – it’s like watching a car wreck) – so by your argument above, Latino civilization is not Christian (last paragraph, first sentence). By simple dedcution, as most Latino’s tend to be either Catholic, or (nowadays) Pentecostal, neither groups are Christian. But then this seriously brings into doubt your extraordinary attempts to co-opt the Roman church to your economic views. Thus, either your are confused, or, you are not Christian.

    QED.

    I’m not even attempting to analyse the other undertones here…..

  • Louis

    Porcell (here I go again – it’s like watching a car wreck) – so by your argument above, Latino civilization is not Christian (last paragraph, first sentence). By simple dedcution, as most Latino’s tend to be either Catholic, or (nowadays) Pentecostal, neither groups are Christian. But then this seriously brings into doubt your extraordinary attempts to co-opt the Roman church to your economic views. Thus, either your are confused, or, you are not Christian.

    QED.

    I’m not even attempting to analyse the other undertones here…..

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Wait, I thought Porcell was Peter Levitt, why was I thinking that?
    Can’t be though. Peter thought the Catholic Church was the one true and right church to which everyone but himself should hold allegiance unless they too had some family history in the church with which they were affiliated, but then should still listen to the pope as the Vicar of Christ.
    But now Porcell doesn’t believe Latino’s are Christian?

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Wait, I thought Porcell was Peter Levitt, why was I thinking that?
    Can’t be though. Peter thought the Catholic Church was the one true and right church to which everyone but himself should hold allegiance unless they too had some family history in the church with which they were affiliated, but then should still listen to the pope as the Vicar of Christ.
    But now Porcell doesn’t believe Latino’s are Christian?

  • Cincinnatus

    I’m not going to touch Porcell’s statement. Suffice to say that the world is much more…complex that Samuel Huntington tends to depict it in his books.

    Here is a helpful thought exercise to help us determine whether the United States functions like a traditional empire or whether it is the benevolent global harbinger of liberty to the oppressed:

    Ask yourself how many nations the United States has aided or invaded with the actual (not merely professed) aim of promulgating liberty or democracy or what have you. Then ask yourself if we have been consistent. If we are the keystone of Western civilization jingoistically speaking, ask yourself the following questions:

    -Why didn’t we defend the Christians in Sudan from the encroachments of a “clashing” civilization?

    -Why didn’t we intervene in Rwanda?

    -Why do we oppose the liberation of various Russian republics?

    -Why did we invade Iraq in the first place?

    -Why don’t we bother mentioning the persecution of Christians in China–the last remaining exemplar of our Communist enemy?

    -Why have we cooperated with tinpot dictatorships across the globe (Iraq, Latin America, Africa, etc.)? Why did we set in motion the events that led to Iran’s current Islamist regime?

    We could go on.

  • Cincinnatus

    I’m not going to touch Porcell’s statement. Suffice to say that the world is much more…complex that Samuel Huntington tends to depict it in his books.

    Here is a helpful thought exercise to help us determine whether the United States functions like a traditional empire or whether it is the benevolent global harbinger of liberty to the oppressed:

    Ask yourself how many nations the United States has aided or invaded with the actual (not merely professed) aim of promulgating liberty or democracy or what have you. Then ask yourself if we have been consistent. If we are the keystone of Western civilization jingoistically speaking, ask yourself the following questions:

    -Why didn’t we defend the Christians in Sudan from the encroachments of a “clashing” civilization?

    -Why didn’t we intervene in Rwanda?

    -Why do we oppose the liberation of various Russian republics?

    -Why did we invade Iraq in the first place?

    -Why don’t we bother mentioning the persecution of Christians in China–the last remaining exemplar of our Communist enemy?

    -Why have we cooperated with tinpot dictatorships across the globe (Iraq, Latin America, Africa, etc.)? Why did we set in motion the events that led to Iran’s current Islamist regime?

    We could go on.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Cincinnatus,
    Earlier you thought Oil was a good enough reason to invade.
    I’m not sure that I quite agree with you. But I think it adds to the importance. I do think if we invade a country we should do what we can to insure that we leave behind a more benevolent government. And for the most part I think the United States has tried to do that. It doesn’t always get involved in everything. Sometimes I wish we might get involved in a bit more than we do.
    But I am trying to figure out where you are going. I get the sense you are too.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Cincinnatus,
    Earlier you thought Oil was a good enough reason to invade.
    I’m not sure that I quite agree with you. But I think it adds to the importance. I do think if we invade a country we should do what we can to insure that we leave behind a more benevolent government. And for the most part I think the United States has tried to do that. It doesn’t always get involved in everything. Sometimes I wish we might get involved in a bit more than we do.
    But I am trying to figure out where you are going. I get the sense you are too.

  • Porcell

    Huntington’s argument, that I agree with, is that the Latinos are a mixture of Indian and European races that, while an offspring of Europe and North America, constitutes a unique civilization that has evolved along a rather different path. While America wiped out indigenous opposition, many of the Latinos intermarried with them, creating a distinct people. While Latinos are Christian, they are subjectively divided in terms of self identification.

    When one talks closely with Latinos, as I have often done, some will say they are part of the West; others that they have their own unique culture. When push came to shove during WWII the Latinos didn’t defend Western civilization against the paganism of the Nazis, nor do they now play a serious role in the fight against militant Islam.

  • Porcell

    Huntington’s argument, that I agree with, is that the Latinos are a mixture of Indian and European races that, while an offspring of Europe and North America, constitutes a unique civilization that has evolved along a rather different path. While America wiped out indigenous opposition, many of the Latinos intermarried with them, creating a distinct people. While Latinos are Christian, they are subjectively divided in terms of self identification.

    When one talks closely with Latinos, as I have often done, some will say they are part of the West; others that they have their own unique culture. When push came to shove during WWII the Latinos didn’t defend Western civilization against the paganism of the Nazis, nor do they now play a serious role in the fight against militant Islam.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Of Course Huntington is right, much more Christian to wipe out indigenous populations rather than intermarry with them.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Of Course Huntington is right, much more Christian to wipe out indigenous populations rather than intermarry with them.

  • Porcell

    Cincinatus: Why didn’t we defend the Christians in Sudan from the encroachments of a “clashing” civilization?

    Simply because Sudan is an insignificant nation in the world order. Great powers carefully choose their battles. Germany and Iraq were well worth a fight; Sudan was not, the hand-wringing moralists notwithstanding.

  • Porcell

    Cincinatus: Why didn’t we defend the Christians in Sudan from the encroachments of a “clashing” civilization?

    Simply because Sudan is an insignificant nation in the world order. Great powers carefully choose their battles. Germany and Iraq were well worth a fight; Sudan was not, the hand-wringing moralists notwithstanding.

  • Cincinnatus

    Now you’re getting it, Porcell. And why is Sudan insignificant as opposed to Iraq? I would submit that it is on the basis of purely pragmatic rather than ideological/civilizational concerns. It’s realpolitik, as much as I hate to admit it. We didn’t invade Iraq because of a deep sentimental attachment to the old Babylonian civilization. We ignored Sudan because she doesn’t offer us anything–not oil, not military alliance, not anything. She is a forgotten nation because she is useless to empire.

    Like Louis, I accept that it is what it is. It’s difficult to condemn the situation categorically, for what would be the alternative? On the other hand, don’t bequeath upon our foreign excursions more nobility than they deserve. This isn’t fundamentally about a clash of civilizations.

  • Cincinnatus

    Now you’re getting it, Porcell. And why is Sudan insignificant as opposed to Iraq? I would submit that it is on the basis of purely pragmatic rather than ideological/civilizational concerns. It’s realpolitik, as much as I hate to admit it. We didn’t invade Iraq because of a deep sentimental attachment to the old Babylonian civilization. We ignored Sudan because she doesn’t offer us anything–not oil, not military alliance, not anything. She is a forgotten nation because she is useless to empire.

    Like Louis, I accept that it is what it is. It’s difficult to condemn the situation categorically, for what would be the alternative? On the other hand, don’t bequeath upon our foreign excursions more nobility than they deserve. This isn’t fundamentally about a clash of civilizations.

  • Porcell

    Bror, how many of your vaunted Scandinavian folk have married Indians? Most of them when settled in the country were perfectly happy to fight the Indian savages.

  • Porcell

    Bror, how many of your vaunted Scandinavian folk have married Indians? Most of them when settled in the country were perfectly happy to fight the Indian savages.

  • Porcell

    Tapper: Has any Christian reading these lines ever wondered if he or she would kill another (known or unknown) member of Christ’s body, simply because a sergeant says to do so?

    When one becomes a warrior for his country, it is salutary to obey the sergeant. Christianity, beginning with Augustine through Luther, Calvin, and Niebuhr, has well understood the hard necessity of just war.

  • Porcell

    Tapper: Has any Christian reading these lines ever wondered if he or she would kill another (known or unknown) member of Christ’s body, simply because a sergeant says to do so?

    When one becomes a warrior for his country, it is salutary to obey the sergeant. Christianity, beginning with Augustine through Luther, Calvin, and Niebuhr, has well understood the hard necessity of just war.

  • Louis

    Porcell, what is this tendency to be superior towards everybody else’s race / ethinicity / religion / civilization? (vaunted Scandinavians?) Don’t you realise that the main reason you are an Anglo-Saxon American is that about threescore and ten (I think you once said your age to be around there) years ago, a white, anglo-saxon American male copulated with a female of the same sort, and produced an offsping???

    The fatc that you were born in a country where you could get an education, become a lawyer etc etc, is God’s grace. Whether that country is in the right or wrong is a matter of debate (read this thread), but that you could enjoy the fruit thereof is a reason to be thankful, not to boast.

    Second thing: “When one becomes a warrior for his country, it is salutary to obey the sergeant.” Now remember that the next time you write about the Nazi soldiers, or North Korean ones, or the Mexicans of the 1840′s, or the Japanese of WWII. Remember them.

  • Louis

    Porcell, what is this tendency to be superior towards everybody else’s race / ethinicity / religion / civilization? (vaunted Scandinavians?) Don’t you realise that the main reason you are an Anglo-Saxon American is that about threescore and ten (I think you once said your age to be around there) years ago, a white, anglo-saxon American male copulated with a female of the same sort, and produced an offsping???

    The fatc that you were born in a country where you could get an education, become a lawyer etc etc, is God’s grace. Whether that country is in the right or wrong is a matter of debate (read this thread), but that you could enjoy the fruit thereof is a reason to be thankful, not to boast.

    Second thing: “When one becomes a warrior for his country, it is salutary to obey the sergeant.” Now remember that the next time you write about the Nazi soldiers, or North Korean ones, or the Mexicans of the 1840′s, or the Japanese of WWII. Remember them.

  • Richard

    Topper,

    The vocation of a soldier is an honorable one–the Bible consistently proclaims this as do the Reformers such as Luther and Calvin. Wielding the sword, per Romans 13 is what soldiers do, and what the Lord expects of soldiers as they carry out their vocation. I recommend you read Luther on this–”Whether Soldiers Too Can Be Saved?”

  • Richard

    Topper,

    The vocation of a soldier is an honorable one–the Bible consistently proclaims this as do the Reformers such as Luther and Calvin. Wielding the sword, per Romans 13 is what soldiers do, and what the Lord expects of soldiers as they carry out their vocation. I recommend you read Luther on this–”Whether Soldiers Too Can Be Saved?”

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Porcell,
    Well I happen to know that a few of my ancestors did intermarry with some Indians. But that is really beside the point.
    To call a civilization Christian because it wiped out indigenous populations rather than intermarrying with them seems just a tinge odd. I’m not debating that by and large that is what happened here in North America. Just saying that doesn’t really say much for the “christianity” of our civilization as opposed to others.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Porcell,
    Well I happen to know that a few of my ancestors did intermarry with some Indians. But that is really beside the point.
    To call a civilization Christian because it wiped out indigenous populations rather than intermarrying with them seems just a tinge odd. I’m not debating that by and large that is what happened here in North America. Just saying that doesn’t really say much for the “christianity” of our civilization as opposed to others.

  • Joe

    Topper – what you won’t find are Bible versus that excuse soldiers from preforming their vocations because they might be ordered to kill a brother. Soldiering is a vocation that is an extension of the state and the state has the power of life and death.

    Read the Luther – its doesn’t have to be authoritative to be persuasive. Here is a secrete – this writing of Luther’s is not “authoritative” to Lutherans either (its not in the Book of Concord). Give it a read, instead of dismissing it out of hand. You just might find the answer.

  • Joe

    Topper – what you won’t find are Bible versus that excuse soldiers from preforming their vocations because they might be ordered to kill a brother. Soldiering is a vocation that is an extension of the state and the state has the power of life and death.

    Read the Luther – its doesn’t have to be authoritative to be persuasive. Here is a secrete – this writing of Luther’s is not “authoritative” to Lutherans either (its not in the Book of Concord). Give it a read, instead of dismissing it out of hand. You just might find the answer.

  • Porcell

    Louis: …Whether that country is in the right or wrong is a matter of debate (read this thread), but that you could enjoy the fruit thereof is a reason to be thankful, not to boast.

    I hardly boast about any inherent Anglo superiority, being rather aware that at present Anglo-American power is in serious decline. However, the Anglo-American empire has been a formidable force in the world since the Industrial Revolution. Pardon me for being appreciative of forebears who have been involved with this.

    You, being a good modern egalitarian moralist, argue that nations and peoples are equal and that we all need to just coexist and get along, a pleasant illusion, as our descendants shall likely learn when China, or possibly India, will rule in the future. Sic transit gloria mundi. Churchill has been superseded by Obama, God forbid.

  • Porcell

    Louis: …Whether that country is in the right or wrong is a matter of debate (read this thread), but that you could enjoy the fruit thereof is a reason to be thankful, not to boast.

    I hardly boast about any inherent Anglo superiority, being rather aware that at present Anglo-American power is in serious decline. However, the Anglo-American empire has been a formidable force in the world since the Industrial Revolution. Pardon me for being appreciative of forebears who have been involved with this.

    You, being a good modern egalitarian moralist, argue that nations and peoples are equal and that we all need to just coexist and get along, a pleasant illusion, as our descendants shall likely learn when China, or possibly India, will rule in the future. Sic transit gloria mundi. Churchill has been superseded by Obama, God forbid.

  • Louis

    Topper, these questions have been agonised over by the Church for 20 almost centuries. While you might not consider what Luther wrote as authoritative over you, it might help you get some clarity anyway.

  • Louis

    Topper, these questions have been agonised over by the Church for 20 almost centuries. While you might not consider what Luther wrote as authoritative over you, it might help you get some clarity anyway.

  • Cincinnatus

    Porcell@55: I haven’t seen anyone engage in “egalitarian moralism” yet. I believe Louis was responding to obvious ambiguities in your previous post, in which you seemed to imply that something about being ethnically Anglo-American is inherently superior to having been born as part of another culture (this claim, of course, coming after the one about Latinos being members of a non-Christian civilization).

    We are now apprised of your actual position, which is that the Anglo-American civilization, insofar as it is monolithic, is culturally superior to others in many (not all) respects. This is a true statement with which I doubt many will disagree, Louis included.

  • Cincinnatus

    Porcell@55: I haven’t seen anyone engage in “egalitarian moralism” yet. I believe Louis was responding to obvious ambiguities in your previous post, in which you seemed to imply that something about being ethnically Anglo-American is inherently superior to having been born as part of another culture (this claim, of course, coming after the one about Latinos being members of a non-Christian civilization).

    We are now apprised of your actual position, which is that the Anglo-American civilization, insofar as it is monolithic, is culturally superior to others in many (not all) respects. This is a true statement with which I doubt many will disagree, Louis included.

  • Louis

    Porcell – “good modern egalitarian moralist, argue that nations and peoples are equal and that we all need to just coexist and get along,”.

    Porcell, being equal does not mean that every action is always ok. Times change – and if you remotely bothered to actually read what I’ve written above, I have a fairly pragmatic sentiment to these things. So what if China or India rules the fututre? If they do it more or less justly, good. If not, God will still preserve his church. I have faced these issues – my own nation (ie the one I was born into) is likely to disappear within a century. My mother tongue would quite likely become obsolete. Previous generations answered this fear by the same kind of ethnocentrist racism you typically promote here – and it only hastened their demise. In fact, had they not done so, chances of survival might have been better. But the wheels of history turn, and things come and go. Some times, hard, but inevitable decisions have to be taken.

    I for one would deign it a sin to visit this type of destruction and demise on anybody. But Forrest Gump was right. Therefore, we make our decisions, and exercise Christian charity in doing so. Our primary allegiance is not to state, nor tribe, nor culture, nor civilization.

  • Louis

    Porcell – “good modern egalitarian moralist, argue that nations and peoples are equal and that we all need to just coexist and get along,”.

    Porcell, being equal does not mean that every action is always ok. Times change – and if you remotely bothered to actually read what I’ve written above, I have a fairly pragmatic sentiment to these things. So what if China or India rules the fututre? If they do it more or less justly, good. If not, God will still preserve his church. I have faced these issues – my own nation (ie the one I was born into) is likely to disappear within a century. My mother tongue would quite likely become obsolete. Previous generations answered this fear by the same kind of ethnocentrist racism you typically promote here – and it only hastened their demise. In fact, had they not done so, chances of survival might have been better. But the wheels of history turn, and things come and go. Some times, hard, but inevitable decisions have to be taken.

