Jacksonian foreign policy

Michael Gerson thinks that the country is going back to “a Jacksonian” foreign policy:

Even without a developed Tea Party foreign policy, the center of gravity on Capitol Hill is likely to shift in a Jacksonian direction. Historian Walter Russell Mead describes this potent, populist foreign policy tradition as “an instinct rather than an ideology.” Today’s Jacksonians believe in a strong military, assertively employed to defend American interests. They are skeptical of international law and international institutions, which are viewed as threats to American sovereignty and freedom of action. Jacksonians are generally dismissive of idealistic global objectives, such as a world free from nuclear weapons. Instead, they are heavily armed realists, convinced that America operates in an irredeemably hostile world. In particular, according to Mead, Jacksonians believe in wars that end with the unconditional surrender of an enemy, instead of “multilateral, limited warfare or peacekeeping operations.”

The Jacksonian ascendancy on Capitol Hill is likely to mean resistance to foreign assistance spending as well as undermining engagement with the United Nations. Who was foolish enough to schedule, immediately after the midterm election, a session of the U.N. Human Rights Council in which Cuba, Iran and Venezuela scrutinized America’s human rights record? Even without such provocations, Jacksonians will urge more forceful policies against Cuba, Iran and Venezuela – along with Russia and China.

But the largest test case will be Afghanistan. Here Obama faces a rare challenge. His base of support for the Afghan war lies mainly in the opposing party, making Republican attitudes toward the war decisive. As Obama’s July 2011 deadline for beginning the withdrawal of American troops approaches, any hint of civilian-military divisions on strategy could dramatically erode Republican support. Jacksonians like to win wars. But if Obama appears reluctant, they could easily turn against a war the president does not seem determined to win.

No one cares about foreign policy – until a foreign policy crisis overwhelms every other issue. Or until a drifting, demasted foreign policy begins to offend the Jacksonian pride of the nation.

via Michael Gerson – Will the Tea Party shift American foreign policy?.

Would you agree with a Jacksonian foreign policy?  Or would you prefer isolationism, imperialism, or WHAT?

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.

  • Pete

    Seems it was such a policy that won the Cold War.

  • Pete

    Seems it was such a policy that won the Cold War.

  • Daniel Gorman

    It was containment that won the Cold War. What we have now is America as the world’s designated policeman with endless wars that do not serve any identifiable national purpose. It’s a sure fire plan to bankrupt the country. And the plan is working. In a few years, America will become a third rate economic power dominated by China, Europe, and Japan.

  • Daniel Gorman

    It was containment that won the Cold War. What we have now is America as the world’s designated policeman with endless wars that do not serve any identifiable national purpose. It’s a sure fire plan to bankrupt the country. And the plan is working. In a few years, America will become a third rate economic power dominated by China, Europe, and Japan.

  • Louis

    Daniel – not to forget India and Brazil. And Canada (hehehe – evil cackling follows.. :) ).

    Seriously though, the Cold War was won on many fronts, but the strongest reason was economic bankruptcy – the regimes of Eastern Europe had too much debt with Western bankers – money they needed to keep themselves afloat. Communism as economic model simply collapsed.

    As they say, it is the economy, stupid! But leading from this is America’s foreign policy. From a recent comment thread at the Ochlophobists’ blog, the following was said by Milton T Burton:

    As General Smedley Butler said, “When the dollar returns six percent at home and fifty percent abroad, it goes overseas.” He also noted that the military follows it to the great expense of the American people.
    That is the Jacksonian model in a nutshell. But it is not sustainable – in another thread, on the same blog, the blog owner noted the following:

    In my youth I noticed how different American poor were from third world poor (this was before much of the third world got cable TV). The expectations of America’s poor are higher, even when they live in dire poverty, because they have seen TV bourgeois life as normative. American capitalism can grant them a façade of that life – you can get Martha Stewart items for cheap at WalMart to put into your HUD apartment. But what goes around comes around. Items have been made increasingly cheaper by way of good jobs leaving and the replacement jobs here in the U.S. being much lower paying in terms of real dollars. Prices can be kept low so long as there is an India and a China with endless cheap labor, etc., and American labor remains castrated. But the bitch is that India and China now have cable TV, and American labor lost their credit cards. Indian and Chinese young adults desire at least a lower middle class (by American standards) style of life. Here in the states workers have made less in real dollars but had access to much more easy credit. What happens when that easy credit is gone? Thus capitalism, even as it grants the masses the opiate of cheap goods and entertainments, sows the seed of its future destruction. It seems under such conditions there will come a time when a critical mass of workers will begin to ask the question once posed by the great Travis Tritt – Now won’t you tell me if you can, ‘Cause life’s so hard to understand, Why’s the rich man busy dancing, While the poor man pays the band? Mass capitalism will only reign so long as it can keep the working classes entertained and fed with overly salty and faux-flavor filled foods at cheaper and cheaper prices (correspondent to cheaper and cheaper wages for workers). It would seem that the current game can’t last forever.

    Thus it is clear that the US will have to take a hard look at how their economic policy dictates their foreign policy. The national debt is a prime indicator of foreign policy success. Nobody, except some nutcases out there in the desrt / jungle, wants the US to fall. But we all want the US to have a more responsible economic policy, as that drives the US policy abroad. Neither the current, nor the previous 7 administrations look particularly promising in this regard.

  • Louis

    Daniel – not to forget India and Brazil. And Canada (hehehe – evil cackling follows.. :) ).

    Seriously though, the Cold War was won on many fronts, but the strongest reason was economic bankruptcy – the regimes of Eastern Europe had too much debt with Western bankers – money they needed to keep themselves afloat. Communism as economic model simply collapsed.

    As they say, it is the economy, stupid! But leading from this is America’s foreign policy. From a recent comment thread at the Ochlophobists’ blog, the following was said by Milton T Burton:

    As General Smedley Butler said, “When the dollar returns six percent at home and fifty percent abroad, it goes overseas.” He also noted that the military follows it to the great expense of the American people.
    That is the Jacksonian model in a nutshell. But it is not sustainable – in another thread, on the same blog, the blog owner noted the following:

    In my youth I noticed how different American poor were from third world poor (this was before much of the third world got cable TV). The expectations of America’s poor are higher, even when they live in dire poverty, because they have seen TV bourgeois life as normative. American capitalism can grant them a façade of that life – you can get Martha Stewart items for cheap at WalMart to put into your HUD apartment. But what goes around comes around. Items have been made increasingly cheaper by way of good jobs leaving and the replacement jobs here in the U.S. being much lower paying in terms of real dollars. Prices can be kept low so long as there is an India and a China with endless cheap labor, etc., and American labor remains castrated. But the bitch is that India and China now have cable TV, and American labor lost their credit cards. Indian and Chinese young adults desire at least a lower middle class (by American standards) style of life. Here in the states workers have made less in real dollars but had access to much more easy credit. What happens when that easy credit is gone? Thus capitalism, even as it grants the masses the opiate of cheap goods and entertainments, sows the seed of its future destruction. It seems under such conditions there will come a time when a critical mass of workers will begin to ask the question once posed by the great Travis Tritt – Now won’t you tell me if you can, ‘Cause life’s so hard to understand, Why’s the rich man busy dancing, While the poor man pays the band? Mass capitalism will only reign so long as it can keep the working classes entertained and fed with overly salty and faux-flavor filled foods at cheaper and cheaper prices (correspondent to cheaper and cheaper wages for workers). It would seem that the current game can’t last forever.

    Thus it is clear that the US will have to take a hard look at how their economic policy dictates their foreign policy. The national debt is a prime indicator of foreign policy success. Nobody, except some nutcases out there in the desrt / jungle, wants the US to fall. But we all want the US to have a more responsible economic policy, as that drives the US policy abroad. Neither the current, nor the previous 7 administrations look particularly promising in this regard.

  • S Bauer

    It’s a tough problem. I wish I had an answer. I agree that containment won the Cold War. But I think the situation we are in now that Daniel Gorman describes is the natural offspring of containment. On the one hand, I imagine a Jacksonian policy, since it doesn’t like wars it can’t win unconditionally, would actually keep us out of a lot of the conflicts we now find ourselves in. On the other hand, I have a hard time seeing how the policy would help us deal with terrorism, Iran developing nuclear weapons, or confrontations with China.

  • S Bauer

    It’s a tough problem. I wish I had an answer. I agree that containment won the Cold War. But I think the situation we are in now that Daniel Gorman describes is the natural offspring of containment. On the one hand, I imagine a Jacksonian policy, since it doesn’t like wars it can’t win unconditionally, would actually keep us out of a lot of the conflicts we now find ourselves in. On the other hand, I have a hard time seeing how the policy would help us deal with terrorism, Iran developing nuclear weapons, or confrontations with China.

  • Porcell

    Most Americans are Jacksonians at heart. They understand the need for a strong military and are not averse to fighting when vital interests are involved. They don’t like the sort of weak kneed limited wars that cost a defeat in Vietnam and almost in Iraq.

    As to General Butler, he was a great Marine warrior who won two Medals of Honor. He served in a period when the military was called on to directly serve narrow business interests in Latin America and subsequently spoke out against this. In recent years no one may reasonably claim that the military caters to any narrow interests. We fought WWII and the Cold War with a properly immense military for broad, vital American interests.

    From the time of Thucydides, the wisest analysts have understood that most wars are caused by a combination of military weakness and political vacillation. Donald Kagan, a Yale classicist and historian, wrote a fine book on this subject, On the Origins of War and the Preservation of Peace. that explains why pacifism and isolationism actually causes wars.

  • Porcell

    Most Americans are Jacksonians at heart. They understand the need for a strong military and are not averse to fighting when vital interests are involved. They don’t like the sort of weak kneed limited wars that cost a defeat in Vietnam and almost in Iraq.

    As to General Butler, he was a great Marine warrior who won two Medals of Honor. He served in a period when the military was called on to directly serve narrow business interests in Latin America and subsequently spoke out against this. In recent years no one may reasonably claim that the military caters to any narrow interests. We fought WWII and the Cold War with a properly immense military for broad, vital American interests.

    From the time of Thucydides, the wisest analysts have understood that most wars are caused by a combination of military weakness and political vacillation. Donald Kagan, a Yale classicist and historian, wrote a fine book on this subject, On the Origins of War and the Preservation of Peace. that explains why pacifism and isolationism actually causes wars.

  • http://lambert-blog.com Dave Lambert

    When America’s young men and women are asked to serve in battle, then a Jacksonian foreign policy should be the guide. As General George Patton said: “Nobody ever defended anything successfully, there is only attack and attack and attack some more.” In other foreign policy venues, a more sophisticated approach should be used. For example, providing arms and moral support to freedom fighters in Iran.

  • http://lambert-blog.com Dave Lambert

    When America’s young men and women are asked to serve in battle, then a Jacksonian foreign policy should be the guide. As General George Patton said: “Nobody ever defended anything successfully, there is only attack and attack and attack some more.” In other foreign policy venues, a more sophisticated approach should be used. For example, providing arms and moral support to freedom fighters in Iran.

  • Porcell

    Bob, at 6, Andrew. For a discussion of Jacksonian, Hamiltonian, Jeffersonian, and Wilsonian foreign policy go to …What the Hell is a Jacksonian? including:

    The Jacksonian tradition is perhaps the least well-known, and certainly the least understood of the four schools of thought that Meade defines. Jacksonians tend to be looked down upon – despite the fact that by the numbers, they appear to be the largest of the four schools. The driving belief of the Jacksonian school of thought is that the first priority of the U.S. Government in both foreign and domestic policy is the physical security and economic well-being of the American populace. Jacksonians believe that the US shouldn’t seek out foreign quarrels, but if a war starts, the basic belief is “there’s no substitute for victory” – and Jacksonians will do pretty much whatever is required to make that victory happen. If you wanted a Jacksonian slogan, it’s “Don’t Tread On Me!” Jacksonians are generally viewed by the rest of the world as having a simplistic, uncomplicated view of the world, despite quite a bit of evidence to the contrary.
    Jacksonians also strongly value self-reliance. “Economic well-being” to a Jacksonian isn’t about protectionist trade barriers. Rather, it is about providing Jacksonians with the opportunity to succeed or fail on their own.
    Looking for a Jacksonian President? Ronald Reagan was very much a Jacksonian, as is our current President, George W. Bush.