    I for one would deign it a sin to visit this type of destruction and demise on anybody. But Forrest Gump was right. Therefore, we make our decisions, and exercise Christian charity in doing so. Our primary allegiance is not to state, nor tribe, nor culture, nor civilization.

  • Cincinnatus

    Topper actually raises a good point: you won’t find many sincerely Christian thinkers willing to argue–and thankfully so!–that the vocation of soldiering, if legitimate, is characterized by unthinking obedience to the commands of his superiors, regardless of the justice, morality, or prudence of the commands.

    Luther and his forebears (including Augustine, who influenced Luther very much, and Aquinas) had a very particular understanding of what constitutes a “just” war. It’s much too broad a topic to even begin to summarize here, but you would be hard-pressed to defend many of America’s recent wars according to the Christian just war rubric. In fact, I doubt many modern wars waged by anyone would satisfy even the most bellicose of just war theorists.

  • Cincinnatus

    Topper actually raises a good point: you won’t find many sincerely Christian thinkers willing to argue–and thankfully so!–that the vocation of soldiering, if legitimate, is characterized by unthinking obedience to the commands of his superiors, regardless of the justice, morality, or prudence of the commands.

    Luther and his forebears (including Augustine, who influenced Luther very much, and Aquinas) had a very particular understanding of what constitutes a “just” war. It’s much too broad a topic to even begin to summarize here, but you would be hard-pressed to defend many of America’s recent wars according to the Christian just war rubric. In fact, I doubt many modern wars waged by anyone would satisfy even the most bellicose of just war theorists.

  • Porcell

    Louis: But Forrest Gump was right. Of course, you would be a devotee of Forrest Gump, that fetching fellow of simpliciter dicta and blissful ignorance. Marc Vicenti captured Gump well as… a pitiful stooge taking the pie of life in the face, thoughtfully licking his fingers, much in the manner of St. Obama in handling Ahmindejad.

  • Porcell

    Louis: But Forrest Gump was right. Of course, you would be a devotee of Forrest Gump, that fetching fellow of simpliciter dicta and blissful ignorance. Marc Vicenti captured Gump well as… a pitiful stooge taking the pie of life in the face, thoughtfully licking his fingers, much in the manner of St. Obama in handling Ahmindejad.

  • kerner

    Ok, so any nation that grows so big and powerful that it has soldiers stationed in foreign countries and can influence weaker nations to do what it wants is an “empire”? I still think this is a very loose definition, which has developed from common usage related to how people think empires behave rather than what they actually are.

    And Cincinnatus and Louis, I think you are failing to recognize the major differences between the USA and historical empires. For one thing, we remain a constitutional republic. I don’t know why you think republics stop being republics just because they expand and gain a lot of geopolitical power. Maybe we’re not as simple as we once were, but that’s something else.

    And while we did take a significant part of our territory by conquest, what we did with it once conquered is unusual for an empire. Instead of ruling our western possessions from afar by an oligarchy of the few, all our “conquered territory in North America have become co-equal states in the union. Unlike the Roman Empire, all you need for citizenship in our “empire” is to be born within our borders, which seems like a step up from the ancient Roman system in which you had to buy citizenship if you didn’t inherit it from your parents. And unlike other examples of other empires past, we don’t really need to conquer new peoples to replenish our workforce. Heck, we can’t keep new people OUT.

    As for our bases overseas in our so called functional colonies, you guys are not honestly arguing that the Germans or the Japanese take orders from us, are you? Does anyone remember the 80′s? Back then we were afraid the Japanese were going to conquer us economicly. (Which turned out to be groundless fear; we are still better capitalists than the Japanese) But the point is they weren’t our lapdogs. And when we went to fight in Iraq our traditional allies wouldn’t go along, so we had to get some new ones. But that was a far cry from the British conscripting manpower from all over the world to fight in Europe. And when our former territory, the Philippines, decided it didn’t want US military bases on its soil anymore (1991) I seem to remember that we left in much the same way a tennant has to leave at the end of his lease. No big problem or sense of entitlement violated. The deal was off and it was simply time to find another place to go. Which is hardly the behavior of an empire toward its vassal states.

    I also reject the contention that US foreign policy is ALL realpolitik. Americans are by culture (if not nature) huge idealists. Why do you think the government is always having to come up with altruistic reasons for us to fight self serving wars? It’s because Americans have to believe that we are the good guys (good objectively, not just good for ourselves) or we won’t fight.

    True, we often find an altruistic reason t fight a war that serves our own best interests (or conversely, we find a way to profit from helping somebody else out), but that is tempering our idealism with enough realism to keep America strong; without which, it can be argued, we couldn’t do anybody any good.

    But we do sometimes inject policies into our realpolitik that are positively Quixotic. Can anyone here come up with one self serving reason for our continued support for the state of Israel? We support them because we perceive the Israelis as a small country being picked on by a much larger enemy, because we think the Jews got a raw deal in Europe, and (just ask Porcell, he’ll be able to tell you about every Nobel Prize they ever won) we perceive the Jews as better people than the Arabs.

    And Israel is only the most prominent example. Louis, you mentioned Kosovo. How does it serve US realpolitik to intervene in a centruries old dispute between a small group of European Muslims and a somewhat larger group of European Christians? It doesn’t, but because we perceived the Muslims as a small group being brutally picked on by a larger one, we helped them out. Britain gave Hong Kong to the Chinese, yet we continue to protect (unofficially) Taiwan for the same reason.

    I grant you that I can see no reason why Kosovo is less insignificant than southern Sudan. But all I can say is that it doesn’t sound right to say that we refuse to do one good thing simply because we lack the resources to do two good things. If that means we have to choose between doing Kosovo or Sudan a favor, it’s a tough decision, but again, if we run out of resources, we will do nobody any good at all.

    So, mixing idealism and realpolitik may make US foreign policy seem crazy sometimes, but I think it’s what we do.

  • kerner

    Ok, so any nation that grows so big and powerful that it has soldiers stationed in foreign countries and can influence weaker nations to do what it wants is an “empire”? I still think this is a very loose definition, which has developed from common usage related to how people think empires behave rather than what they actually are.

    And Cincinnatus and Louis, I think you are failing to recognize the major differences between the USA and historical empires. For one thing, we remain a constitutional republic. I don’t know why you think republics stop being republics just because they expand and gain a lot of geopolitical power. Maybe we’re not as simple as we once were, but that’s something else.

    And while we did take a significant part of our territory by conquest, what we did with it once conquered is unusual for an empire. Instead of ruling our western possessions from afar by an oligarchy of the few, all our “conquered territory in North America have become co-equal states in the union. Unlike the Roman Empire, all you need for citizenship in our “empire” is to be born within our borders, which seems like a step up from the ancient Roman system in which you had to buy citizenship if you didn’t inherit it from your parents. And unlike other examples of other empires past, we don’t really need to conquer new peoples to replenish our workforce. Heck, we can’t keep new people OUT.

    As for our bases overseas in our so called functional colonies, you guys are not honestly arguing that the Germans or the Japanese take orders from us, are you? Does anyone remember the 80′s? Back then we were afraid the Japanese were going to conquer us economicly. (Which turned out to be groundless fear; we are still better capitalists than the Japanese) But the point is they weren’t our lapdogs. And when we went to fight in Iraq our traditional allies wouldn’t go along, so we had to get some new ones. But that was a far cry from the British conscripting manpower from all over the world to fight in Europe. And when our former territory, the Philippines, decided it didn’t want US military bases on its soil anymore (1991) I seem to remember that we left in much the same way a tennant has to leave at the end of his lease. No big problem or sense of entitlement violated. The deal was off and it was simply time to find another place to go. Which is hardly the behavior of an empire toward its vassal states.

    I also reject the contention that US foreign policy is ALL realpolitik. Americans are by culture (if not nature) huge idealists. Why do you think the government is always having to come up with altruistic reasons for us to fight self serving wars? It’s because Americans have to believe that we are the good guys (good objectively, not just good for ourselves) or we won’t fight.

    True, we often find an altruistic reason t fight a war that serves our own best interests (or conversely, we find a way to profit from helping somebody else out), but that is tempering our idealism with enough realism to keep America strong; without which, it can be argued, we couldn’t do anybody any good.

    But we do sometimes inject policies into our realpolitik that are positively Quixotic. Can anyone here come up with one self serving reason for our continued support for the state of Israel? We support them because we perceive the Israelis as a small country being picked on by a much larger enemy, because we think the Jews got a raw deal in Europe, and (just ask Porcell, he’ll be able to tell you about every Nobel Prize they ever won) we perceive the Jews as better people than the Arabs.

    And Israel is only the most prominent example. Louis, you mentioned Kosovo. How does it serve US realpolitik to intervene in a centruries old dispute between a small group of European Muslims and a somewhat larger group of European Christians? It doesn’t, but because we perceived the Muslims as a small group being brutally picked on by a larger one, we helped them out. Britain gave Hong Kong to the Chinese, yet we continue to protect (unofficially) Taiwan for the same reason.

    I grant you that I can see no reason why Kosovo is less insignificant than southern Sudan. But all I can say is that it doesn’t sound right to say that we refuse to do one good thing simply because we lack the resources to do two good things. If that means we have to choose between doing Kosovo or Sudan a favor, it’s a tough decision, but again, if we run out of resources, we will do nobody any good at all.

    So, mixing idealism and realpolitik may make US foreign policy seem crazy sometimes, but I think it’s what we do.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Good conversation, for the most part; wish I could have participated more before now, but my vocations called.

    I agree that the suggested frameworks of realpolitik, empire (soft or otherwise, or whatever you want to call it), and self-serving influence- and resource-protecting make the most sense in explaining the past century or more of the USA’s foreign and/or war policy (when those terms are different). I also agree that this isn’t necessarily laudable, though to a depressing degree it is simply the way of the world.

    But if we take it as a given that the USA is this quasi-imperial entity seeking to exercise control over whatever parts of the planet are important to it, there is still the problem that the bulk of this nation doesn’t appear to actually believe that. And the wars are sold to them with what I can only call lies designed to appeal quite cynically to their idealism. Americans, overall, simply would not support a war that was waged purely to gain resources like oil, or to send a message of strength in a region. If they would, then why do our leaders come up with such other ridiculous ways to sell their wars?

    And if we’ve come to the point where we’re arguing that these wars have to be waged, realpolitikally, but they have to be sold to the tune of the various forms of idealism in vogue, because the people won’t go along otherwise, isn’t that yet another nail in the coffin of the republic? You’d have an oligarchy that knows better than the ignorant masses, wouldn’t you?

    I just feel there’s a lamentable disconnect between what many here seem to agree is really going on and what most people think is really going on. If realpolitik is the best option, then let’s say so and educate people about it. However, if the ideals we claim for ourselves are actually important, then we need to reclaim those in our foreign policy.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Good conversation, for the most part; wish I could have participated more before now, but my vocations called.

    I agree that the suggested frameworks of realpolitik, empire (soft or otherwise, or whatever you want to call it), and self-serving influence- and resource-protecting make the most sense in explaining the past century or more of the USA’s foreign and/or war policy (when those terms are different). I also agree that this isn’t necessarily laudable, though to a depressing degree it is simply the way of the world.

    But if we take it as a given that the USA is this quasi-imperial entity seeking to exercise control over whatever parts of the planet are important to it, there is still the problem that the bulk of this nation doesn’t appear to actually believe that. And the wars are sold to them with what I can only call lies designed to appeal quite cynically to their idealism. Americans, overall, simply would not support a war that was waged purely to gain resources like oil, or to send a message of strength in a region. If they would, then why do our leaders come up with such other ridiculous ways to sell their wars?

    And if we’ve come to the point where we’re arguing that these wars have to be waged, realpolitikally, but they have to be sold to the tune of the various forms of idealism in vogue, because the people won’t go along otherwise, isn’t that yet another nail in the coffin of the republic? You’d have an oligarchy that knows better than the ignorant masses, wouldn’t you?

    I just feel there’s a lamentable disconnect between what many here seem to agree is really going on and what most people think is really going on. If realpolitik is the best option, then let’s say so and educate people about it. However, if the ideals we claim for ourselves are actually important, then we need to reclaim those in our foreign policy.

  • kerner

    tODD @64:

    What I have been saying is that the Amercan people usually demand BOTH idealism AND an element of realpolitik to justify a war. There are exceptions to the rule in our foreign policy. And Americans as a group (not our ruling “oligharchy”) often want to focus more on our idealism more that on our realpolitik. Let me give you an example of what I mean.

    One of the greatest producers of oil consumed in the United States is Canada. If the Canadians decided to refuse to sell any oil to the United States, we wouldn’t like it, but we would be very unlikely to invade Canada. Why? Because Canada is an industrial democracy populated by people who we perceive as being much like us. We couldn’t imagine them as bad enough to go to war with.

    On the other hand, if another major source of our oil, Venezuela, decided to cut us off, the American people would be much easier to convince that we would be doing the Venezuelan people a big favor by liberating them from the despotic clutches of Hugo Chavez, whose proximity to the United States makes him dangerous and whose desire to harm us (see refusal to sell us oil, and the company he keeps) would be evident. The American people usually need a threat to our interests AND a noble cause to be willing to go to war. And I don’t think our wars are based on lies if we emphacise the noble cause aspect of our motivation while we are fighting. Rationalizations perhaps.

    My point is that we have always been like this. Louis, @24, brings up our relations with the Japanese prior to WWII. WWII was a classic case of the US making somebody else’s fight our own, because we perceived Facsism as the “bad guys”. But America as a whole wouldn’t get behind fighting with the world’s Fascists until they could be shown that the fight was in some way ours. So the FDR administration modified our foreign pokicy to try to antagonize the Fascist governments and provoke some kind of incident that would get US into the war. The European Fascists were too smart to go for it, but the Japanese took the bait and attacked Pearl Harbor. Almost immediately thereafter, the United States decided on a military strategy to concentrate the majority of its resources on the European theater of the war fighting people who had not attacked us.

    Why? Because our government perceived the Nazis as worse people (they were), and they American people were so angry at being attacked they were ready to fight anybody loosely affiliated with the people who did it. Even if the Nazis didn’t actually attack us, they represented a potential threat to us and our interests and they were objectively bad enough for us to believe that we would be doing the world a favor by getting rid of them. So we did. And (surprise) we increased our geopolitical power greatly as a result. But the balance of power shifted in the world as a result and we ended up with a new set of enemies we had to deal with.

    (I mean, the reason the Brittish entered WWII was because Poland had been invaded and lost its sovereignty. In 1945, Poland was still under the thumb of one of the countries that had invaded it. Does that mean the British effort in WWII was a big waste?)

    Does any of this sound familiar? It should, because we used similar logic to fight Iraq. I don’t think the American people are totally unaware of this. We can’t, and won’t, fight every bad guy in the world. But we will fight a bad guy who crosses us, especially if he has some victims around that we can help out and there is some advantage to be gained by fighting him. This may not make us the noble nation we like to think we are. But it DOES make us objectively better than any other powerful nation I have heard of. And in a fallen world, I can’t imagine any powerful nation behaving much better. Can you?

  • kerner

    tODD @64:

    What I have been saying is that the Amercan people usually demand BOTH idealism AND an element of realpolitik to justify a war. There are exceptions to the rule in our foreign policy. And Americans as a group (not our ruling “oligharchy”) often want to focus more on our idealism more that on our realpolitik. Let me give you an example of what I mean.

    One of the greatest producers of oil consumed in the United States is Canada. If the Canadians decided to refuse to sell any oil to the United States, we wouldn’t like it, but we would be very unlikely to invade Canada. Why? Because Canada is an industrial democracy populated by people who we perceive as being much like us. We couldn’t imagine them as bad enough to go to war with.

    On the other hand, if another major source of our oil, Venezuela, decided to cut us off, the American people would be much easier to convince that we would be doing the Venezuelan people a big favor by liberating them from the despotic clutches of Hugo Chavez, whose proximity to the United States makes him dangerous and whose desire to harm us (see refusal to sell us oil, and the company he keeps) would be evident. The American people usually need a threat to our interests AND a noble cause to be willing to go to war. And I don’t think our wars are based on lies if we emphacise the noble cause aspect of our motivation while we are fighting. Rationalizations perhaps.

    My point is that we have always been like this. Louis, @24, brings up our relations with the Japanese prior to WWII. WWII was a classic case of the US making somebody else’s fight our own, because we perceived Facsism as the “bad guys”. But America as a whole wouldn’t get behind fighting with the world’s Fascists until they could be shown that the fight was in some way ours. So the FDR administration modified our foreign pokicy to try to antagonize the Fascist governments and provoke some kind of incident that would get US into the war. The European Fascists were too smart to go for it, but the Japanese took the bait and attacked Pearl Harbor. Almost immediately thereafter, the United States decided on a military strategy to concentrate the majority of its resources on the European theater of the war fighting people who had not attacked us.