    Interestingly,Scoop was, also, a Jacksonian.

  • Porcell

    Bob, at 6, Andrew. For a discussion of Jacksonian, Hamiltonian, Jeffersonian, and Wilsonian foreign policy go to …What the Hell is a Jacksonian? including:

    The Jacksonian tradition is perhaps the least well-known, and certainly the least understood of the four schools of thought that Meade defines. Jacksonians tend to be looked down upon – despite the fact that by the numbers, they appear to be the largest of the four schools. The driving belief of the Jacksonian school of thought is that the first priority of the U.S. Government in both foreign and domestic policy is the physical security and economic well-being of the American populace. Jacksonians believe that the US shouldn’t seek out foreign quarrels, but if a war starts, the basic belief is “there’s no substitute for victory” – and Jacksonians will do pretty much whatever is required to make that victory happen. If you wanted a Jacksonian slogan, it’s “Don’t Tread On Me!” Jacksonians are generally viewed by the rest of the world as having a simplistic, uncomplicated view of the world, despite quite a bit of evidence to the contrary.
    Jacksonians also strongly value self-reliance. “Economic well-being” to a Jacksonian isn’t about protectionist trade barriers. Rather, it is about providing Jacksonians with the opportunity to succeed or fail on their own.
    Looking for a Jacksonian President? Ronald Reagan was very much a Jacksonian, as is our current President, George W. Bush.

    Interestingly,Scoop was, also, a Jacksonian.

  • DonS

    I don’t have much time for Gerson. What are his foreign policy credentials, by the way? I think he gets a lot of press because he claims to be a Republican while consistently criticizing them. The media likes that.

    The idea of saying that “Jacksonian” foreign policy is in play is a joke. As Bob says @ 6, 98% of Americans have no idea what Jacksonian foreign policy is, nor do they know, probably, which Jackson you are even talking about. You get beyond Michael and Jesse and, well, good luck. He’s just a dead white guy from the distant past.

    The world is, um, a bit of a different place than it was in the 1840′s. Colonialism, world power centered in Europe — the untamed American west and its limitless potential. Of course Jackson was wary and suspicious of other nations and their designs on American sovereignty.

    The present swing back to a bit more of an isolationist view of the world is because of weariness over our war in the Middle East. We see unreliable allies, ungratefulness, envy. America is an anomaly in world history — the only major world power to recognize and protect the individual value, rights, and liberty of ALL of its citizens. It is hard for the ordinary American citizen to understand the drumbeat of unrelenting criticism aimed at our country by our own elites, while they, at the same time, fawn over evil tinpot dictators such as Hugo Chavez and Castro. The natural response to all of this, as 9/11 fades in the memory, is to pull back from interventionism, but to maintain a strong defense and an unrelenting determination to protect American sovereignty from international institutions seeking to tear it down and reduce our nation to the mediocrity and godlessness of the rest of the world.

  • DonS

    I don’t have much time for Gerson. What are his foreign policy credentials, by the way? I think he gets a lot of press because he claims to be a Republican while consistently criticizing them. The media likes that.

    The idea of saying that “Jacksonian” foreign policy is in play is a joke. As Bob says @ 6, 98% of Americans have no idea what Jacksonian foreign policy is, nor do they know, probably, which Jackson you are even talking about. You get beyond Michael and Jesse and, well, good luck. He’s just a dead white guy from the distant past.

    The world is, um, a bit of a different place than it was in the 1840′s. Colonialism, world power centered in Europe — the untamed American west and its limitless potential. Of course Jackson was wary and suspicious of other nations and their designs on American sovereignty.

    The present swing back to a bit more of an isolationist view of the world is because of weariness over our war in the Middle East. We see unreliable allies, ungratefulness, envy. America is an anomaly in world history — the only major world power to recognize and protect the individual value, rights, and liberty of ALL of its citizens. It is hard for the ordinary American citizen to understand the drumbeat of unrelenting criticism aimed at our country by our own elites, while they, at the same time, fawn over evil tinpot dictators such as Hugo Chavez and Castro. The natural response to all of this, as 9/11 fades in the memory, is to pull back from interventionism, but to maintain a strong defense and an unrelenting determination to protect American sovereignty from international institutions seeking to tear it down and reduce our nation to the mediocrity and godlessness of the rest of the world.

  • Louis

    Peter – I would argue, in response to your defintion of Jacksonianism (nice word!), that it would necessarily lead to Imperialism. It is almost be default the way all Empires start.

    DonS – no serious argument, except the slip you are showing in your last line: “reduce our nation to the mediocrity and godlessness of the rest of the world”. Does that mean America is exceptional and godly right now?

  • Louis

    Peter – I would argue, in response to your defintion of Jacksonianism (nice word!), that it would necessarily lead to Imperialism. It is almost be default the way all Empires start.

    DonS – no serious argument, except the slip you are showing in your last line: “reduce our nation to the mediocrity and godlessness of the rest of the world”. Does that mean America is exceptional and godly right now?

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Our current military strategy doesn’t make much sense to me. We defend every place except the homeland. If we brought back all our troops from every base and let other countries defend themselves, we could easily secure our borders, save money and be safer. Of course that would make imported goods more expensive because they would have to use some of their resources for their own defense rather than have their economies subsidized by Uncle Sam.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Our current military strategy doesn’t make much sense to me. We defend every place except the homeland. If we brought back all our troops from every base and let other countries defend themselves, we could easily secure our borders, save money and be safer. Of course that would make imported goods more expensive because they would have to use some of their resources for their own defense rather than have their economies subsidized by Uncle Sam.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    From an admittedly superficial, preliminary reading of the information, it sounds like Jacksonian policy can be defined as a country looking out for its own interests.