    Why? Because our government perceived the Nazis as worse people (they were), and they American people were so angry at being attacked they were ready to fight anybody loosely affiliated with the people who did it. Even if the Nazis didn’t actually attack us, they represented a potential threat to us and our interests and they were objectively bad enough for us to believe that we would be doing the world a favor by getting rid of them. So we did. And (surprise) we increased our geopolitical power greatly as a result. But the balance of power shifted in the world as a result and we ended up with a new set of enemies we had to deal with.

    (I mean, the reason the Brittish entered WWII was because Poland had been invaded and lost its sovereignty. In 1945, Poland was still under the thumb of one of the countries that had invaded it. Does that mean the British effort in WWII was a big waste?)

    Does any of this sound familiar? It should, because we used similar logic to fight Iraq. I don’t think the American people are totally unaware of this. We can’t, and won’t, fight every bad guy in the world. But we will fight a bad guy who crosses us, especially if he has some victims around that we can help out and there is some advantage to be gained by fighting him. This may not make us the noble nation we like to think we are. But it DOES make us objectively better than any other powerful nation I have heard of. And in a fallen world, I can’t imagine any powerful nation behaving much better. Can you?

  • Porcell

    The WSJ has an editorial today,Victory in Iraq
    American arms created a republic, if Iraqis can keep it.
    thatsums up both our realpolitik and idealistic aims including:

    This admirable American effort has now given Iraqis the opportunity to govern themselves democratically. We supported the Iraq invasion primarily for reasons of U.S. national security. But a successful war also held the promise that it could create, in a major Arab state, a model for governance that would result in something better than the secular or religious dictatorships that have so often bred brutality and radicalism—which has increasingly reached our own shores. The fact that Iraq has a functioning judiciary, and that Iraqi voters have rejected their most sectarian parties at the polls, is cause for hope that the country is moving in that direction.

    Kerner is right that the American “empire” is a rather odd one historically. In fact like most nations we look after vital interests, though in context of the American ideals of freedom and equality.

  • Porcell

    The WSJ has an editorial today,Victory in Iraq
    American arms created a republic, if Iraqis can keep it.
    thatsums up both our realpolitik and idealistic aims including:

    This admirable American effort has now given Iraqis the opportunity to govern themselves democratically. We supported the Iraq invasion primarily for reasons of U.S. national security. But a successful war also held the promise that it could create, in a major Arab state, a model for governance that would result in something better than the secular or religious dictatorships that have so often bred brutality and radicalism—which has increasingly reached our own shores. The fact that Iraq has a functioning judiciary, and that Iraqi voters have rejected their most sectarian parties at the polls, is cause for hope that the country is moving in that direction.

    Kerner is right that the American “empire” is a rather odd one historically. In fact like most nations we look after vital interests, though in context of the American ideals of freedom and equality.

  • Joe

    I second Kerner’s statement: “The American people usually need a threat to our interests AND a noble cause to be willing to go to war.”

    This explains why Iraq and not Sudan. Sudan has only but it is less the .5% of the known reserves in the world. We can fight every possible war, so we have to do cost benefit analyses to determine which ones we should fight.

    All that said, I agree with tODD that we should be more open about all the reasons we chose to fight certain wars – they are quite rational and easily explained, even if they are unseemly. I do think more openness about why we choose these wars would lead to a better national conversation and ultimately less wars (which I think would probably be a good thing).

    Topper – you do raise a good point about fitting Luther’s article within the just war frame work – but the question raised by your point is no different than anyone else having to decide how far Romans 13 goes and when you can rightfully say no to the gov’t.

  • Joe

    I second Kerner’s statement: “The American people usually need a threat to our interests AND a noble cause to be willing to go to war.”

    This explains why Iraq and not Sudan. Sudan has only but it is less the .5% of the known reserves in the world. We can fight every possible war, so we have to do cost benefit analyses to determine which ones we should fight.

    All that said, I agree with tODD that we should be more open about all the reasons we chose to fight certain wars – they are quite rational and easily explained, even if they are unseemly. I do think more openness about why we choose these wars would lead to a better national conversation and ultimately less wars (which I think would probably be a good thing).

    Topper – you do raise a good point about fitting Luther’s article within the just war frame work – but the question raised by your point is no different than anyone else having to decide how far Romans 13 goes and when you can rightfully say no to the gov’t.

  • Joe

    Topper @68. Sorry if I am not getting it. If you think it would be fruitful, restate it and I’ll see if I can do a better job responding.

  • Joe

    Topper @68. Sorry if I am not getting it. If you think it would be fruitful, restate it and I’ll see if I can do a better job responding.

  • Louis

    Porcell – there is a massive diffrence between agreeing with one statement, and being a devotee. But I wouldn’t expect you to understand – after all, if anything, your arguments here have proven that you are incapable of that type of discernment.

    Kerner – your observations are reasonable – that is why I used the term Soft Empire. As to the “idealist” part that you mention – true, but that is very easily covered by selective use of information (propoganda).

    Topper – “not as a vocation for the conquest of foreign lands for oil or the United Fruit Company” – good one! Thing is, I’m probably not as averse to what I think your position is, however I also realise that reality makes an absolutist pacifism completely unrealisitc. This is a messy, sinful world after all, and therefore absolutist arguemnts rarely suffice. That does not mean we should, in the national sense, “strife for peace with our neighbout, if at all possible”. That is why I tend to reject Empire (soft or hard). but again, we do not live in an ideal world. C’est la vie.

  • Louis

    Porcell – there is a massive diffrence between agreeing with one statement, and being a devotee. But I wouldn’t expect you to understand – after all, if anything, your arguments here have proven that you are incapable of that type of discernment.

    Kerner – your observations are reasonable – that is why I used the term Soft Empire. As to the “idealist” part that you mention – true, but that is very easily covered by selective use of information (propoganda).

    Topper – “not as a vocation for the conquest of foreign lands for oil or the United Fruit Company” – good one! Thing is, I’m probably not as averse to what I think your position is, however I also realise that reality makes an absolutist pacifism completely unrealisitc. This is a messy, sinful world after all, and therefore absolutist arguemnts rarely suffice. That does not mean we should, in the national sense, “strife for peace with our neighbout, if at all possible”. That is why I tend to reject Empire (soft or hard). but again, we do not live in an ideal world. C’est la vie.

  • Louis

    Topper – exactly. That’s why applaud the sentiment on this thread to re-evaluate the causes of recent wars. I have always preferred an honest scoundrel above a dishonest one – like Chesterton, I believe the former to be quite the better one. And, on some level or other, we are all scoundrels…

  • Louis

    Topper – exactly. That’s why applaud the sentiment on this thread to re-evaluate the causes of recent wars. I have always preferred an honest scoundrel above a dishonest one – like Chesterton, I believe the former to be quite the better one. And, on some level or other, we are all scoundrels…

  • Louis

    One correctrion to me post @71 – third last sentence should read “That does mean that we should, in the national sense, “strife for peace with our neighbour, if at all possible”.

  • Louis

    One correctrion to me post @71 – third last sentence should read “That does mean that we should, in the national sense, “strife for peace with our neighbour, if at all possible”.

  • Louis

    And I see i hust compund my typo’s – well – c’est la vie ;) !

  • Louis

    And I see i hust compund my typo’s – well – c’est la vie ;) !

  • Louis

    Kerner:

    “One of the greatest producers of oil consumed in the United States is Canada. If the Canadians decided to refuse to sell any oil to the United States, we wouldn’t like it, but we would be very unlikely to invade Canada. Why? Because Canada is an industrial democracy populated by people who we perceive as being much like us. We couldn’t imagine them as bad enough to go to war with.”

    Actually, my personal opinion is that the relationship between Canada and the US, and to a lesser extent between the US and Mexico, is the western hemisphere’s equivalent of “Finlandization”.

  • Louis

    Kerner:

    “One of the greatest producers of oil consumed in the United States is Canada. If the Canadians decided to refuse to sell any oil to the United States, we wouldn’t like it, but we would be very unlikely to invade Canada. Why? Because Canada is an industrial democracy populated by people who we perceive as being much like us. We couldn’t imagine them as bad enough to go to war with.”

    Actually, my personal opinion is that the relationship between Canada and the US, and to a lesser extent between the US and Mexico, is the western hemisphere’s equivalent of “Finlandization”.

  • Porcell

    Louis, Finlandization stems from the Soviet Union’s brutal treatment of Finland during and after WWII. Of course, the US drives hard bargains on issues, just as Canada does, though this is rather distinct from Finlandization. Just what has the US done to merit your use of the term?

  • Porcell

    Louis, Finlandization stems from the Soviet Union’s brutal treatment of Finland during and after WWII. Of course, the US drives hard bargains on issues, just as Canada does, though this is rather distinct from Finlandization. Just what has the US done to merit your use of the term?

  • Louis

    Porcell – of course it is not so brutal, but I could mention the softwood lumber dispute for instance. Or the 1960′s debcale about the Avro Arrow (to be fair, Diefenbaker’s idiocy helped there…). Or Arctic sovereignty issues.

    To be fair, none of these approach Finlandization, which is another reason I prefer the term “Soft Empire”. Of course, last time you tried to invade us, we burnt down the White House (that’s why it’s white anyway), so maybe a softer approach was called for ;) :)

  • Louis

    Porcell – of course it is not so brutal, but I could mention the softwood lumber dispute for instance. Or the 1960′s debcale about the Avro Arrow (to be fair, Diefenbaker’s idiocy helped there…). Or Arctic sovereignty issues.

    To be fair, none of these approach Finlandization, which is another reason I prefer the term “Soft Empire”. Of course, last time you tried to invade us, we burnt down the White House (that’s why it’s white anyway), so maybe a softer approach was called for ;) :)

  • Louis

    Lest some get the wrong idea, let me also clearly say that I’m not anti-American. I am anti-imperialism. Love of place, people, clan, speech and culture is a good thing, though not a paramount thing. The Will to Power is Nietzsche’s answer to a world without God. And we do not live in a world without God. And we need to recognise that a soft version of Nietzche is still a version of Nietzsche – if not on the national level, then at least on the personal level.

  • Louis

    Lest some get the wrong idea, let me also clearly say that I’m not anti-American. I am anti-imperialism. Love of place, people, clan, speech and culture is a good thing, though not a paramount thing. The Will to Power is Nietzsche’s answer to a world without God. And we do not live in a world without God. And we need to recognise that a soft version of Nietzche is still a version of Nietzsche – if not on the national level, then at least on the personal level.

  • Porcell

    Most Americans respect Canada and Canadians and are understanding of their frequent envy and resentment. Canada would be a practically barren wasteland without U.S. trade.

  • Porcell

    Most Americans respect Canada and Canadians and are understanding of their frequent envy and resentment. Canada would be a practically barren wasteland without U.S. trade.

  • Louis

    Porcell – well, in some provinces, like SK, our biggest trading partner is now China. Fact is, without AB & SK oil, and Quebec hydro, America will grind to a halt, very, very quickly. And agricultural output will drop quickly without SK potash, and nuclear reactors will find it problematic without our Uranium.

    Trade is a wondeful thing. It doesn’t need imperialism, soft or hard, to be able to operate. That is one of the few things I agree with the Paulites (as in Ron) with.

  • Louis

    Porcell – well, in some provinces, like SK, our biggest trading partner is now China. Fact is, without AB & SK oil, and Quebec hydro, America will grind to a halt, very, very quickly. And agricultural output will drop quickly without SK potash, and nuclear reactors will find it problematic without our Uranium.

    Trade is a wondeful thing. It doesn’t need imperialism, soft or hard, to be able to operate. That is one of the few things I agree with the Paulites (as in Ron) with.

  • Louis

    I keep on posting before I’m finished. I think your founding Fathers, at least some of them, had generally the same idea, although they abandoned it damn quickly…..

  • Louis

    I keep on posting before I’m finished. I think your founding Fathers, at least some of them, had generally the same idea, although they abandoned it damn quickly…..

  • Joe
  • Joe
  • Porcell

    Louis, American power is derivative of legitimate political, economic, and social strength. By and large America has used and does use its power with restraint. At times, America’s power has been engaged decisively, for example in defeating Nazi Germany, The Communist Soviet Union, and at present in confronting militant Islam. Having visited several American military cemeteries in Europe in which tens of thousand American warriors are buried, one is aware of their sacrifice.

    We have serious debates among ourselves about assorted issues and don’t need some transplanted South African from Canada moralistically lecturing us about American power and faults.

  • Porcell

    Louis, American power is derivative of legitimate political, economic, and social strength. By and large America has used and does use its power with restraint. At times, America’s power has been engaged decisively, for example in defeating Nazi Germany, The Communist Soviet Union, and at present in confronting militant Islam. Having visited several American military cemeteries in Europe in which tens of thousand American warriors are buried, one is aware of their sacrifice.

    We have serious debates among ourselves about assorted issues and don’t need some transplanted South African from Canada moralistically lecturing us about American power and faults.

  • Louis

    “and don’t need some transplanted South African from Canada moralistically lecturing us about American power and faults.”

    Hmmm. Anybody else want to take care of this one? Apparently I’m not qualified…..

  • Louis

    “and don’t need some transplanted South African from Canada moralistically lecturing us about American power and faults.”

    Hmmm. Anybody else want to take care of this one? Apparently I’m not qualified…..

  • tODD

    Louis (@85), don’t feel bad. The fact that you disagreed with Porcell was already enough to disqualify you, now and forever. That he also got to disparage your history and citizenship was merely icing on the cake.

  • tODD

    Louis (@85), don’t feel bad. The fact that you disagreed with Porcell was already enough to disqualify you, now and forever. That he also got to disparage your history and citizenship was merely icing on the cake.

  • Cincinnatus

    Louis: It was either that or be deemed a “heartland isolationist.”

  • Cincinnatus

    Louis: It was either that or be deemed a “heartland isolationist.”

  • kerner

    Louis! I forgot you were a transplanted South African living in Canada! Alas, you seem to have absorbed the local prejudices against the USA. My previous experience Canadian anti-USA sentiment is largely confined to conversations with a Canadian Catholic and researching what she told me, but I learned a lot from her. And there are so many points your statements have raised in the last 24 hours, I don’t know if I can address them all. Let’s start with Canadian prejudice.

    While I believe that jealousy may be one element contributing to Canadina animosity towards the USA as Porcell suggests, it alone does not explain it. During the American Revolution, a great many Loyalists migrated to Canada. This made Canada sort of the Anti-USA. Attempts to invade a place that was populated almost exclusively by those who had rejected the legitimacy of the USA at the outset were predictably unsuccessful, even though it was tried during the revolution, in 1812, and by discharged Irish ex-Union soldiers after the Civil War (google “the fennians” to read more about that).

    But as for your suggestion that Canada has become “finlandized”, if Canada is a weak power who chose to be subserviant to a greater one, it began by choosing subservience to Great Britain. Canadians tend to identify with the military exploits of the British Empire when it suits them. Take for example your assertion @78 that “we burnt down the white house”. The white house was burnt by British troops in 1814. Part of the reason they did it may have been in retaliation for the burning of the government facilities at York (now Toronto) a year earlier. But if there were any actual Canadian units among the British troops that participated in the Chesapeake campaign of the War of 1812, google has stubbornly refused to reveal them to me.

    Canada did not exist as anything like an independent state until 1867, and even then remained politically and militarily tied to Great Britian for decades. The War of 1812 was resolved by the Treaty of Ghent (signed Dec. 1814, ratified by the Senate in Feb. 1915, but not signed by any representative of Canada). It returned the positions of Great Britian and the USA to almost exactly what they were prior to the war. It was, therefore, by any objective measure, a tie. Yet Canadians like to claim that “we” won the War of 1812 or that “we” burnt Washington, which is only slightly more credible than claiming that Canada won the Boer War. Yeah, sure you did.

    I think this all has a lot to do with the original decision to remain a part of the British Empire. Canadians often characterize the American Revolution and a “matricidal rebellion”. We Americans were bad for doing it. And there was some comfort to be found in being part of a great empire that dominated the world. But all that has changed.

    In material and geopolitical terms at least. The USA has surpassed Great Britain. I believe Canadians are now suffering from a feeling that they backed the wrong horse. The USA is an economic giant, exerts military might throughout the world, and is looked to as the “leader of the free world”. Canada is the former client state of a fallen empire. Having lost much of their raison’d’etre, I believe many Canadians resent the aparent success of the USA, and constantly look for reasons to criticize everything we do or have done. While some of these criticisms are legitimate, they are hardly objective. To use the mother and two sons analogy that Canadians often do: Mother (the British Empire) has gotten old and retired. The rebellious son who went off on his own (the USA) has made good on his own, while the devoted son (Canada) has spent his life supporting Mother. But Mother now respects and looks to the rebellious son (with his far superior resources) for aid and guidance and the devoted son feels unappreciated. It just doesn’t seem fair.

    This may not be the attitude of all, or even most, Canadians. But there is enough of it out there to call it a significant element of they way Canadians generally regard the United States.