    If that’s the case, then I suppose that pretty much every country is guilty of such thought, as it seems to be the case that EVERY nation looks out for its own well-being.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    From an admittedly superficial, preliminary reading of the information, it sounds like Jacksonian policy can be defined as a country looking out for its own interests.

    If that’s the case, then I suppose that pretty much every country is guilty of such thought, as it seems to be the case that EVERY nation looks out for its own well-being.

  • DonS

    Louis @ 10: A fair question. Yes, I do believe the United States is an exceptional nation. It’s hard to argue the fact, I would think. “Exceptional” doesn’t mean “perfect”, and it isn’t exclusionary (for example, there is a strong argument that Canada is exceptional as well), but its sheer power and influence in the world, together with its focus on and protection of individual liberty is certainly unique in the history of world powers. Moreover, the influence of the U.S. on the course of world history, including the rise of such things as an emphasis on human rights and democratic government cannot reasonably be challenged. That is why I get so frustrated with those who have all the privileges and rights associated with U.S. citizenship and yet relentlessly criticize and downgrade its virtue. Sure, many improvements can be made — we don’t live in utopia on this earth — but let’s keep things in perspective.

    As for your other inquiry, the opposite of “godlessness” is not necessarily “godliness”. By no means is the U.S. godly, but there is at least an acknowledgement of God’s sovereignty by a good percentage of its citizens which is not present in most of the nation’s countries, at least in the western world. Wanting to be more like them is not a virtue.

  • DonS

    Louis @ 10: A fair question. Yes, I do believe the United States is an exceptional nation. It’s hard to argue the fact, I would think. “Exceptional” doesn’t mean “perfect”, and it isn’t exclusionary (for example, there is a strong argument that Canada is exceptional as well), but its sheer power and influence in the world, together with its focus on and protection of individual liberty is certainly unique in the history of world powers. Moreover, the influence of the U.S. on the course of world history, including the rise of such things as an emphasis on human rights and democratic government cannot reasonably be challenged. That is why I get so frustrated with those who have all the privileges and rights associated with U.S. citizenship and yet relentlessly criticize and downgrade its virtue. Sure, many improvements can be made — we don’t live in utopia on this earth — but let’s keep things in perspective.

    As for your other inquiry, the opposite of “godlessness” is not necessarily “godliness”. By no means is the U.S. godly, but there is at least an acknowledgement of God’s sovereignty by a good percentage of its citizens which is not present in most of the nation’s countries, at least in the western world. Wanting to be more like them is not a virtue.

  • DonS

    SG @ 11, I believe you have well captured the mood of the country today with respect to foreign policy. It has nothing to do with a desire to be “Jacksonian”, though it may coincidentally resemble Jacksonian foreign policy in certain respects.

  • DonS

    SG @ 11, I believe you have well captured the mood of the country today with respect to foreign policy. It has nothing to do with a desire to be “Jacksonian”, though it may coincidentally resemble Jacksonian foreign policy in certain respects.

  • kerner

    Louis Louis Louis@3

    Clearly you have emigrated to the wrong North American country.
    (smug exceptionalist chuckling in response to evil cackling) :)

    But seriously, Au Contraire. American capitalism doesn’t provide the poor with the facade of the American bourgeois life. It provides them with the REAL American bourgeois life.

    The American poor are materially better off than any poor in the world because America generally is materially better off that any country in the world.

    America is materially better off than other countries because American capitalism creates prosperity better than the systems of other countries. If other countries want to be more prosperous, they should try adopt systems more like American capitalism.

    The fact that some countries are doing that is not so much a threat to American capitalism as an endorsement of it. And competition with these other countries will not harm us. It will only force us to rise to the occasion of the competition. And competition will, as it does now, produce Wal-Marts full of bourgeois Martha Stewart knock-offs sufficient to allow our “poor” to live very comfortable lives.

    The bigger threat to American capitalism is people who try to change it into a European welfare state.

    I wish I had time to research economics thoroughly enough to write more extensively. For now let me recommend reading a really good (if somewhat dated–written in 1996) book on economics by P.J. O’Rourke: “Eat the Rich”.

  • kerner

    Louis Louis Louis@3

    Clearly you have emigrated to the wrong North American country.
    (smug exceptionalist chuckling in response to evil cackling) :)

    But seriously, Au Contraire. American capitalism doesn’t provide the poor with the facade of the American bourgeois life. It provides them with the REAL American bourgeois life.

    The American poor are materially better off than any poor in the world because America generally is materially better off that any country in the world.

    America is materially better off than other countries because American capitalism creates prosperity better than the systems of other countries. If other countries want to be more prosperous, they should try adopt systems more like American capitalism.

    The fact that some countries are doing that is not so much a threat to American capitalism as an endorsement of it. And competition with these other countries will not harm us. It will only force us to rise to the occasion of the competition. And competition will, as it does now, produce Wal-Marts full of bourgeois Martha Stewart knock-offs sufficient to allow our “poor” to live very comfortable lives.

    The bigger threat to American capitalism is people who try to change it into a European welfare state.

    I wish I had time to research economics thoroughly enough to write more extensively. For now let me recommend reading a really good (if somewhat dated–written in 1996) book on economics by P.J. O’Rourke: “Eat the Rich”.

  • kerner

    One more thing. “Cheap goods and entertainments” is just another way of saying an affordable comfortable middle class life style. Which I always thought was the goal, not an opiate. It doesn’t matter how many dollars we have if those dollars are sufficient to buy us what we need.

  • kerner

    One more thing. “Cheap goods and entertainments” is just another way of saying an affordable comfortable middle class life style. Which I always thought was the goal, not an opiate. It doesn’t matter how many dollars we have if those dollars are sufficient to buy us what we need.

  • kerner

    On the other hand, if misguided monetary policy devalues our dollars such that they AREN’T sufficient to buy what we need, then we have a real problem. But I really do now have to go do something productive.

  • kerner

    On the other hand, if misguided monetary policy devalues our dollars such that they AREN’T sufficient to buy what we need, then we have a real problem. But I really do now have to go do something productive.