  • kerner

    Louis! I forgot you were a transplanted South African living in Canada! Alas, you seem to have absorbed the local prejudices against the USA. My previous experience Canadian anti-USA sentiment is largely confined to conversations with a Canadian Catholic and researching what she told me, but I learned a lot from her. And there are so many points your statements have raised in the last 24 hours, I don’t know if I can address them all. Let’s start with Canadian prejudice.

    While I believe that jealousy may be one element contributing to Canadina animosity towards the USA as Porcell suggests, it alone does not explain it. During the American Revolution, a great many Loyalists migrated to Canada. This made Canada sort of the Anti-USA. Attempts to invade a place that was populated almost exclusively by those who had rejected the legitimacy of the USA at the outset were predictably unsuccessful, even though it was tried during the revolution, in 1812, and by discharged Irish ex-Union soldiers after the Civil War (google “the fennians” to read more about that).

    But as for your suggestion that Canada has become “finlandized”, if Canada is a weak power who chose to be subserviant to a greater one, it began by choosing subservience to Great Britain. Canadians tend to identify with the military exploits of the British Empire when it suits them. Take for example your assertion @78 that “we burnt down the white house”. The white house was burnt by British troops in 1814. Part of the reason they did it may have been in retaliation for the burning of the government facilities at York (now Toronto) a year earlier. But if there were any actual Canadian units among the British troops that participated in the Chesapeake campaign of the War of 1812, google has stubbornly refused to reveal them to me.

    Canada did not exist as anything like an independent state until 1867, and even then remained politically and militarily tied to Great Britian for decades. The War of 1812 was resolved by the Treaty of Ghent (signed Dec. 1814, ratified by the Senate in Feb. 1915, but not signed by any representative of Canada). It returned the positions of Great Britian and the USA to almost exactly what they were prior to the war. It was, therefore, by any objective measure, a tie. Yet Canadians like to claim that “we” won the War of 1812 or that “we” burnt Washington, which is only slightly more credible than claiming that Canada won the Boer War. Yeah, sure you did.

    I think this all has a lot to do with the original decision to remain a part of the British Empire. Canadians often characterize the American Revolution and a “matricidal rebellion”. We Americans were bad for doing it. And there was some comfort to be found in being part of a great empire that dominated the world. But all that has changed.

    In material and geopolitical terms at least. The USA has surpassed Great Britain. I believe Canadians are now suffering from a feeling that they backed the wrong horse. The USA is an economic giant, exerts military might throughout the world, and is looked to as the “leader of the free world”. Canada is the former client state of a fallen empire. Having lost much of their raison’d’etre, I believe many Canadians resent the aparent success of the USA, and constantly look for reasons to criticize everything we do or have done. While some of these criticisms are legitimate, they are hardly objective. To use the mother and two sons analogy that Canadians often do: Mother (the British Empire) has gotten old and retired. The rebellious son who went off on his own (the USA) has made good on his own, while the devoted son (Canada) has spent his life supporting Mother. But Mother now respects and looks to the rebellious son (with his far superior resources) for aid and guidance and the devoted son feels unappreciated. It just doesn’t seem fair.

    This may not be the attitude of all, or even most, Canadians. But there is enough of it out there to call it a significant element of they way Canadians generally regard the United States.

  • Porcell

    Kerner, I have found through extensive investment banking experience with Canadians that, while many ordinary ones have deep down a corrosive, visceral envy of and resentment toward the US, the wiser and better of them understand that for all its faults America is a dynamic, hardworking, entrepreneurial nation that has used its great power with restraint and has been on balance a force for great good in the world. These Canadians often despair of the provincial, narrow-minded, and resentful types that hold Canada back from its own potential greatness.

    I will say that during this current economic crisis with which we are involved, Canada’s banking sector has done well. For example, Canada has no such monstrosity as Fan/Fred, doesn’t provide tax deduction for mortgage interest, and still has a high per-centage of home ownership. Just now Canada provides some excellent opportunities for capital investment.

    I’m, also, impressed with the present conservative government leader, Harper, whom most of my Canadian friends regard as a high-grade person and leader.

  • Porcell

    Kerner, I have found through extensive investment banking experience with Canadians that, while many ordinary ones have deep down a corrosive, visceral envy of and resentment toward the US, the wiser and better of them understand that for all its faults America is a dynamic, hardworking, entrepreneurial nation that has used its great power with restraint and has been on balance a force for great good in the world. These Canadians often despair of the provincial, narrow-minded, and resentful types that hold Canada back from its own potential greatness.

    I will say that during this current economic crisis with which we are involved, Canada’s banking sector has done well. For example, Canada has no such monstrosity as Fan/Fred, doesn’t provide tax deduction for mortgage interest, and still has a high per-centage of home ownership. Just now Canada provides some excellent opportunities for capital investment.

    I’m, also, impressed with the present conservative government leader, Harper, whom most of my Canadian friends regard as a high-grade person and leader.

  • Cincinnatus

    kerner, kerner, kerner (and Porcell, as always): that is an interesting dissertation on the roots of Canadian anti-Americanism, but when employed to dismiss the validity of Louis’s arguments, it’s nothing more than a crude ad hominem: “Your arguments aren’t worth discussing because you live in Canada, and thus unbeknownst to you, you have absorbed local prejudices that [ostensibly] have no grounding in reality.” This is a bad method of argumentation and, moreoever, it fails utterly to do justice to Louis’s fine arguments. You cannot refute an argument by asserting that, “Well, you’re [x], so you would say that, wouldn’t you?” It’s bad form, and a bad method of discerning truth.

    By the way, you’ve also incorrectly accused Louis of anti-Americanism. Thus far, I haven’t heard anything anti-American pass his lips. On the contrary, he seems to imply that the soft American empire is a preferable alternative to many others.

    How about this? I am a natural-born American citizen. I consider myself patriotic. I agree with the vast majority of what Louis has said. I think he makes valid arguments and provides a valid analysis of the American power structure and its interaction with the world. Now confront the arguments. It will be a more fruitful exercise that way because you can’t simply dismiss them as a thoughtless Canadian bias.

  • Cincinnatus

    kerner, kerner, kerner (and Porcell, as always): that is an interesting dissertation on the roots of Canadian anti-Americanism, but when employed to dismiss the validity of Louis’s arguments, it’s nothing more than a crude ad hominem: “Your arguments aren’t worth discussing because you live in Canada, and thus unbeknownst to you, you have absorbed local prejudices that [ostensibly] have no grounding in reality.” This is a bad method of argumentation and, moreoever, it fails utterly to do justice to Louis’s fine arguments. You cannot refute an argument by asserting that, “Well, you’re [x], so you would say that, wouldn’t you?” It’s bad form, and a bad method of discerning truth.

    By the way, you’ve also incorrectly accused Louis of anti-Americanism. Thus far, I haven’t heard anything anti-American pass his lips. On the contrary, he seems to imply that the soft American empire is a preferable alternative to many others.

    How about this? I am a natural-born American citizen. I consider myself patriotic. I agree with the vast majority of what Louis has said. I think he makes valid arguments and provides a valid analysis of the American power structure and its interaction with the world. Now confront the arguments. It will be a more fruitful exercise that way because you can’t simply dismiss them as a thoughtless Canadian bias.

  • kerner

    Louis @79:

    Despite my previous comment, I take you at your word that you are not anti-American, simply anti-Imperialism. I also understand your position that a soft version of Nietzche is still a version of Nietzche. I hope you can accept my position that the USA was created based not on culture or clan, but on an attempt to reject any version of Nietzche.

    Our clearest statement of this begins our Declaration of Independence, “that ALL MEN are endowed BY THEIR CREATOR with certain inalienable rights” (I’m not trying to shout, I just can’t create italics). The use of the term “all men” trancends clan and culture, and the invocation of our Creator rejects a world without God (or even for modern secularists, at least rejects a world without a Guiding Principle that supercedes culture or clan).

    Our failures to follow or live up to this Guiding Principle are many and obvious. But the difference between the United States and the British Empire (which WAS based on culture, albeit an admirable one) is that our country is based on this Guiding Principle, which is more important than our culture. Anyone from any culture can become an American (at least if he can overcome our current draconian immigration regulations) if he or she swears allegiance to our Guiding Principles as embodied in our Constitution. The prospective citizen does not swear allegiance to a place nor an ethnic group.

    As long as some of us still believe in our ideals as being superior to our self interest as the purpose and foundation of our nation, the USA will not be truly Nietzchean, softly or otherwise.

    Of course the problem with this last paragraph is the very very imperfect way we have behaved. So imperfect are we that there will always be plenty of evidence for skeptics to use to argue that our ideals are all a big fraud; merely an excuse to pursue our “will to power”. But I do not believe this to be true. The reason that Americans usually need a “noble cause” to go to war is because most Americans believe that we as a country are in the world to be a force for objective good, however often we may forget it and act to the contrary.

    I realize that to believe this can be taken as pure arrogance. And maybe we are guilty of that too. And it certainly leads to some very odd conclusions. For example, I believe that the most credible force for peace and human rights in the world today is the United States, not the United Nations. The reason is that a government does not have to subscribe to or act in comformity with principles of peace or human rights to belong to the United Nations, whereas a government must do so to be part of the United States. Or at least, the United States is much, much better at enforcing subscription to and conformity with those principles that the United Nations as it currently exists could ever hope to be.

    On the other hand, the USA is only one country. and even at our very best, there is only so much we can do. Maybe our narrower alliances, like NATO, are more credible forces for peace and human rights than we are standing alone. But the UN, an organization that once appointed Iran and pre-war Iraq as heads of its human rights commission (they did it alphabetically) has very little credibility with me.

    So anyway, despite what you may read, even here, about the clash of civilizations, it is not the purported superiority of our culture that makes the United States exceptional, but rather our attempt (however often unsuccessful) to subordinate our culture to our Guiding Principles that does so.

  • kerner

    Louis @79:

    Despite my previous comment, I take you at your word that you are not anti-American, simply anti-Imperialism. I also understand your position that a soft version of Nietzche is still a version of Nietzche. I hope you can accept my position that the USA was created based not on culture or clan, but on an attempt to reject any version of Nietzche.

    Our clearest statement of this begins our Declaration of Independence, “that ALL MEN are endowed BY THEIR CREATOR with certain inalienable rights” (I’m not trying to shout, I just can’t create italics). The use of the term “all men” trancends clan and culture, and the invocation of our Creator rejects a world without God (or even for modern secularists, at least rejects a world without a Guiding Principle that supercedes culture or clan).

    Our failures to follow or live up to this Guiding Principle are many and obvious. But the difference between the United States and the British Empire (which WAS based on culture, albeit an admirable one) is that our country is based on this Guiding Principle, which is more important than our culture. Anyone from any culture can become an American (at least if he can overcome our current draconian immigration regulations) if he or she swears allegiance to our Guiding Principles as embodied in our Constitution. The prospective citizen does not swear allegiance to a place nor an ethnic group.

    As long as some of us still believe in our ideals as being superior to our self interest as the purpose and foundation of our nation, the USA will not be truly Nietzchean, softly or otherwise.

    Of course the problem with this last paragraph is the very very imperfect way we have behaved. So imperfect are we that there will always be plenty of evidence for skeptics to use to argue that our ideals are all a big fraud; merely an excuse to pursue our “will to power”. But I do not believe this to be true. The reason that Americans usually need a “noble cause” to go to war is because most Americans believe that we as a country are in the world to be a force for objective good, however often we may forget it and act to the contrary.

    I realize that to believe this can be taken as pure arrogance. And maybe we are guilty of that too. And it certainly leads to some very odd conclusions. For example, I believe that the most credible force for peace and human rights in the world today is the United States, not the United Nations. The reason is that a government does not have to subscribe to or act in comformity with principles of peace or human rights to belong to the United Nations, whereas a government must do so to be part of the United States. Or at least, the United States is much, much better at enforcing subscription to and conformity with those principles that the United Nations as it currently exists could ever hope to be.

    On the other hand, the USA is only one country. and even at our very best, there is only so much we can do. Maybe our narrower alliances, like NATO, are more credible forces for peace and human rights than we are standing alone. But the UN, an organization that once appointed Iran and pre-war Iraq as heads of its human rights commission (they did it alphabetically) has very little credibility with me.

    So anyway, despite what you may read, even here, about the clash of civilizations, it is not the purported superiority of our culture that makes the United States exceptional, but rather our attempt (however often unsuccessful) to subordinate our culture to our Guiding Principles that does so.

  • kerner

    Cincinnatus @90:

    Give me some time. I was just getting started. Canadian Anti-Americanism is an ad hominem in itself, and it gives me a real pain. It is also one aspect of Louis’ argument. Maybe I am being a little oversensative by addressing it first, and I agree that a second ad hominem is not a proper response to a first one. I’ll move on.

  • kerner

    Cincinnatus @90:

    Give me some time. I was just getting started. Canadian Anti-Americanism is an ad hominem in itself, and it gives me a real pain. It is also one aspect of Louis’ argument. Maybe I am being a little oversensative by addressing it first, and I agree that a second ad hominem is not a proper response to a first one. I’ll move on.

  • Porcell

    Canadian antiAmericanism is well known to any American familiar with the country. For a thoughtful explanation of this phenomenon read Anti-American cant a self-inflicted wound by Robert Fulford, a Canadian, including this introductory remark:

    Anti-Americanism in Canada wears a smiling face and considers itself both innocent and morally superior. But it has always seemed to me among the ugliest manifestations of the Canadian spirit, and a self-inflicted wound on our intellectual life. Last week, in the wake of the Sept. 11 atrocities, my readers offered new insights into it.

    I have found that among the worst of the Canadian anti-Americans are the ones who make it a point to tell you that they are not anti-American. Louis doth protest too much that he is not one. After establishing America’s imperialism, however soft, he is disingenuous with the claim of being merely opposed to imperialism. He even has the gall to lecture us with Nietzsche’s will to power being the answer to a world without God.

    I learned a long time ago that the only way to deal with what Fulford correctly call this ugly manifestation of the Canadian spirit is to confront it in no uncertain terms and let these smug, righteous moralists know how offensive it is.

  • Porcell

    Canadian antiAmericanism is well known to any American familiar with the country. For a thoughtful explanation of this phenomenon read Anti-American cant a self-inflicted wound by Robert Fulford, a Canadian, including this introductory remark:

    Anti-Americanism in Canada wears a smiling face and considers itself both innocent and morally superior. But it has always seemed to me among the ugliest manifestations of the Canadian spirit, and a self-inflicted wound on our intellectual life. Last week, in the wake of the Sept. 11 atrocities, my readers offered new insights into it.

    I have found that among the worst of the Canadian anti-Americans are the ones who make it a point to tell you that they are not anti-American. Louis doth protest too much that he is not one. After establishing America’s imperialism, however soft, he is disingenuous with the claim of being merely opposed to imperialism. He even has the gall to lecture us with Nietzsche’s will to power being the answer to a world without God.

    I learned a long time ago that the only way to deal with what Fulford correctly call this ugly manifestation of the Canadian spirit is to confront it in no uncertain terms and let these smug, righteous moralists know how offensive it is.

  • Porcell

    Cincinnatus, it doesn’t surprise me that you would agree with Louis’s corrosive anti-American remarks. Having been caught up in the anti-war, isolationist paleo-conservative movement, you, Im afraid, border on becoming a cynical anti-American yourself.

    I should suggest that you read David Frum’s article, Unpatriotic Conservatives
    A war against America.
    including:

    The antiwar conservatives aren’t satisfied merely to question the wisdom of an Iraq war. Questions are perfectly reasonable, indeed valuable. There is more than one way to wage the war on terror, and thoughtful people will naturally disagree about how best to do it, whether to focus on terrorist organizations like al-Qaeda and Hezbollah or on states like Iraq and Iran; and if states, then which state first?

    But the antiwar conservatives have gone far, far beyond the advocacy of alternative strategies. They have made common cause with the left-wing and Islamist antiwar movements in this country and in Europe. They deny and excuse terror. They espouse a potentially self-fulfilling defeatism. They publicize wild conspiracy theories. And some of them explicitly yearn for the victory of their nation’s enemies.

  • Porcell

    Cincinnatus, it doesn’t surprise me that you would agree with Louis’s corrosive anti-American remarks. Having been caught up in the anti-war, isolationist paleo-conservative movement, you, Im afraid, border on becoming a cynical anti-American yourself.

    I should suggest that you read David Frum’s article, Unpatriotic Conservatives
    A war against America.
    including:

    The antiwar conservatives aren’t satisfied merely to question the wisdom of an Iraq war. Questions are perfectly reasonable, indeed valuable. There is more than one way to wage the war on terror, and thoughtful people will naturally disagree about how best to do it, whether to focus on terrorist organizations like al-Qaeda and Hezbollah or on states like Iraq and Iran; and if states, then which state first?

    But the antiwar conservatives have gone far, far beyond the advocacy of alternative strategies. They have made common cause with the left-wing and Islamist antiwar movements in this country and in Europe. They deny and excuse terror. They espouse a potentially self-fulfilling defeatism. They publicize wild conspiracy theories. And some of them explicitly yearn for the victory of their nation’s enemies.

  • Cincinnatus

    Porcell, we haven’t established that what Louis and, as I insisted earlier, I have asserted constitutes anti-Americanism. Harboring objections to particular exertions or manifestations of American power does not constitute anti-Americanism.

    I appreciate your supercilious attempts to label me a corrosive anti-American–I suppose it can only be expected of “serious men of business”–but I’m not arguing against America or the American project. I know it is difficult for you to fathom, but the qualifications for being “American” do not include subscribing fully to your vision of its ideal foreign policy or condoning every historical choice made by America’s diplomatic and military leadership. Simply put, what I’m arguing against is the imperialistic thread in American thought and praxis that is, in fact, separable from, distinct from, and militates against the republican aspects of the American project. While it is a cliche, it is not false to claim that the founders–all of them (except perhaps Hamilton)!–would adamantly oppose what the United States has become. I am not speaking in moral terms (blah blah blah gay marrage and socialized healthcare) but in terms applying to the extent of the national government’s power and authority both domestically and internationally.

    Imperialism, soft or hard, is a threat to republican ideals and institutions. We can argue all day about the nobility or necessity of the Spanish-American War, the World Wars, the Cold War, and the Iraq War, but what is not debatable or subject to denial is that these foreign adventures have been pursued at the expense of a massive centralized securitarian state, and that the vast extension of federal power necessarily attendant to these expeditions is in dramatic tension with what I would consider to be authentic, organic American values: individual liberty, self government, small government, subsidiarity, equality, etc.

    A tendency inherent in a devotion to these values and ideals is the progressive, historicist, near-eschatological notion that these ideals do and should apply to all peoples everywhere, and that inevitably they will–and thus it is America’s duty as the incarnation of the current world geist to spread these ideals and to defend them wherever they are or have been assailed. Again, we can debate the nobility or propriety of the actions spawned by this impetus, but what we cannot deny is that an over-eager pursuit of these ideals is paradoxically dangerous to their maintenance at home. In other words, where kerner attempts to “excuse” our soft imperialism (I use this term because it is convenient; call if whatever you like: “spreading democracy,” “defending liberty,” “preferable to China,” etc.), I am insisting that it is a brute fact that the disposition of certain elements of American culture to pursue these ideals globally and militarily is in the end dangerous to the ideals themselves.

    And this is not even to touch upon the questions of realpolitik broached earlier.

    p.s. Porcell, allow me to preempt the red herring of my ostensible isolationism or pacifism. I subscribe to neither idea, and I am discussing neither idea here. It is an irrelevant point of discussion you repeatedly employ to assail my arguments without actually interacting with their substance. It makes you look more ridiculous than I.

  • Cincinnatus

    Porcell, we haven’t established that what Louis and, as I insisted earlier, I have asserted constitutes anti-Americanism. Harboring objections to particular exertions or manifestations of American power does not constitute anti-Americanism.

    I appreciate your supercilious attempts to label me a corrosive anti-American–I suppose it can only be expected of “serious men of business”–but I’m not arguing against America or the American project. I know it is difficult for you to fathom, but the qualifications for being “American” do not include subscribing fully to your vision of its ideal foreign policy or condoning every historical choice made by America’s diplomatic and military leadership. Simply put, what I’m arguing against is the imperialistic thread in American thought and praxis that is, in fact, separable from, distinct from, and militates against the republican aspects of the American project. While it is a cliche, it is not false to claim that the founders–all of them (except perhaps Hamilton)!–would adamantly oppose what the United States has become. I am not speaking in moral terms (blah blah blah gay marrage and socialized healthcare) but in terms applying to the extent of the national government’s power and authority both domestically and internationally.

    Imperialism, soft or hard, is a threat to republican ideals and institutions. We can argue all day about the nobility or necessity of the Spanish-American War, the World Wars, the Cold War, and the Iraq War, but what is not debatable or subject to denial is that these foreign adventures have been pursued at the expense of a massive centralized securitarian state, and that the vast extension of federal power necessarily attendant to these expeditions is in dramatic tension with what I would consider to be authentic, organic American values: individual liberty, self government, small government, subsidiarity, equality, etc.

    A tendency inherent in a devotion to these values and ideals is the progressive, historicist, near-eschatological notion that these ideals do and should apply to all peoples everywhere, and that inevitably they will–and thus it is America’s duty as the incarnation of the current world geist to spread these ideals and to defend them wherever they are or have been assailed. Again, we can debate the nobility or propriety of the actions spawned by this impetus, but what we cannot deny is that an over-eager pursuit of these ideals is paradoxically dangerous to their maintenance at home. In other words, where kerner attempts to “excuse” our soft imperialism (I use this term because it is convenient; call if whatever you like: “spreading democracy,” “defending liberty,” “preferable to China,” etc.), I am insisting that it is a brute fact that the disposition of certain elements of American culture to pursue these ideals globally and militarily is in the end dangerous to the ideals themselves.

    And this is not even to touch upon the questions of realpolitik broached earlier.

    p.s. Porcell, allow me to preempt the red herring of my ostensible isolationism or pacifism. I subscribe to neither idea, and I am discussing neither idea here. It is an irrelevant point of discussion you repeatedly employ to assail my arguments without actually interacting with their substance. It makes you look more ridiculous than I.

  • Cincinnatus

    By the way, Porcell, your last paragraph is an execrable assault on my character and I would warrant on those of numerous other good-hearted opponents of the war. I can assure you that while I do (and have since the beginning) opposed the war in Iraq, I don’t engage in anything so despicable and/or laughable as finding “common cause with Islamist movements,” “denying and excusing terror,” espousing “self-fulfilling defeatism” (whatever that even means), publicizing “wild conspiracy theories,” or (have you no shame whatsoever Porcell?) “explicitly yearn[ing] for the victory of [my] nation’s enemies.”

    For God’s sake, man. There’s nothing to debate here except a collection of baseless, offensive insults–that you didn’t even come up with yourself!

  • Cincinnatus

    By the way, Porcell, your last paragraph is an execrable assault on my character and I would warrant on those of numerous other good-hearted opponents of the war. I can assure you that while I do (and have since the beginning) opposed the war in Iraq, I don’t engage in anything so despicable and/or laughable as finding “common cause with Islamist movements,” “denying and excusing terror,” espousing “self-fulfilling defeatism” (whatever that even means), publicizing “wild conspiracy theories,” or (have you no shame whatsoever Porcell?) “explicitly yearn[ing] for the victory of [my] nation’s enemies.”

    For God’s sake, man. There’s nothing to debate here except a collection of baseless, offensive insults–that you didn’t even come up with yourself!

  • Cincinnatus

    Forgive the triple-post, but it strikes my memory that you, Porcell, were only recently criticizing one of my arguments on the grounds that I cited the Wikipedia summary of a particular economic school. That somehow rendered my argument invalid.

    And yet here you are today linking to an inflammatory from the National Review that contains no substantive argument or data whatsoever! As if there is some authority when it is the Review hurling baseless insults my way! Well, since the National Review called me a defeatist, Islamist, anti-American then it must be true! It’s not just Porcell saying so!

    Nah, since I make “common cause with leftists and Islamists,” then I won’t believe it unless I see it in the New York Times or Al Jazeera.

  • Cincinnatus

    Forgive the triple-post, but it strikes my memory that you, Porcell, were only recently criticizing one of my arguments on the grounds that I cited the Wikipedia summary of a particular economic school. That somehow rendered my argument invalid.

    And yet here you are today linking to an inflammatory from the National Review that contains no substantive argument or data whatsoever! As if there is some authority when it is the Review hurling baseless insults my way! Well, since the National Review called me a defeatist, Islamist, anti-American then it must be true! It’s not just Porcell saying so!

    Nah, since I make “common cause with leftists and Islamists,” then I won’t believe it unless I see it in the New York Times or Al Jazeera.

  • Porcell

    Cincinnatus, on another thread that I can’t remember you didn’t object to my remark that you are sympathetic to Pat Buchanan and the paleo-conservative view. You may protest that you are not an isolationist, though you repeatedly objected to the Iraq War and at present object to America’s involvement in the war against militant Islam.

    One may favor America’s involvement in world affairs, after learning in the 20th century that not to be involved leads to disastrous wars, and favor a severe diminution of federal government domestic influence. True conservative Reublicans since Lincoln have been willing to fight necessary wars and at the same time keep the role of the federal government diminished. Your view that our involvement in world affairs and wars is a necessary cause of the present monstrous federal government is fallacious.

    I doubt that you read the Frum article which correctly explains that paleo-conservatives have involved themselves in what amounts to a war against America.

    That Louis is a corrosive anti-American is obvious. That you, given your paleo-conservative view, would agree with him is equally obvious. One, also, notes your patent resentment of serious men of business. If anyone is “supercilious” it would be you. You see yourself as a wise defender of republican virtue and those who question this as déclassé.

  • Porcell

    Cincinnatus, on another thread that I can’t remember you didn’t object to my remark that you are sympathetic to Pat Buchanan and the paleo-conservative view. You may protest that you are not an isolationist, though you repeatedly objected to the Iraq War and at present object to America’s involvement in the war against militant Islam.

    One may favor America’s involvement in world affairs, after learning in the 20th century that not to be involved leads to disastrous wars, and favor a severe diminution of federal government domestic influence. True conservative Reublicans since Lincoln have been willing to fight necessary wars and at the same time keep the role of the federal government diminished. Your view that our involvement in world affairs and wars is a necessary cause of the present monstrous federal government is fallacious.

    I doubt that you read the Frum article which correctly explains that paleo-conservatives have involved themselves in what amounts to a war against America.

    That Louis is a corrosive anti-American is obvious. That you, given your paleo-conservative view, would agree with him is equally obvious. One, also, notes your patent resentment of serious men of business. If anyone is “supercilious” it would be you. You see yourself as a wise defender of republican virtue and those who question this as déclassé.

  • kerner

    “War is a racket.”, Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler, USMC Ret.

    “Somoza may be a son of a b!tch, but he’s our son of a b!tch.”, Franklin Delano Roosevelt

    Cincinnatus and Louis:

    Your comments address the past policies of the USA, and the issue of how the USA should behave in the present. I’ll start with the past.

    In th late 1890′s, the United States began to develop policies geared toward establishing itself as a participant in a global economy. One problem involved was what to do when the raw materials or agricultural products that American business concerns wanted to acquire were in places not under the control of any stable government, or under the control of archaic and technologicaly primitive governments. In many Latin American countries, the governments were corrupt, unstable, and often not in control of their countries. This was certainly true of Mexico 1900-1920, as it was in many parts of Central America. In east and central Asia, the European powers had already carved the continent up into outright colonies and spheres of influence. Only Japan and Siam remained independent. The USA opposed european imperialism. This may have been because it was too late to profit from it, or it may have been due to the USA’s history of breaking away from a European empire.

    But an immediate problem was how to protect, for example, American oil workers manning oil wells in Mexico. When the government of Mexico collapsed, there was no rule of law in Mexico for 20 years. I don’t think it was as if Standard oil had done something immoral to get mineral rights in Tampico. I don’t know of any moral rule that requires an American company to give up something it has paid for and invested in, simply because the place in which the enterprise is located has decended into anarchy. For the United States military to be called upon to protect American lives and property abroad when the local government becomes incapable of doing so seems like a legitimate use of the military to me, at least as a general rule.

    Between 1900 and 1935 or so, the Navy and USMC were put to this use. In practice, however, this was frequently not benign. What research I have been able to do in a day indicates that the US intervention in Haiti was particularly poorly handled. The Marines there appear to have behaved brutally at times and our presence accomplished nothing lasting. I cannot defend our actions there (maybe I’ll find something positive we accomplished later, but I haven’t yet). It may be true that the Haitian people were slightly worse off without us than with us, but that does not excuse any of our misdeeds.

    Another policy I find unacceptable is the “our son of a b!tch” mentality that has dominated much of our policy during that time. It might be reasonable for the USA to desire stable governments in the countries where its citizens want to do business. It might even be reasonable for the United States to use its power to help stable governments develop. But short of annexation, how to go about accomplishing these aparently worthy goals presents some pretty complicated problems.

    FDR’s approach was characteristic of US policy from 1900 until the 70′s at least. If a tinpot dictator supported US interests, we would support him, regardless of how badly he behaved with his own people. We still do this to some extent. US support for Hosni Mubarek or the house of Saud are examples. This may be rank hypocracy, or oportunistic pragmatism, or only resigned realism. But whatever explains it, it isn’t idealism that generates our alliances like those. On the other hand, we seem genuinely determined to help nations develop governments based on ideals like our own when we can. I repeat, we don’t tell the Germans, Japanese, Koreans, or Philippinos what to do. They reject our desires all the time. Even when the Iraqis vote for candidates other than those we prefer, we accept it.

    I read more of what Gen Butler wrote. He advocated that the US military pull back to our borders and defend nothing that wasn’t on our soil. He seems to have determined that American enterprises abroad are unworthy of American military protection. If he were still around, I think I would remind him that he was a volunteer, as are all US military personnel today. Nobody forced him to do what he did. But more to the point, I would ask him if he found something dishonorable about engaging in commerse abroad in dangerous places, such that citizens who did so were unworthy of American military protection. His major criticism seemed to be that businesses that operated abroad were making more profit abroad than they would have at home, and that being asked to protect those far away enterprises was too great a burden for the American Military, even volunteers. I suppose American businesses could provide their own private security, and there are companies who do this. But do the rest of you think that private security is good answer to this? I know another answer is to not engage in buisiness abroad at all in dangerous places, but is that really the only alternative?

    Also, Gen. Butler was staunchly against the US antagonizing Japan or getting into WWII. Was he right?

  • kerner

    “War is a racket.”, Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler, USMC Ret.

    “Somoza may be a son of a b!tch, but he’s our son of a b!tch.”, Franklin Delano Roosevelt

    Cincinnatus and Louis:

    Your comments address the past policies of the USA, and the issue of how the USA should behave in the present. I’ll start with the past.

    In th late 1890′s, the United States began to develop policies geared toward establishing itself as a participant in a global economy. One problem involved was what to do when the raw materials or agricultural products that American business concerns wanted to acquire were in places not under the control of any stable government, or under the control of archaic and technologicaly primitive governments. In many Latin American countries, the governments were corrupt, unstable, and often not in control of their countries. This was certainly true of Mexico 1900-1920, as it was in many parts of Central America. In east and central Asia, the European powers had already carved the continent up into outright colonies and spheres of influence. Only Japan and Siam remained independent. The USA opposed european imperialism. This may have been because it was too late to profit from it, or it may have been due to the USA’s history of breaking away from a European empire.

    But an immediate problem was how to protect, for example, American oil workers manning oil wells in Mexico. When the government of Mexico collapsed, there was no rule of law in Mexico for 20 years. I don’t think it was as if Standard oil had done something immoral to get mineral rights in Tampico. I don’t know of any moral rule that requires an American company to give up something it has paid for and invested in, simply because the place in which the enterprise is located has decended into anarchy. For the United States military to be called upon to protect American lives and property abroad when the local government becomes incapable of doing so seems like a legitimate use of the military to me, at least as a general rule.

    Between 1900 and 1935 or so, the Navy and USMC were put to this use. In practice, however, this was frequently not benign. What research I have been able to do in a day indicates that the US intervention in Haiti was particularly poorly handled. The Marines there appear to have behaved brutally at times and our presence accomplished nothing lasting. I cannot defend our actions there (maybe I’ll find something positive we accomplished later, but I haven’t yet). It may be true that the Haitian people were slightly worse off without us than with us, but that does not excuse any of our misdeeds.

    Another policy I find unacceptable is the “our son of a b!tch” mentality that has dominated much of our policy during that time. It might be reasonable for the USA to desire stable governments in the countries where its citizens want to do business. It might even be reasonable for the United States to use its power to help stable governments develop. But short of annexation, how to go about accomplishing these aparently worthy goals presents some pretty complicated problems.

    FDR’s approach was characteristic of US policy from 1900 until the 70′s at least. If a tinpot dictator supported US interests, we would support him, regardless of how badly he behaved with his own people. We still do this to some extent. US support for Hosni Mubarek or the house of Saud are examples. This may be rank hypocracy, or oportunistic pragmatism, or only resigned realism. But whatever explains it, it isn’t idealism that generates our alliances like those. On the other hand, we seem genuinely determined to help nations develop governments based on ideals like our own when we can. I repeat, we don’t tell the Germans, Japanese, Koreans, or Philippinos what to do. They reject our desires all the time. Even when the Iraqis vote for candidates other than those we prefer, we accept it.

    I read more of what Gen Butler wrote. He advocated that the US military pull back to our borders and defend nothing that wasn’t on our soil. He seems to have determined that American enterprises abroad are unworthy of American military protection. If he were still around, I think I would remind him that he was a volunteer, as are all US military personnel today. Nobody forced him to do what he did. But more to the point, I would ask him if he found something dishonorable about engaging in commerse abroad in dangerous places, such that citizens who did so were unworthy of American military protection. His major criticism seemed to be that businesses that operated abroad were making more profit abroad than they would have at home, and that being asked to protect those far away enterprises was too great a burden for the American Military, even volunteers. I suppose American businesses could provide their own private security, and there are companies who do this. But do the rest of you think that private security is good answer to this? I know another answer is to not engage in buisiness abroad at all in dangerous places, but is that really the only alternative?