  • Louis

    Kerner @17 – since when do laywers do anything productive ? :)

  • Louis

    Kerner @17 – since when do laywers do anything productive ? :)

  • Porcell

    Louis:Peter – I would argue, in response to your defintion of Jacksonianism (nice word!), that it would necessarily lead to Imperialism. It is almost be default the way all Empires start.

    The essence of Jacksonianism is that when dealing with a serious enemy, it is sometimes necessary to take the gloves off and fight, something that the Americans, except for the Wars of 1812 and Vietnam, Americans have done rather well. We saved Europe’s bacon in WW I/ II and the Cold War; are presently we are leading the fight agains deadly Islamic jihadists that threaten Europe.

    As to imperialism, except for a flirtation with it with it in the Philippines and Cuba, we have been restrained in the use of our enormous power. America saved Europe in WWI/ II and the Cold War, without in the slightest attempting to take them over in an imperial way. We did the same with Korea, Bosnia Herzegovina, Kosovo, and Iraq.

    The fact is that you are a classic, moralistic, British anti-American, specifically a transplanted British South African living in Canada, with a corrosive resentment of America. Ironically, your family was a part of Britain, a rather serious imperial outfit. One grows weary of your pieties.

  • Porcell

    Louis:Peter – I would argue, in response to your defintion of Jacksonianism (nice word!), that it would necessarily lead to Imperialism. It is almost be default the way all Empires start.

    The essence of Jacksonianism is that when dealing with a serious enemy, it is sometimes necessary to take the gloves off and fight, something that the Americans, except for the Wars of 1812 and Vietnam, Americans have done rather well. We saved Europe’s bacon in WW I/ II and the Cold War; are presently we are leading the fight agains deadly Islamic jihadists that threaten Europe.

    As to imperialism, except for a flirtation with it with it in the Philippines and Cuba, we have been restrained in the use of our enormous power. America saved Europe in WWI/ II and the Cold War, without in the slightest attempting to take them over in an imperial way. We did the same with Korea, Bosnia Herzegovina, Kosovo, and Iraq.

    The fact is that you are a classic, moralistic, British anti-American, specifically a transplanted British South African living in Canada, with a corrosive resentment of America. Ironically, your family was a part of Britain, a rather serious imperial outfit. One grows weary of your pieties.

  • Louis

    Porcell – enough with the name calling: Actually,the number of my ancestors that where British are in the minority, the majority where Afrikaners (French, German and Dutch ancestory), and some of them fought in Second Anglo-Boer War against Britsh Imperialism, as well as having been Voortrekkers, who left British rule to establish the independant Boer Republics. Also, members of my family where involved in both World Wars, against German Imperialism. (Some) Americans tend to forget the enourmous part plaid by the colonials in both world wars, from the start (South Africa declared war on Germany on the 6th of September, 1939, and Canada on the 10th of September). My family was also part of one of the many proxy wars during the cold war – my brother spent time in action against the Cubans, East Germans, Russians and MPLA Angolan troops in the so-called Border War.

    Furthermore, when it comes to British Political history, I identify with the Liberals of the 1902 election, although I think that the party quickly went downhill after that – thus you could call me a “Little Englander”, or Chestertonian Liberal. I do not support Imperialism, ever.

    But, as I have frequently remarked, all my politcal criticism are also subject to the realisation that we live in a world of Realpolitik. I’m not an Idealist (thus I would probably not make a good American, ;) ). I have lots of American friends. I read Americanlieterautre, and watch American productions. Even eat American oranges! Though I generally draw the line at drinking American beer….. unless it is from a microbrewery.

    Criticism doesn’t imply hatred / resentment. I think we are all adults here.

  • Louis

    Porcell – enough with the name calling: Actually,the number of my ancestors that where British are in the minority, the majority where Afrikaners (French, German and Dutch ancestory), and some of them fought in Second Anglo-Boer War against Britsh Imperialism, as well as having been Voortrekkers, who left British rule to establish the independant Boer Republics. Also, members of my family where involved in both World Wars, against German Imperialism. (Some) Americans tend to forget the enourmous part plaid by the colonials in both world wars, from the start (South Africa declared war on Germany on the 6th of September, 1939, and Canada on the 10th of September). My family was also part of one of the many proxy wars during the cold war – my brother spent time in action against the Cubans, East Germans, Russians and MPLA Angolan troops in the so-called Border War.

    Furthermore, when it comes to British Political history, I identify with the Liberals of the 1902 election, although I think that the party quickly went downhill after that – thus you could call me a “Little Englander”, or Chestertonian Liberal. I do not support Imperialism, ever.

    But, as I have frequently remarked, all my politcal criticism are also subject to the realisation that we live in a world of Realpolitik. I’m not an Idealist (thus I would probably not make a good American, ;) ). I have lots of American friends. I read Americanlieterautre, and watch American productions. Even eat American oranges! Though I generally draw the line at drinking American beer….. unless it is from a microbrewery.

    Criticism doesn’t imply hatred / resentment. I think we are all adults here.

  • Louis

    Oh yes, Porcell, I would add the the quotes in my post at #3 where by Americans as well. Maybe not your type of Americans, but Americans nonetheless.

  • Louis

    Oh yes, Porcell, I would add the the quotes in my post at #3 where by Americans as well. Maybe not your type of Americans, but Americans nonetheless.

  • Louis

    And sorry – my typing is really bad – “Americanlieterautre” is American literature.

  • Louis

    And sorry – my typing is really bad – “Americanlieterautre” is American literature.

  • Porcell

    Louis, your record on this blog is usually one of carping, unbalanced criticism of American power. Thanks for letting us know that the majority of your forebears were Dutch as opposed to British imperialists.

  • Porcell

    Louis, your record on this blog is usually one of carping, unbalanced criticism of American power. Thanks for letting us know that the majority of your forebears were Dutch as opposed to British imperialists.

  • Louis

    Porcell, somebody has to be Devil’s advocate. I quite enjoy the role…. but anyway, what does it matter what my ancestors were?