    Also, Gen. Butler was staunchly against the US antagonizing Japan or getting into WWII. Was he right?

  • Cincinnatus

    Porcell:

    *sigh*

    -I do not sympathize with Pat Buchanan. I do sympathize with paleo-conservatism in many respects. I suspect that, as with ordoliberism, neoliberalism, and most any other topic that isn’t precisely what you believe, you don’t actually know what paleo-conservatism is. Hint: it is not synonymous with “isolationism.” Read this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paleoconservative I know it’s Wikipedia, but since you had no inclination whatsoever to read the books on the topic I recommended some weeks ago, the first paragraph especially is a great summary of what paleoconservatism represents.

    -I do object to the Iraq War. I also object to an amorphous, interminable, undefinable war against “radical Islam.” I do not object to our involvement in Afghanistan, though we seem to be in a bit of a pickle due to the resurgence of the Taliban. I was not aware that my objection to a particular war rendered me an “isolationist” anti-American.

    -For the centillionth time, Abraham Lincoln was not a conservative. THIS IS HISTORICAL FACT. He was a Republican, though, so you’re 50% correct.

    -Like the Republicans you cite, I am quite willing to engage in necessary wars. We seem to differ on what constitutes a “necessary war,” however. Reasonable people can disagree on this point without labeling each other “anti-American” and other ridiculous insults. You apparently are not a reasonable person.

    -Claiming that the argument that our involvement in 20th-century wars led to the vast expansion of the national government is fallacious is, well, fallacious. Numerous empirical (and normative) texts in political science have exhaustively documented the simultaneous and correlative rise in international involvement and expansion of our government apparatus at the federal level. This is a tremendous topic that we could discuss for weeks on end, but suffice to say that you won’t find many people who agree with you on this point. It doesn’t even make logical sense to claim that one can (or that American could have) waged the biggest wars in world history without constructing one of the biggest governments in world history.

    -Frum’s argument is the classic and tired claim that anyone opposing the current adventures of the national government is a danger to the government and the country. It’s employed by both sides. Opponents of Woodrow Wilson’s WWI were labeled dangers to the state. So were opponents of Vietnam. And so are opponents of the Republican effort in Iraq. Of course, some protesters are various brands of anti-American, but claiming that all forms of dissent constitute a danger to the state that must be stopped is itself more un-American than most anything else that has been said during this discussion. I can see how you and Frum get along, though: his argument is that people who disagree with him are enemies. That’s been your “sophisticated” claim as well. Quite simply, I reject the notion that I am anti-American for opposing particular wars or raising objections to particular jingoistic manifestations of American ideals.

    In the end, I’m not expressing opposition to America itself, but to a particular manifestation of American ideology that I–and many others!–find to be dangerous to liberty here and abroad. Similarly, when you claim, while degrading me as an anti-American, that you are defending America against we Islamists, leftists, isolationists, and Canadians, you are not defending America itself, but the particular manifestation of American ideology that I am opposing. Again, reasonable people should be able to disagree about this subject without stooping to petty insults. But perhaps I have been overestimating your reasonableness.

  • Cincinnatus

    Porcell:

    *sigh*

    -I do not sympathize with Pat Buchanan. I do sympathize with paleo-conservatism in many respects. I suspect that, as with ordoliberism, neoliberalism, and most any other topic that isn’t precisely what you believe, you don’t actually know what paleo-conservatism is. Hint: it is not synonymous with “isolationism.” Read this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paleoconservative I know it’s Wikipedia, but since you had no inclination whatsoever to read the books on the topic I recommended some weeks ago, the first paragraph especially is a great summary of what paleoconservatism represents.

    -I do object to the Iraq War. I also object to an amorphous, interminable, undefinable war against “radical Islam.” I do not object to our involvement in Afghanistan, though we seem to be in a bit of a pickle due to the resurgence of the Taliban. I was not aware that my objection to a particular war rendered me an “isolationist” anti-American.

    -For the centillionth time, Abraham Lincoln was not a conservative. THIS IS HISTORICAL FACT. He was a Republican, though, so you’re 50% correct.

    -Like the Republicans you cite, I am quite willing to engage in necessary wars. We seem to differ on what constitutes a “necessary war,” however. Reasonable people can disagree on this point without labeling each other “anti-American” and other ridiculous insults. You apparently are not a reasonable person.

    -Claiming that the argument that our involvement in 20th-century wars led to the vast expansion of the national government is fallacious is, well, fallacious. Numerous empirical (and normative) texts in political science have exhaustively documented the simultaneous and correlative rise in international involvement and expansion of our government apparatus at the federal level. This is a tremendous topic that we could discuss for weeks on end, but suffice to say that you won’t find many people who agree with you on this point. It doesn’t even make logical sense to claim that one can (or that American could have) waged the biggest wars in world history without constructing one of the biggest governments in world history.

    -Frum’s argument is the classic and tired claim that anyone opposing the current adventures of the national government is a danger to the government and the country. It’s employed by both sides. Opponents of Woodrow Wilson’s WWI were labeled dangers to the state. So were opponents of Vietnam. And so are opponents of the Republican effort in Iraq. Of course, some protesters are various brands of anti-American, but claiming that all forms of dissent constitute a danger to the state that must be stopped is itself more un-American than most anything else that has been said during this discussion. I can see how you and Frum get along, though: his argument is that people who disagree with him are enemies. That’s been your “sophisticated” claim as well. Quite simply, I reject the notion that I am anti-American for opposing particular wars or raising objections to particular jingoistic manifestations of American ideals.

    In the end, I’m not expressing opposition to America itself, but to a particular manifestation of American ideology that I–and many others!–find to be dangerous to liberty here and abroad. Similarly, when you claim, while degrading me as an anti-American, that you are defending America against we Islamists, leftists, isolationists, and Canadians, you are not defending America itself, but the particular manifestation of American ideology that I am opposing. Again, reasonable people should be able to disagree about this subject without stooping to petty insults. But perhaps I have been overestimating your reasonableness.

  • Cincinnatus

    kerner: Good points. I tend to agree with what you’ve written (whether you agree with it yourself or not). For what it’s worth, World War II was one of the most unnecessary wars in the planet’s history. It could so easily have been avoided, and the United States, along with the United Kingdom, played a tremendous role in its happening anyway: punitive measures against Germany after WWI (a war which actually had no villain except the human race itself), later accepting Hitler and appeasing Germany via the partitioning of Czechoslovakia, etc. (this, of course, being Britain’s doing), antagonizing Japan relentlessly. Don’t get me started on how easily the Cold War could have been easily averted.

    But that’s beside the point. Even if Butler is not 100% correct, his viewpoint is one that direly needs to be more frequently given space in American public discourse. It turns out that Ron Paul was right about “blowback.” It turns out that propping up tinpot dictators ultimately works to our detriment. It turns out that refusing to mind our own business isn’t such a great idea. As it happens, defending anything that might be of commercial interest to America results in an empire. As it happens, there is a lot of money and power involved in utilizing one’s military apparatus–money and power that, again, militates against more traditional conceptions of American ideals.

    At the very least, there is some middle ground between Butler’s refusal to defend anything not within our borders and Porcell’s jingoism. I hope to God there is, anyway.

  • Cincinnatus

    kerner: Good points. I tend to agree with what you’ve written (whether you agree with it yourself or not). For what it’s worth, World War II was one of the most unnecessary wars in the planet’s history. It could so easily have been avoided, and the United States, along with the United Kingdom, played a tremendous role in its happening anyway: punitive measures against Germany after WWI (a war which actually had no villain except the human race itself), later accepting Hitler and appeasing Germany via the partitioning of Czechoslovakia, etc. (this, of course, being Britain’s doing), antagonizing Japan relentlessly. Don’t get me started on how easily the Cold War could have been easily averted.

    But that’s beside the point. Even if Butler is not 100% correct, his viewpoint is one that direly needs to be more frequently given space in American public discourse. It turns out that Ron Paul was right about “blowback.” It turns out that propping up tinpot dictators ultimately works to our detriment. It turns out that refusing to mind our own business isn’t such a great idea. As it happens, defending anything that might be of commercial interest to America results in an empire. As it happens, there is a lot of money and power involved in utilizing one’s military apparatus–money and power that, again, militates against more traditional conceptions of American ideals.

    At the very least, there is some middle ground between Butler’s refusal to defend anything not within our borders and Porcell’s jingoism. I hope to God there is, anyway.

  • kerner

    Cincinnatus, particularly @95:

    We are getting past the rhetoric and to the point. You find that the expansion of American power on the international scene, even (perhaps especially) when idealisticly used to advance our principles among other peoples, threatens the implimentation of those very principles at home. I think you have made your point pretty effectively, but if you have more to say, please do.

    Let me suggest, however, that there is a certain balance that must be maintained. Yes, the mechanism of power necessary to, say, defeat the Nazis, or install a democracy in Iraq causes government to expand. This is a bad thing, I agree. But on the other hand, if we simply let events beyond our borders occur as they will, without our intervention, might we not find ourselves surrounded by hostile enemies of freedom who would then make its defense (or its loss) on our own soil a terrible reality? Never mind the brush fire conflicts Gen. Butler was complaining about for a minute. One of the policies of the United States has been to fight our enemies far away, so they never actually get close enough to attack us on our own soil. By helping create and nurturing democracies abroad, we reduce the size and strength and number of potential external threats to our freedom, do we not? Taking for granted that you are right about the internal threats to our freedom, is there nothing we can do about external threats until they show up at our borders? And isn’t there something a little selfish about seeing people suffering and resolving to never help them, because if we helped one country, fairness would require us to help everyone?

    I don’t claim to have all the precise answers to these questions, but aren’t they valid ones?

  • kerner

    Cincinnatus, particularly @95:

    We are getting past the rhetoric and to the point. You find that the expansion of American power on the international scene, even (perhaps especially) when idealisticly used to advance our principles among other peoples, threatens the implimentation of those very principles at home. I think you have made your point pretty effectively, but if you have more to say, please do.

    Let me suggest, however, that there is a certain balance that must be maintained. Yes, the mechanism of power necessary to, say, defeat the Nazis, or install a democracy in Iraq causes government to expand. This is a bad thing, I agree. But on the other hand, if we simply let events beyond our borders occur as they will, without our intervention, might we not find ourselves surrounded by hostile enemies of freedom who would then make its defense (or its loss) on our own soil a terrible reality? Never mind the brush fire conflicts Gen. Butler was complaining about for a minute. One of the policies of the United States has been to fight our enemies far away, so they never actually get close enough to attack us on our own soil. By helping create and nurturing democracies abroad, we reduce the size and strength and number of potential external threats to our freedom, do we not? Taking for granted that you are right about the internal threats to our freedom, is there nothing we can do about external threats until they show up at our borders? And isn’t there something a little selfish about seeing people suffering and resolving to never help them, because if we helped one country, fairness would require us to help everyone?

    I don’t claim to have all the precise answers to these questions, but aren’t they valid ones?

  • kerner

    We may be saying the same things from different perspectives, now.

  • kerner

    We may be saying the same things from different perspectives, now.

  • Porcell

    Cincinnatus, I regard Lincoln as a conservative in that he fought a war to preserve the Union and to prevent the extension of slavery tothe northern states. For this and his supreme prose he is regarded by most historians as the greatest of American presidents. Using the great power granted to presidents during war-time he suspended the right of habeas corpus and clapped not a few middle-state politicians in jail. Had Lincoln lost his brave struggle America would have become a divided nation, probably between the North, South, and West.

    Despite your objection, the Left , Paleo-Conservatives, and militant Islamists are involved in a distinctly anti-American effort. Thomas Sowell in a recent book The Dismantling of America, writes that this combination of forces includng Obama has in effect placed America in great jeopardy and probable defeat.

  • Porcell

    Cincinnatus, I regard Lincoln as a conservative in that he fought a war to preserve the Union and to prevent the extension of slavery tothe northern states. For this and his supreme prose he is regarded by most historians as the greatest of American presidents. Using the great power granted to presidents during war-time he suspended the right of habeas corpus and clapped not a few middle-state politicians in jail. Had Lincoln lost his brave struggle America would have become a divided nation, probably between the North, South, and West.

    Despite your objection, the Left , Paleo-Conservatives, and militant Islamists are involved in a distinctly anti-American effort. Thomas Sowell in a recent book The Dismantling of America, writes that this combination of forces includng Obama has in effect placed America in great jeopardy and probable defeat.

  • Cincinnatus

    kerner@102: You make good points, and it does seem as if we agree more than I at first supposed. You’ve interpreted my argument correctly, so I have no complaints there.

    However, the idea that not projecting our power abroad could lead to our eventual circumscription by hostile enemies of freedom seems a bit alarmist and, while worthy of consideration, dangerous to liberty in the same way that the jingoistic use of our ideas is dangerous to liberty (see above). The policy of the United States to confront enemies far away is a) relatively new and b) an explicit contradiction of the old dictum that we are rendered comparatively safe by being isolated between two oceans. This latter circumstance is still true, and it is unlikely Canada or Mexico would ever become true threats to freedom. And if so, they would be easily defeated. The whole thing, again, just reeks of alarmism and implausibility. Meanwhile, our efforts to “create and nurture” democracies, in the few instances in which they have been successful, have been, on the whole, more trouble than they are worth (and how often have we ended up with dictatorships instead) and, moreover, are based upon the unproven, naive theory that democracies will never be hostile to or engage in wars with one another. Finally, the objections–usually on pragmatic, fiscal grounds–to the perception that the United States is or should be the savior of the world and guardian of the oppressed are well-known and I am sure you are aware of them, so I won’t rehash them here. I could say more, but suffice to say that I am more than a little bit skeptical of the notion that we must venture send expeditionary forces all over the globe lest someone threaten our liberty on closer geography. If nothing else, it can and has served as a rationale for all manner of unjustified conflict, expenditure, preemptive strikes, plunder, etc. It just doesn’t seem like a prudent principle to live by, for it is so easily abused (even if you don’t agree with any of my other concerns).

    Porcell: If all you’re going to do is insist that anyone who disagrees with you is “anti-American,” then I’m done discussing this topic with you.

    But the continued claim that Lincoln was a conservative is a major pet peeve of mine, so I can’t let that slide. I could indulge your preferred style and simply dismiss your argument on the grounds that you are from New England, complete with a “paleoconservative” editorial excoriating denizens of the North, but I’ll refrain. Aside from the fact that “conserving” (nice choice of words!) the Union was not, at the time, a conservative idea (indeed, the linguistic anomaly “the United States are…” didn’t pass out of regular usage until very recently; this is why the Civil War was considered the war that “settled” the question of state sovereignty; prior to the war, it was an unsettled question, and conservatives tended to wish to “conserve” state sovereignty, as it preexisted the idea of national sovereignty), Lincoln and his wing of the Republican party were acknowledged as progressive at the time for many reasons, the two most famous being these: a) their advocacy of the supercession or abrogation of state sovereignty and b) later, their advocacy of the abolition of the institution of slavery (yes, the conservatives had it wrong on this idea). Moreover, arguing that Lincoln’s mission to “conserve” the Union (itself an incorrect notion) excused everything else that was deeply “unconservative” about his regime is a copout of the worst kind. Amongst other things, Lincoln suspended habeus corpus, a (permanently) expanded government, higher taxes (including the income tax!), many federally-funded public works projects, corporate welfare, and, to say the least, a very, erm, “loose” reading of the Constitution. Some of these actions were necessary for successful prosecution of the war (and thereby they could be justifiable), some were not. None of them were conservative. Further, his “supreme prose” and his widely-acknowledged status as the “greatest President” ever are not evidence of his conservatism, as the structure of your argument seems to imply. That’s just a silly claim. In any case, you won’t be convinced. You’re never convinced of anything, but I do have to say it–for the sake of truth and all that.

  • Cincinnatus

    kerner@102: You make good points, and it does seem as if we agree more than I at first supposed. You’ve interpreted my argument correctly, so I have no complaints there.

    However, the idea that not projecting our power abroad could lead to our eventual circumscription by hostile enemies of freedom seems a bit alarmist and, while worthy of consideration, dangerous to liberty in the same way that the jingoistic use of our ideas is dangerous to liberty (see above). The policy of the United States to confront enemies far away is a) relatively new and b) an explicit contradiction of the old dictum that we are rendered comparatively safe by being isolated between two oceans. This latter circumstance is still true, and it is unlikely Canada or Mexico would ever become true threats to freedom. And if so, they would be easily defeated. The whole thing, again, just reeks of alarmism and implausibility. Meanwhile, our efforts to “create and nurture” democracies, in the few instances in which they have been successful, have been, on the whole, more trouble than they are worth (and how often have we ended up with dictatorships instead) and, moreover, are based upon the unproven, naive theory that democracies will never be hostile to or engage in wars with one another. Finally, the objections–usually on pragmatic, fiscal grounds–to the perception that the United States is or should be the savior of the world and guardian of the oppressed are well-known and I am sure you are aware of them, so I won’t rehash them here. I could say more, but suffice to say that I am more than a little bit skeptical of the notion that we must venture send expeditionary forces all over the globe lest someone threaten our liberty on closer geography. If nothing else, it can and has served as a rationale for all manner of unjustified conflict, expenditure, preemptive strikes, plunder, etc. It just doesn’t seem like a prudent principle to live by, for it is so easily abused (even if you don’t agree with any of my other concerns).