  • Louis

    Porcell, somebody has to be Devil’s advocate. I quite enjoy the role…. but anyway, what does it matter what my ancestors were?

  • Louis

    Also – only some were Dutch. By direct descent I am the descendant of a Hugenot who left his native Pontaix in France, and arrived at the Cape of Good Hope in 1688. Some of my Durtch ancestors were already there – some came with the very first ships, one being Jacob Cloete, midshipman on that first Dutch settlement expedition in 1652. Later on other ancestors would arrive, including Andreas Kohler, first Lutheran minister at the Cape colony. In contrast, my English ancestors only started arriving approximately midway through the nineteenth century, some as missionaries of LMS.

    So you see, it is all very complicated (as with many Americans as well). Ancestral pigeon holing is not a good idea

  • Louis

    Also – only some were Dutch. By direct descent I am the descendant of a Hugenot who left his native Pontaix in France, and arrived at the Cape of Good Hope in 1688. Some of my Durtch ancestors were already there – some came with the very first ships, one being Jacob Cloete, midshipman on that first Dutch settlement expedition in 1652. Later on other ancestors would arrive, including Andreas Kohler, first Lutheran minister at the Cape colony. In contrast, my English ancestors only started arriving approximately midway through the nineteenth century, some as missionaries of LMS.

    So you see, it is all very complicated (as with many Americans as well). Ancestral pigeon holing is not a good idea

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Louis (@25), maybe if you could give us a breakdown as to which nationalities lie in your blood, percentage-wise, we could better understand your arguments. Because, frankly, to me, you sound just like a Prussian.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Louis (@25), maybe if you could give us a breakdown as to which nationalities lie in your blood, percentage-wise, we could better understand your arguments. Because, frankly, to me, you sound just like a Prussian.

  • Louis

    Todd, Prussian??? I am thick skinned, but Prussian??? :)

    I would like to see Porcell’s explanation though. Maybe I should get some popcorn, it ought to be entertaining!

  • Louis

    Todd, Prussian??? I am thick skinned, but Prussian??? :)

    I would like to see Porcell’s explanation though. Maybe I should get some popcorn, it ought to be entertaining!

  • Porcell

    Louis, I should say that you are the product of a bunch of polyglot serious European imperialists and just now a rather moralistic critic of an imagined American imperialism.

  • Porcell

    Louis, I should say that you are the product of a bunch of polyglot serious European imperialists and just now a rather moralistic critic of an imagined American imperialism.

  • kerner

    Louis, Baby! @20

    How are you ever going to accomplish anything worth the effort if you don’t have ideals?

    I have to concede your point about American (big brewery) beer though. Can’t drink that stuff myself.

  • kerner

    Louis, Baby! @20

    How are you ever going to accomplish anything worth the effort if you don’t have ideals?

    I have to concede your point about American (big brewery) beer though. Can’t drink that stuff myself.

  • kerner

    I don’t understand the Prussian remark either.

  • kerner

    I don’t understand the Prussian remark either.

  • Louis

    So, Porcell, you believe in genetic determinism? This is about as un-American an idea as they come. Sorry I don’t share your superiority.

  • Louis

    So, Porcell, you believe in genetic determinism? This is about as un-American an idea as they come. Sorry I don’t share your superiority.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Kerner (@30), what, do you think it sounds ridiculous to tell someone that he “sounds Prussian”, to accuse someone of thinking a particular way due to some portion of their ancestors having lived for a time in a certain place?

    Then I think you understand my point just fine.

    Louis (@27), sorry, I’m just mildly fascinated with Prussia. Given that it no longer exists, I thought it would be a funny, since no one, when asked, says, “I’m mainly Prussian”. They would just say they’re German or Polish or what-not. I mean, next time someone asks me what my heritage is, I think I’ll just reply that I’m “mainly Holy Roman Imperial”. Or, if I just go with “Roman Imperial (greatest extent)”, I can pretty much include the entire melange of nations, at least in part, in which my ancestors allegedly lived.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Kerner (@30), what, do you think it sounds ridiculous to tell someone that he “sounds Prussian”, to accuse someone of thinking a particular way due to some portion of their ancestors having lived for a time in a certain place?

    Then I think you understand my point just fine.

    Louis (@27), sorry, I’m just mildly fascinated with Prussia. Given that it no longer exists, I thought it would be a funny, since no one, when asked, says, “I’m mainly Prussian”. They would just say they’re German or Polish or what-not. I mean, next time someone asks me what my heritage is, I think I’ll just reply that I’m “mainly Holy Roman Imperial”. Or, if I just go with “Roman Imperial (greatest extent)”, I can pretty much include the entire melange of nations, at least in part, in which my ancestors allegedly lived.

  • Pete

    Let’s not forget Bo Jackson. Or Shoeless Joe.

  • Pete

    Let’s not forget Bo Jackson. Or Shoeless Joe.

  • kerner

    My church was founded by immigrants from Pomern, a province of Prussia. A lot of people at Trinity think both still exist.

    But I get it now, how dense was I.

  • kerner

    My church was founded by immigrants from Pomern, a province of Prussia. A lot of people at Trinity think both still exist.

    But I get it now, how dense was I.

  • Louis

    No offense tODD, I found it funny.

    Todd, except for a small amount of Anglo-Saxon, I also fall witihn the bounds of the Holy Roman Empire.My wife though is Dutch-Celtic, the Celtic being
    Scots, Irish and Breton! What to make of that one?

  • Louis

    No offense tODD, I found it funny.

    Todd, except for a small amount of Anglo-Saxon, I also fall witihn the bounds of the Holy Roman Empire.My wife though is Dutch-Celtic, the Celtic being
    Scots, Irish and Breton! What to make of that one?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    “My wife though is Dutch-Celtic, the Celtic being Scots, Irish and Breton! What to make of that one?” (@35). Indeed. One can only hope that, through the power of love, she has somehow learned to think like an HR Imperial.

    But wait, hope springs from the most unlikely of corners! Thus spake Wikipedia: “The earliest archaeological culture commonly accepted as Celtic, or rather Proto-Celtic, was the central European Hallstatt culture (ca. 800-450 BC), named for the rich grave finds in Hallstatt, Austria.” Austria! So your wife is probably okay.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    “My wife though is Dutch-Celtic, the Celtic being Scots, Irish and Breton! What to make of that one?” (@35). Indeed. One can only hope that, through the power of love, she has somehow learned to think like an HR Imperial.

    But wait, hope springs from the most unlikely of corners! Thus spake Wikipedia: “The earliest archaeological culture commonly accepted as Celtic, or rather Proto-Celtic, was the central European Hallstatt culture (ca. 800-450 BC), named for the rich grave finds in Hallstatt, Austria.” Austria! So your wife is probably okay.

  • Porcell

    Louis, at 31, while I hardly believe in genetic determinism, I can’t help being amused by someone with a clear family background of European imperialism lecturing Americans, who have been rather restrained with their power, about the evil of imperialism.

    I understand that you are living in that wonderfully virtuous relatively small Canadian nation, though you would do well to understand the obligations and responsibility of a great power.

  • Porcell

    Louis, at 31, while I hardly believe in genetic determinism, I can’t help being amused by someone with a clear family background of European imperialism lecturing Americans, who have been rather restrained with their power, about the evil of imperialism.

    I understand that you are living in that wonderfully virtuous relatively small Canadian nation, though you would do well to understand the obligations and responsibility of a great power.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Porcell said (@37), “I can’t help being amused by someone with a clear family background of European imperialism lecturing Americans … about the evil of imperialism.” I see. So no one with a European family background can criticize America. Gotcha. Oh, except Porcell. When Porcell criticizes America, it is not because he is of European descent. But when Louis does, it is. Because he’s Canadian. Clear as a bell.

    Also, yeah, Louis, your country is small! Ha ha! Okay, not, like, in terms of land mass, sure, okay, it’s rather large in that regard, but still I am saying something about your manhood do you understand ha ha ha ha small. You’re small. Freakin’ Canucks.

    Also, is it me, or is mass-produced Canadian beer nothing to write home about, either?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Porcell said (@37), “I can’t help being amused by someone with a clear family background of European imperialism lecturing Americans … about the evil of imperialism.” I see. So no one with a European family background can criticize America. Gotcha. Oh, except Porcell. When Porcell criticizes America, it is not because he is of European descent. But when Louis does, it is. Because he’s Canadian. Clear as a bell.

    Also, yeah, Louis, your country is small! Ha ha! Okay, not, like, in terms of land mass, sure, okay, it’s rather large in that regard, but still I am saying something about your manhood do you understand ha ha ha ha small. You’re small. Freakin’ Canucks.

    Also, is it me, or is mass-produced Canadian beer nothing to write home about, either?

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    tODD – about the beer – yes. The only mass-produced beer worth drinking is made by Guinness.

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    tODD – about the beer – yes. The only mass-produced beer worth drinking is made by Guinness.

  • Porcell

    Todd, I frequently criticize aspects of America, though I don’t claim that it is at present an overbearing imperialistic power, as Louis does.

    Secondly, I suggested to Louis that he might understand the responsibility of America’s great power status compared to Canada’s relatively small power status. This is a reality and has nothing to do with your cheap shot relative to anyone’s manhood.

  • Porcell

    Todd, I frequently criticize aspects of America, though I don’t claim that it is at present an overbearing imperialistic power, as Louis does.

    Secondly, I suggested to Louis that he might understand the responsibility of America’s great power status compared to Canada’s relatively small power status. This is a reality and has nothing to do with your cheap shot relative to anyone’s manhood.

  • kerner

    You guys DO realize that I am ultimately with Porcell on this. I mean, I forgive you because you clearly know your beer and all, but aren’t you being a little hard on us idealistic, not-really-imperialistic Americans?

  • kerner

    You guys DO realize that I am ultimately with Porcell on this. I mean, I forgive you because you clearly know your beer and all, but aren’t you being a little hard on us idealistic, not-really-imperialistic Americans?

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    Todd, given Porcell’s arguments here, I guess he was begat by a flash of lightening.

    And Porcell, of course I understand America as a big power. I’m not stupid. That doesn’t make it impervious to criticism, in fact, it invites it. Deal with it. Tall trees and high winds and all that.
    Also, what the US does, influences all of us, so we are a bit more aware of its faults, eh?

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    Todd, given Porcell’s arguments here, I guess he was begat by a flash of lightening.

    And Porcell, of course I understand America as a big power. I’m not stupid. That doesn’t make it impervious to criticism, in fact, it invites it. Deal with it. Tall trees and high winds and all that.
    Also, what the US does, influences all of us, so we are a bit more aware of its faults, eh?

  • kerner

    OK, this I undestand. The USA is a large and very powerful nation. And even if its intentions are good (which isn’t true as often as we like to pretend they are) we are constantly taking actions that adversely affect the world, even our friends. This can be annoying.

    So, what do you suggest?

  • kerner

    OK, this I undestand. The USA is a large and very powerful nation. And even if its intentions are good (which isn’t true as often as we like to pretend they are) we are constantly taking actions that adversely affect the world, even our friends. This can be annoying.

    So, what do you suggest?

  • trotk

    Porcell at #5,

    “Most Americans are Jacksonians at heart. They understand the need for a strong military and are not averse to fighting when vital interests are involved. They don’t like the sort of weak kneed limited wars that cost a defeat in Vietnam and almost in Iraq.”

    Peter, you frequently assume that most Americans think like you. I actually agree with you here, other than the claim that most Americans are like this. It seems that this just isn’t true. Most Americans I know want out of Afghanistan and wanted out of Iraq. We have become pretty weak-kneed as a nation. 9/11 should have been enough to provoke America into fully committing to exterminating the enemy (if you are correct), and instead we saw all sorts of second guessing and unwillingness to fight nearly from the day we began.
    Perhaps you are right, but I need some evidence. Most Americans seem completely unwilling to use force.