    Porcell: If all you’re going to do is insist that anyone who disagrees with you is “anti-American,” then I’m done discussing this topic with you.

    But the continued claim that Lincoln was a conservative is a major pet peeve of mine, so I can’t let that slide. I could indulge your preferred style and simply dismiss your argument on the grounds that you are from New England, complete with a “paleoconservative” editorial excoriating denizens of the North, but I’ll refrain. Aside from the fact that “conserving” (nice choice of words!) the Union was not, at the time, a conservative idea (indeed, the linguistic anomaly “the United States are…” didn’t pass out of regular usage until very recently; this is why the Civil War was considered the war that “settled” the question of state sovereignty; prior to the war, it was an unsettled question, and conservatives tended to wish to “conserve” state sovereignty, as it preexisted the idea of national sovereignty), Lincoln and his wing of the Republican party were acknowledged as progressive at the time for many reasons, the two most famous being these: a) their advocacy of the supercession or abrogation of state sovereignty and b) later, their advocacy of the abolition of the institution of slavery (yes, the conservatives had it wrong on this idea). Moreover, arguing that Lincoln’s mission to “conserve” the Union (itself an incorrect notion) excused everything else that was deeply “unconservative” about his regime is a copout of the worst kind. Amongst other things, Lincoln suspended habeus corpus, a (permanently) expanded government, higher taxes (including the income tax!), many federally-funded public works projects, corporate welfare, and, to say the least, a very, erm, “loose” reading of the Constitution. Some of these actions were necessary for successful prosecution of the war (and thereby they could be justifiable), some were not. None of them were conservative. Further, his “supreme prose” and his widely-acknowledged status as the “greatest President” ever are not evidence of his conservatism, as the structure of your argument seems to imply. That’s just a silly claim. In any case, you won’t be convinced. You’re never convinced of anything, but I do have to say it–for the sake of truth and all that.

  • Porcell

    Kerner at 99: Also, Gen. Butler was staunchly against the US antagonizing Japan or getting into WWII. Was he right?

    No, he wasn’t, though a great warrior, he suffered the same illusion of Cincinnatus, that the US is a continental nation that can ignore the reality of world politics. Even men like Taft and Lindbergh finally understood after Pearl Harbor that fighting Japan and Germany was of vital necessity to US interests.

    Cincinnatus, do you seriously argue that Lincoln in the name of state’s rights ought to have allowed the South to secede from the nation? The truth is that Lincoln bravely preserved the Union and prevented the extension of slavery; by so doing proved himself a conservative.

    Again, it doesn’t follow that a great power involved in world affairs must become a spendthrift federal government monstrosity.

  • Porcell

    Kerner at 99: Also, Gen. Butler was staunchly against the US antagonizing Japan or getting into WWII. Was he right?

    No, he wasn’t, though a great warrior, he suffered the same illusion of Cincinnatus, that the US is a continental nation that can ignore the reality of world politics. Even men like Taft and Lindbergh finally understood after Pearl Harbor that fighting Japan and Germany was of vital necessity to US interests.

    Cincinnatus, do you seriously argue that Lincoln in the name of state’s rights ought to have allowed the South to secede from the nation? The truth is that Lincoln bravely preserved the Union and prevented the extension of slavery; by so doing proved himself a conservative.

    Again, it doesn’t follow that a great power involved in world affairs must become a spendthrift federal government monstrosity.

  • Louis

    I’m stepping away from these debates. The accusations by the like of Porcell is getting extrremely ridiculous, and are winding me up unnecessarily. Suffice to say, if he accuses me of anti-Americanism, Pat Buchanan, Ron Paul and many, many others, including some very patriotic American folk of my acquintance are also anti-American. Essentialy, mr Porcell follows a “if you’re not with me, you’re against me” policy – one common with many tin-pot dictatorships, and a characteristic of the Trotskyite neocons.

    Kerner, while I disagree with you, I respect you, and your view points.

    Todd, Cincinnatus – you’re good men. Thanks.

    This is my last post on this matter.

  • Louis

    I’m stepping away from these debates. The accusations by the like of Porcell is getting extrremely ridiculous, and are winding me up unnecessarily. Suffice to say, if he accuses me of anti-Americanism, Pat Buchanan, Ron Paul and many, many others, including some very patriotic American folk of my acquintance are also anti-American. Essentialy, mr Porcell follows a “if you’re not with me, you’re against me” policy – one common with many tin-pot dictatorships, and a characteristic of the Trotskyite neocons.

    Kerner, while I disagree with you, I respect you, and your view points.

    Todd, Cincinnatus – you’re good men. Thanks.

    This is my last post on this matter.

  • Cincinnatus

    Porcell: The question of whether I think Southern secession was warranted or not is inapposite to the question of whether Lincoln was a conservative. I would love to talk about the former issue sometime, but not here, and probably not with you. It is, in any case, irrelevant to the wider discussion at hand. Lincoln was not a conservative. Asserting federal sovereignty was not conservative. Abolishing slavery was even less conservative. As tODD recently observed, you labor under the apparent idea that anything with which you agree or which you believe is automatically “conservative.” You like Lincoln, therefore he and everything he stood for is conservative; Q.E.D. This is silly. Meantime, I’ve made absolutely no normative judgment of whether secession or abolition were “good” things. Obviously, abolition was a good thing. But that, amongst many other of Lincoln’s actions and beliefs, was not conservative. I know it just blows your mind, but it’s true: something you believe might not be considered conservative. At present, however, the issue of state sovereignty is a rather moot point: both liberals and conservatives, for the most part, subscribe to the supremacy of the national government and the goodness of the Union. The same goes for slavery. (Though it is useful to note that those currently arguing for greater state’s rights hail, not coincidentally, from the far Right). All I’m saying, with no hint of judgment, is that Lincoln was not at the time considered a conservative; in his own context, his ideals and actions were not conservative.

    Back to the point. You keep insisting, as if the fervency of your insistence will make it more true, that the growth of our gargantuan government and our increased involvement in foreign wars and relations are unrelated variables. But as you’ve probably noticed from debating me in the past, I am not willing to accept the premise that saying something is so makes it so. Your argument defies logical sense. Even kerner agrees with me. Here are only some of the powers that a government waging a huge modern war (say, WWII) must be able to declare and effectually enforce: a) conscription of a large military force (i.e., the draft), b) research, design, and construct all the various technologies necessary to equip the military (battleships, guns, tanks, bombs, etc.), c) levy massive income, excise, etc. taxes to fund the war effort, d) nationalize whatever industries (petroleum, steel production, auto production, etc.) necessary to supply the military, e) “expedited” executive authority to execute the war efficiently without, erm, obstacles, f) expansive surveillance apparatus for intelligence purposes and, if necessary, to monitor domestic dissent, g) control of transit lines of other logistic services if necessary, h) all the massive bureaucratic agencies necessary to oversee and prosecute the war effectively. We might as well tack on all the redistributive programs initiated after WWII to benefit veterans–of which there were millions costing billions of dollars. The Interstate Highway was directly justified as a national security interest (we had to have a way for the military to cross the continent quickly). The TSA, the DHS, the DD, ad infinitum. All of it is an extension of the securitarian state. There are other powers, none of which can be considered especially conservative, and the tendrils of which necessarily do not confine themselves to the “foreign” side of the strict foreign/domestic dichotomy you wish to preserve (see: the Pacificus-Helveticus Debates between Madison and Hamilton). Now multiply most of these powers by the 70 years (give or take) during which we were engaged in the Cold War with the USSR and you have the recipe for a massive securitarian state–which we indeed got, waxing and waning to various degrees over those decades (the draft was only used intermittently, etc.). In short, bigger wars require bigger government; more wars require more government. Small governments cannot fight big wars. How could a small government (you know, the kind advocated by conservatives and most of the founders) even begin to do all the things internationally that ours is doing? I recommend On Power by the conservative philosopher Bertrand de Jouvenal; he makes essentially the same case I’m making: that the modern centralized, uber-powerful national-state (in America and elsewhere) is, in part, the direct result of an attempt to enlarge the state’s capacity to wage war. It’s just something that’s impossible to deny. More war=more government. The state is parasitic upon war, and as we all know, the state is parasitic upon the people. Again, I’m not issuing a judgment here: maybe our recent wars have been a good idea, and maybe we truly need the securitarian state for our survival and prosperity. All I’m arguing is that the two are inseparable, and mutually dependent: you can’t wage all the wars we have without having the state to do it.

    Anyway, I’ll just wait here for you once again to dismiss my argument with a flourish of “anti-American,” but it is what it is. Perhaps for future reference you will “conserve” the humility to recognize that disagreement with you does not necessarily constitute incorrectness, much less “anti-Americanism” or “Islamism” or crude “isolationism” or whatever the insult of the day is. If you persist on that path, then you, my friend, are an example of what is wrong with contemporary public discourse in America.

  • Cincinnatus

    Porcell: The question of whether I think Southern secession was warranted or not is inapposite to the question of whether Lincoln was a conservative. I would love to talk about the former issue sometime, but not here, and probably not with you. It is, in any case, irrelevant to the wider discussion at hand. Lincoln was not a conservative. Asserting federal sovereignty was not conservative. Abolishing slavery was even less conservative. As tODD recently observed, you labor under the apparent idea that anything with which you agree or which you believe is automatically “conservative.” You like Lincoln, therefore he and everything he stood for is conservative; Q.E.D. This is silly. Meantime, I’ve made absolutely no normative judgment of whether secession or abolition were “good” things. Obviously, abolition was a good thing. But that, amongst many other of Lincoln’s actions and beliefs, was not conservative. I know it just blows your mind, but it’s true: something you believe might not be considered conservative. At present, however, the issue of state sovereignty is a rather moot point: both liberals and conservatives, for the most part, subscribe to the supremacy of the national government and the goodness of the Union. The same goes for slavery. (Though it is useful to note that those currently arguing for greater state’s rights hail, not coincidentally, from the far Right). All I’m saying, with no hint of judgment, is that Lincoln was not at the time considered a conservative; in his own context, his ideals and actions were not conservative.

    Back to the point. You keep insisting, as if the fervency of your insistence will make it more true, that the growth of our gargantuan government and our increased involvement in foreign wars and relations are unrelated variables. But as you’ve probably noticed from debating me in the past, I am not willing to accept the premise that saying something is so makes it so. Your argument defies logical sense. Even kerner agrees with me. Here are only some of the powers that a government waging a huge modern war (say, WWII) must be able to declare and effectually enforce: a) conscription of a large military force (i.e., the draft), b) research, design, and construct all the various technologies necessary to equip the military (battleships, guns, tanks, bombs, etc.), c) levy massive income, excise, etc. taxes to fund the war effort, d) nationalize whatever industries (petroleum, steel production, auto production, etc.) necessary to supply the military, e) “expedited” executive authority to execute the war efficiently without, erm, obstacles, f) expansive surveillance apparatus for intelligence purposes and, if necessary, to monitor domestic dissent, g) control of transit lines of other logistic services if necessary, h) all the massive bureaucratic agencies necessary to oversee and prosecute the war effectively. We might as well tack on all the redistributive programs initiated after WWII to benefit veterans–of which there were millions costing billions of dollars. The Interstate Highway was directly justified as a national security interest (we had to have a way for the military to cross the continent quickly). The TSA, the DHS, the DD, ad infinitum. All of it is an extension of the securitarian state. There are other powers, none of which can be considered especially conservative, and the tendrils of which necessarily do not confine themselves to the “foreign” side of the strict foreign/domestic dichotomy you wish to preserve (see: the Pacificus-Helveticus Debates between Madison and Hamilton). Now multiply most of these powers by the 70 years (give or take) during which we were engaged in the Cold War with the USSR and you have the recipe for a massive securitarian state–which we indeed got, waxing and waning to various degrees over those decades (the draft was only used intermittently, etc.). In short, bigger wars require bigger government; more wars require more government. Small governments cannot fight big wars. How could a small government (you know, the kind advocated by conservatives and most of the founders) even begin to do all the things internationally that ours is doing? I recommend On Power by the conservative philosopher Bertrand de Jouvenal; he makes essentially the same case I’m making: that the modern centralized, uber-powerful national-state (in America and elsewhere) is, in part, the direct result of an attempt to enlarge the state’s capacity to wage war. It’s just something that’s impossible to deny. More war=more government. The state is parasitic upon war, and as we all know, the state is parasitic upon the people. Again, I’m not issuing a judgment here: maybe our recent wars have been a good idea, and maybe we truly need the securitarian state for our survival and prosperity. All I’m arguing is that the two are inseparable, and mutually dependent: you can’t wage all the wars we have without having the state to do it.

    Anyway, I’ll just wait here for you once again to dismiss my argument with a flourish of “anti-American,” but it is what it is. Perhaps for future reference you will “conserve” the humility to recognize that disagreement with you does not necessarily constitute incorrectness, much less “anti-Americanism” or “Islamism” or crude “isolationism” or whatever the insult of the day is. If you persist on that path, then you, my friend, are an example of what is wrong with contemporary public discourse in America.

  • kerner

    Louis@107:

    Sorry you feel compelled to withdraw. Despite my having swerved into oversensativity to Canadian criticism, I respect your opinion and even agree with a lot of what you have said, even if I disagree with some of your main conclusions. Upon reflection, it helps Americans to be reminded that our opinion of ourselves could be reconsidered in the light of the opinions of people from elsewhere. I was kind of looking forward to your responses.

    Cincinnatus:

    I agree with you that most of our founding fathers would be shocked, and posibly appalled, at what we have become. But I think they would be even more shocked and appalled by the other geopolitical developments of the 20th century, and would likely understand why things have worked out the way they have.

    The wave of anti-Christian philosophical and political thought that began in the 19th century would have been a jolt to them too. I don’t believe they anticipated Nietzche or Marx, or the industrial revolution, or where all that would lead.

    But back to the 20th century. You are absolutely right about WWI. If there was ever a monument to European folly, that was it. And if there was ever a war the USA should have stayed out of, that was it. What on God’s green earth did we have to gain in that war? I can’t think of a thing. Prior to 1918, despite Gen. Butler’s complaints, at least we confined ourselves to pestering our western hemisphere neighbors and protecting our industrialists. And after WWI there was a significant attempt to pull back from the brink, so to speak. We refused to join the Wilsonian League of Nations and tried to mind our own business. But as you point out, the victors in WWI (which they wouldn’t have been but for our help) had already set the stage for WWII with the Treaty of Versailles.

    But I don’t know whether WWII was avoidable. National Socialism and Comunism are both such evil forces in the world and were at that time both so powerful that I do believe that one of them might very well have ended up at our doorstep if we had buried our heads in the sand. Of course, they might have wiped each other out instead, but would it really have been prudent to count on that? I mean, it seems alarmist now to suggest that a foreign power could threaten our liberty. But just look at the world after WWII.

    Communism is really international socialism. I said earlier that we are a nation built on guiding principles, but we aren’t the only one. After WWII Communism was a spreading cancer that was making inroads into every continent on earth. You complain about the United States trying to export its ideals, but Communism was based on doing that and they were doing it all over the world. Every Latin American peasant revolt, every African anti-colonial revolt, every Asian independence movement had an element of Communist revolutionaryism involved in it, and they were relentless. Ignoring this very real threat would have been disastrous. If Communism had been successful in 4/5 of the world, America would have seemed like been a small island of freedom in a an agressive big government world. We would have been “finlandized” by it. How long would our liberty have lasted in the face of that?

    But we did fight totalitarian philosophies. and our power increased with each success. Now our liberty may be the victim of that success as you fear. Like you, I hope to God it is not.

  • kerner

    Louis@107:

    Sorry you feel compelled to withdraw. Despite my having swerved into oversensativity to Canadian criticism, I respect your opinion and even agree with a lot of what you have said, even if I disagree with some of your main conclusions. Upon reflection, it helps Americans to be reminded that our opinion of ourselves could be reconsidered in the light of the opinions of people from elsewhere. I was kind of looking forward to your responses.

    Cincinnatus:

    I agree with you that most of our founding fathers would be shocked, and posibly appalled, at what we have become. But I think they would be even more shocked and appalled by the other geopolitical developments of the 20th century, and would likely understand why things have worked out the way they have.

    The wave of anti-Christian philosophical and political thought that began in the 19th century would have been a jolt to them too. I don’t believe they anticipated Nietzche or Marx, or the industrial revolution, or where all that would lead.

    But back to the 20th century. You are absolutely right about WWI. If there was ever a monument to European folly, that was it. And if there was ever a war the USA should have stayed out of, that was it. What on God’s green earth did we have to gain in that war? I can’t think of a thing. Prior to 1918, despite Gen. Butler’s complaints, at least we confined ourselves to pestering our western hemisphere neighbors and protecting our industrialists. And after WWI there was a significant attempt to pull back from the brink, so to speak. We refused to join the Wilsonian League of Nations and tried to mind our own business. But as you point out, the victors in WWI (which they wouldn’t have been but for our help) had already set the stage for WWII with the Treaty of Versailles.

    But I don’t know whether WWII was avoidable. National Socialism and Comunism are both such evil forces in the world and were at that time both so powerful that I do believe that one of them might very well have ended up at our doorstep if we had buried our heads in the sand. Of course, they might have wiped each other out instead, but would it really have been prudent to count on that? I mean, it seems alarmist now to suggest that a foreign power could threaten our liberty. But just look at the world after WWII.

    Communism is really international socialism. I said earlier that we are a nation built on guiding principles, but we aren’t the only one. After WWII Communism was a spreading cancer that was making inroads into every continent on earth. You complain about the United States trying to export its ideals, but Communism was based on doing that and they were doing it all over the world. Every Latin American peasant revolt, every African anti-colonial revolt, every Asian independence movement had an element of Communist revolutionaryism involved in it, and they were relentless. Ignoring this very real threat would have been disastrous. If Communism had been successful in 4/5 of the world, America would have seemed like been a small island of freedom in a an agressive big government world. We would have been “finlandized” by it. How long would our liberty have lasted in the face of that?

    But we did fight totalitarian philosophies. and our power increased with each success. Now our liberty may be the victim of that success as you fear. Like you, I hope to God it is not.

  • kerner

    where did my post go?

  • kerner

    where did my post go?

  • kerner

    Well, I’ll try again.

    Louis, I’m sorry to see you go. I respect your opinions as well.

    Cincinnatus:
    “even kerner agrees with [you]“? Well, then you are right for sure. :)

    But of course I DO agree with you that more war means more government. Like you, I particularly fear how we lose our liberty in the name of security, and how we are constantly called upon to emulate our enemies to “preserve our way or life”, when we actually forfeit our way of life the minute we emulate our enemies.

    The problem is that one big reason we are where we are today is because we actually did have real enemies.

    I agree with you about WWI. It was a huge folly for Europe, and we had absolutely not reason to participate in it. But once National Socialism and Communism rose to the levels they did, I think the danger was very real that one of them would have been on our doorstep. Both of them had elements in our internal politics as it was. And when NationalSocialism was defeated, Communism, which is really international socialism, was making inroads on every continent on earth. It was present in every Latin American peasant movement, every anti-colonial African movement, every Asian independence movement, and worst of all, in every western industrial labor movement. And in the undeveloped world, it had no natural enemies. There was no understanding of liberty in any of those places for the people to hold onto and resist Communism. Just look at the way the local tinpot worlords that did exist fell before the communist revolutionaries in all those places. If we had not made the decision to resist Communism everywhere we could, most of the world would have been under its influence.

    And if that had happened, the USA would have seemed like a small island in a vast, hostile, big government world. We would have been “finlandized” by all of it. How long would our freedoms have lasted in the face of that?

    I guess a big part of what I am saying is that it truly rare for a nation to remain static. It either grows or declines. Either we make converts to liberty, or statist governments will overwealm us eventually. Maybe they will anyway. Like you, I hope to God they don’t.

  • kerner

    Well, I’ll try again.

    Louis, I’m sorry to see you go. I respect your opinions as well.

    Cincinnatus:
    “even kerner agrees with [you]“? Well, then you are right for sure. :)

    But of course I DO agree with you that more war means more government. Like you, I particularly fear how we lose our liberty in the name of security, and how we are constantly called upon to emulate our enemies to “preserve our way or life”, when we actually forfeit our way of life the minute we emulate our enemies.

    The problem is that one big reason we are where we are today is because we actually did have real enemies.

    I agree with you about WWI. It was a huge folly for Europe, and we had absolutely not reason to participate in it. But once National Socialism and Communism rose to the levels they did, I think the danger was very real that one of them would have been on our doorstep. Both of them had elements in our internal politics as it was. And when NationalSocialism was defeated, Communism, which is really international socialism, was making inroads on every continent on earth. It was present in every Latin American peasant movement, every anti-colonial African movement, every Asian independence movement, and worst of all, in every western industrial labor movement. And in the undeveloped world, it had no natural enemies. There was no understanding of liberty in any of those places for the people to hold onto and resist Communism. Just look at the way the local tinpot worlords that did exist fell before the communist revolutionaries in all those places. If we had not made the decision to resist Communism everywhere we could, most of the world would have been under its influence.

    And if that had happened, the USA would have seemed like a small island in a vast, hostile, big government world. We would have been “finlandized” by all of it. How long would our freedoms have lasted in the face of that?

    I guess a big part of what I am saying is that it truly rare for a nation to remain static. It either grows or declines. Either we make converts to liberty, or statist governments will overwealm us eventually. Maybe they will anyway. Like you, I hope to God they don’t.

  • kerner

    Wait, I’ve got it. I used the word “soci@lism”.

    That’s 2 posts off in cyberspace. Will they come back?

  • kerner

    Wait, I’ve got it. I used the word “soci@lism”.

    That’s 2 posts off in cyberspace. Will they come back?

  • Cincinnatus

    Dunno…it’s happened to me several times, as I tend to forget how odd this filter is. I can say “Nazi” all I want.

    Hmm…

  • Cincinnatus

    Dunno…it’s happened to me several times, as I tend to forget how odd this filter is. I can say “Nazi” all I want.

    Hmm…

  • Porcell

    Louis: …and a characteristic of the Trotskyite neocons.

    Sometimes people reveal themselves clearly, as Louis has done above.

    “Trotskyite neocons” refers to the crude conspiratorial view of some paleo-conservatives that a cabal of former Trotskyite Jews unduly influenced the Bush administration leading to the war against Iraq.

  • Porcell

    Louis: …and a characteristic of the Trotskyite neocons.

    Sometimes people reveal themselves clearly, as Louis has done above.

    “Trotskyite neocons” refers to the crude conspiratorial view of some paleo-conservatives that a cabal of former Trotskyite Jews unduly influenced the Bush administration leading to the war against Iraq.

  • Cincinnatus

    Porcell: I enjoy especially how you never respond to substantive arguments. However, I, for one, do not subscribe to the notion that you are a “Trotskyite,” though you are very clearly a neocon, at least in respect to foreign policy. I don’t mean that pejoratively.

    On the other hand, it’s a factual truth that there was a group of neocons, some of them Jews, in the Defense Department and elsewhere that played a huge role in the formation of America’s policy toward Iraq and its subscription to “democratic peace theory.” This doesn’t imply that there was a cabal, but policymakers actually make policy, and there was a collection of neoconservative Jews who, once again, did much to advocate and strategize the war. I submit for your consideration the names of Paul Wolfowitz, Abram Shulsky, and, outside the administration, William Kristol. There are others. The more conspiratorial theory is that, since they were all at one point students of the political philosopher Leo Strauss, who is erroneously labeled as a conservative, it was “Straussians” and “conservatives” who were the architects of our invasion of Iraq.

    I mention all this as an “fyi.” I don’t really have the patience to argue about it, though.

  • Cincinnatus

    Porcell: I enjoy especially how you never respond to substantive arguments. However, I, for one, do not subscribe to the notion that you are a “Trotskyite,” though you are very clearly a neocon, at least in respect to foreign policy. I don’t mean that pejoratively.

    On the other hand, it’s a factual truth that there was a group of neocons, some of them Jews, in the Defense Department and elsewhere that played a huge role in the formation of America’s policy toward Iraq and its subscription to “democratic peace theory.” This doesn’t imply that there was a cabal, but policymakers actually make policy, and there was a collection of neoconservative Jews who, once again, did much to advocate and strategize the war. I submit for your consideration the names of Paul Wolfowitz, Abram Shulsky, and, outside the administration, William Kristol. There are others. The more conspiratorial theory is that, since they were all at one point students of the political philosopher Leo Strauss, who is erroneously labeled as a conservative, it was “Straussians” and “conservatives” who were the architects of our invasion of Iraq.

    I mention all this as an “fyi.” I don’t really have the patience to argue about it, though.

  • kerner

    Well, no sign of my prior comments. So, anyway…

    Louis: I respect your opinion, I don’t disagree with you on everything, and I appreciate a perspective other than my own. I am sorry you have chosen to withdraw.

    Cincinnatus:

    I think the reason external thrats to our liberty seem far fetched today is because our policy opposing them has been successful.

    I agree that WWI was a purely a power struggle between European empires, that the United States had no business getting involved, and that the Wilsonian urge to “make the world safe for democracy” had no realistic connection to getting into that war. We did the right thing by refusing to get mixed up in the League of Nations.

    But WWII was something else again. Both National Soci@lism and Communism were huge, virulent aggressive geopolitical forces in the 20th century. National Soci@lism was agressive primarily because without “inferior” vassal peoples to exploit, its economic system collapses (which is what happened to Peronism). But for Communism (aka International Soci@lism) tasking over the world was an article of faith. Both movements believed in “5th column” tactics of nurturing indigenous movements in the prospective conquered people, and then taking them from within or without. Both movements had elements working in this country in the 1930′s.

    I suppose we could have hoped that these two forces would wipe each other out, but that would have involved risking liberty being eliminated in the process. So, we opposed the Nazis, who seemed the most dangerous at the time.

    But there were unintended consequenses. We, in an alliance with the Communists, wiped out two of the most powerful geopolitical forces on earth. A third force, the old colonial powers, exhausted itself in the process. This created a huge power vacuum which we did not necessarily want to fill, but which the Communists clearly did. Again, exporting THEIR philosophy was an article of faith for them. They immediately set about taking over every post colonial movement in Africa and Asia, and every peasants’ rebellion in Latin America. Since we had no similar impulse to convert the world to democracy/liberty, they overwealmed the tinpot dictators who stood in their way, spouting their propaganda that their way was the future. They had sympathizers in Europe and here.

    If the United States had not opposed International Soci@lism, it would have overwealmed the undeveloped world and eroded the resistance of the developed world to the point that, if the USA were not similarly eroded from within, it would have been an island of liberty surrounded by a hostile, big government, world. We would have, at best, been “finlandized” by the forces surrounding us.

    But you can’t fight an agressive ideology with indifference. You have to fight it with a better ideology; hence our decision to promote, nurture, and even create democracies like ourselves with whom we could ally ourselves with a clear conscience.

    Communism as an ideology has now been largely discredited and defeated. In a recurring phenomenon that has convinced me that American liberty will always have external enemies, militant Islam has risen to take our old enemies’ place to some extent.

    That said, I agree with you on the following. Militant Islam is not as strong, nor as determined to rule the world as Communism was. We probably don’t need to confront it as “head on” as we did Communism. Second, because our struggle is a lot like the cold war (i.e. a low level struggle against an even less well defined enemy) we run the very real risk of losing our liberty to it. It has not been unusual for us to set aside some of our liberty in time of war. But the 50 year cold war followed by this new pertetual “war on terror” threatens to motivate us to accept big government “protection” from an external menace as a permanent thing. I really fear that a whole generation is growing up not knowing how the 4th Amendment is supposed to work, and you have often pointed out the many ways that government has grown in response to external threats.

    But that doesn’t mean there are no external threats. And the world’s population is growing faster than ours. If we do not promote the ideology of liberty abroad, we will eventually be surrounded by those who do not understand it. I think it is rare for a civilization to remain static for long. Civilizations have to grow, or they usually decline. I don’t think we dare to decline.

  • kerner

    Well, no sign of my prior comments. So, anyway…

    Louis: I respect your opinion, I don’t disagree with you on everything, and I appreciate a perspective other than my own. I am sorry you have chosen to withdraw.

    Cincinnatus:

    I think the reason external thrats to our liberty seem far fetched today is because our policy opposing them has been successful.

    I agree that WWI was a purely a power struggle between European empires, that the United States had no business getting involved, and that the Wilsonian urge to “make the world safe for democracy” had no realistic connection to getting into that war. We did the right thing by refusing to get mixed up in the League of Nations.

    But WWII was something else again. Both National Soci@lism and Communism were huge, virulent aggressive geopolitical forces in the 20th century. National Soci@lism was agressive primarily because without “inferior” vassal peoples to exploit, its economic system collapses (which is what happened to Peronism). But for Communism (aka International Soci@lism) tasking over the world was an article of faith. Both movements believed in “5th column” tactics of nurturing indigenous movements in the prospective conquered people, and then taking them from within or without. Both movements had elements working in this country in the 1930′s.

    I suppose we could have hoped that these two forces would wipe each other out, but that would have involved risking liberty being eliminated in the process. So, we opposed the Nazis, who seemed the most dangerous at the time.

    But there were unintended consequenses. We, in an alliance with the Communists, wiped out two of the most powerful geopolitical forces on earth. A third force, the old colonial powers, exhausted itself in the process. This created a huge power vacuum which we did not necessarily want to fill, but which the Communists clearly did. Again, exporting THEIR philosophy was an article of faith for them. They immediately set about taking over every post colonial movement in Africa and Asia, and every peasants’ rebellion in Latin America. Since we had no similar impulse to convert the world to democracy/liberty, they overwealmed the tinpot dictators who stood in their way, spouting their propaganda that their way was the future. They had sympathizers in Europe and here.

    If the United States had not opposed International Soci@lism, it would have overwealmed the undeveloped world and eroded the resistance of the developed world to the point that, if the USA were not similarly eroded from within, it would have been an island of liberty surrounded by a hostile, big government, world. We would have, at best, been “finlandized” by the forces surrounding us.

    But you can’t fight an agressive ideology with indifference. You have to fight it with a better ideology; hence our decision to promote, nurture, and even create democracies like ourselves with whom we could ally ourselves with a clear conscience.

    Communism as an ideology has now been largely discredited and defeated. In a recurring phenomenon that has convinced me that American liberty will always have external enemies, militant Islam has risen to take our old enemies’ place to some extent.

    That said, I agree with you on the following. Militant Islam is not as strong, nor as determined to rule the world as Communism was. We probably don’t need to confront it as “head on” as we did Communism. Second, because our struggle is a lot like the cold war (i.e. a low level struggle against an even less well defined enemy) we run the very real risk of losing our liberty to it. It has not been unusual for us to set aside some of our liberty in time of war. But the 50 year cold war followed by this new pertetual “war on terror” threatens to motivate us to accept big government “protection” from an external menace as a permanent thing. I really fear that a whole generation is growing up not knowing how the 4th Amendment is supposed to work, and you have often pointed out the many ways that government has grown in response to external threats.

    But that doesn’t mean there are no external threats. And the world’s population is growing faster than ours. If we do not promote the ideology of liberty abroad, we will eventually be surrounded by those who do not understand it. I think it is rare for a civilization to remain static for long. Civilizations have to grow, or they usually decline. I don’t think we dare to decline.

  • Porcell

    Cincinnatus, a neocon is a former liberal who moved to the right, especially on international issues. I never had to make such a move. Men like Wolfowitz, Perle, and Kristol were influential in the Bush administration, though the high-level decision to fight Iraq was made by Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld, men perfectly capable of independent judgment. The paleo-conservative view that neocons caused the Iraq war is balderdash. Also, I referred to Louis and some paleo-conservatives, not you, as holding the crude “Trotskyite neo-con” view.

    As to the US being some sort of malevolent hyper-security state, the fact is that the defense budget amounts to 4.7% of GDP, a modest amount by any historical standard. Our budget problem stems primarily from out of control entitlement spending.

  • Porcell

    Cincinnatus, a neocon is a former liberal who moved to the right, especially on international issues. I never had to make such a move. Men like Wolfowitz, Perle, and Kristol were influential in the Bush administration, though the high-level decision to fight Iraq was made by Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld, men perfectly capable of independent judgment. The paleo-conservative view that neocons caused the Iraq war is balderdash. Also, I referred to Louis and some paleo-conservatives, not you, as holding the crude “Trotskyite neo-con” view.

    As to the US being some sort of malevolent hyper-security state, the fact is that the defense budget amounts to 4.7% of GDP, a modest amount by any historical standard. Our budget problem stems primarily from out of control entitlement spending.

  • kerner

    Cincinnatus @108″

    “even kerner agrees with [you]“?

    Well then, you must be right…definitely. :)

  • kerner

    Cincinnatus @108″

    “even kerner agrees with [you]“?

    Well then, you must be right…definitely. :)

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    I am going through the spam, when I get a chance, to catch these posts that, for some reason (socialism?) get consigned there. Sorry about that. I have released the two you all are referring to.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    I am going through the spam, when I get a chance, to catch these posts that, for some reason (socialism?) get consigned there. Sorry about that. I have released the two you all are referring to.

  • kerner

    thanks, but now I have to apologise for posting multiple redundant versions of the same ideas.

  • kerner

    thanks, but now I have to apologise for posting multiple redundant versions of the same ideas.

  • Louis

    kerner – I’d welcome further discussion, but given the continued harrasement by a certain party here, it would be better if you email me: The address is
    t h e s c y l d i n g at gmail dot com.

  • Louis

    kerner – I’d welcome further discussion, but given the continued harrasement by a certain party here, it would be better if you email me: The address is
    t h e s c y l d i n g at gmail dot com.


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