    And here:
    “From the time of Thucydides, the wisest analysts have understood that most wars are caused by a combination of military weakness and political vacillation. Donald Kagan, a Yale classicist and historian, wrote a fine book on this subject, On the Origins of War and the Preservation of Peace. that explains why pacifism and isolationism actually causes wars.”

    This is picking at something little, but I would dispute that Thucydides would have agreed with this. Maybe you have understood Kagan right, maybe not, but if you have, I disagree with him. That is an overly simplistic read of Thucydides. Of course you can claim that my authority on the subject is not Kagan’s, but there are plenty of classicists and historians who wouldn’t place the blame for the Peloponnesian War on isolationism, pacifism, political vacillation, or military weakness. Instead, two superpowers didn’t trust each other and fought. Both were imperialistic, warlike, and powerful, and both had strong leadership. Both thought they were defending real national interests.

  • trotk

    Porcell at #5,

    “Most Americans are Jacksonians at heart. They understand the need for a strong military and are not averse to fighting when vital interests are involved. They don’t like the sort of weak kneed limited wars that cost a defeat in Vietnam and almost in Iraq.”

    Peter, you frequently assume that most Americans think like you. I actually agree with you here, other than the claim that most Americans are like this. It seems that this just isn’t true. Most Americans I know want out of Afghanistan and wanted out of Iraq. We have become pretty weak-kneed as a nation. 9/11 should have been enough to provoke America into fully committing to exterminating the enemy (if you are correct), and instead we saw all sorts of second guessing and unwillingness to fight nearly from the day we began.
    Perhaps you are right, but I need some evidence. Most Americans seem completely unwilling to use force.

    And here:
    “From the time of Thucydides, the wisest analysts have understood that most wars are caused by a combination of military weakness and political vacillation. Donald Kagan, a Yale classicist and historian, wrote a fine book on this subject, On the Origins of War and the Preservation of Peace. that explains why pacifism and isolationism actually causes wars.”

    This is picking at something little, but I would dispute that Thucydides would have agreed with this. Maybe you have understood Kagan right, maybe not, but if you have, I disagree with him. That is an overly simplistic read of Thucydides. Of course you can claim that my authority on the subject is not Kagan’s, but there are plenty of classicists and historians who wouldn’t place the blame for the Peloponnesian War on isolationism, pacifism, political vacillation, or military weakness. Instead, two superpowers didn’t trust each other and fought. Both were imperialistic, warlike, and powerful, and both had strong leadership. Both thought they were defending real national interests.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “On the Origins of War and the Preservation of Peace. that explains why pacifism and isolationism actually causes wars.”

    Maybe they are only causes of defeat and subjugation.

    We have to have a military and we can’t be totally isolationist, but we are at least overextended if not outright imperialistic and to what advantage? I don’t think the cost/benefit analysis of our military engagements reveals a greater benefit than cost.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “On the Origins of War and the Preservation of Peace. that explains why pacifism and isolationism actually causes wars.”

    Maybe they are only causes of defeat and subjugation.

    We have to have a military and we can’t be totally isolationist, but we are at least overextended if not outright imperialistic and to what advantage? I don’t think the cost/benefit analysis of our military engagements reveals a greater benefit than cost.

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    kerner – be honest with yourself (as a nation) and try to improve,and shake the exceptionalism, which some cling to. All countries have their faults.

    To put it another way – love of country/people/tribe/land, does not need to have a nationalistic, big-ass attitude. Patriotism fine, Nationalism not so fine.

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    kerner – be honest with yourself (as a nation) and try to improve,and shake the exceptionalism, which some cling to. All countries have their faults.

    To put it another way – love of country/people/tribe/land, does not need to have a nationalistic, big-ass attitude. Patriotism fine, Nationalism not so fine.

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    sg, I am in agreement with you, and trotk.

    See Porcell, I’m not the anti-American you think I am. I just vehemently disagree with your private view/conception of the US and its role.

    Pax.

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    sg, I am in agreement with you, and trotk.

    See Porcell, I’m not the anti-American you think I am. I just vehemently disagree with your private view/conception of the US and its role.

    Pax.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “kerner – be honest with yourself (as a nation) and try to improve,and shake the exceptionalism, which some cling to. All countries have their faults.”

    Okay. However if you rank nations based on rational criteria certain ones always top the list. The USA isn’t always number one, but it is always near the top and it is much larger and more diverse than all the other top performers, so it draws more criticism. Hey, we are sinners, so what do you expect? Anyway, it certainly makes more logical sense to criticize the low performers than the top performers.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “kerner – be honest with yourself (as a nation) and try to improve,and shake the exceptionalism, which some cling to. All countries have their faults.”

    Okay. However if you rank nations based on rational criteria certain ones always top the list. The USA isn’t always number one, but it is always near the top and it is much larger and more diverse than all the other top performers, so it draws more criticism. Hey, we are sinners, so what do you expect? Anyway, it certainly makes more logical sense to criticize the low performers than the top performers.

  • kerner

    Louis @46:

    I’m hearing from you that it’s ok for me to love my country. But for me to think that my country is actually objectively better than other countries: not ok.

    But suppose that we do lose the big-ass arrogant attitude. We still have all this power, this military and economic might. What should we do, or not do, differently with it?

  • kerner

    Louis @46:

    I’m hearing from you that it’s ok for me to love my country. But for me to think that my country is actually objectively better than other countries: not ok.

    But suppose that we do lose the big-ass arrogant attitude. We still have all this power, this military and economic might. What should we do, or not do, differently with it?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Kerner (@43), after noting that America’s intentions aren’t always as good “as we like to pretend they are” and that “we are constantly taking actions that adversely affect the world, even our friends”, you ask, “what do you suggest?”

    Honestly, I think just getting most people here to admit that much would be a huge first step. Not there yet.

    Trotk (@44), I’m going to half-disagree with you and strike a position somewhere between you and Porcell (naturally, I do this because I am a weak-kneed liberal seeking only to compromise because I fear striking a strong pose; I presume this is because I am predominantly German by heritage, and you know how we Germans like to cave).

    “Most Americans seem completely unwilling to use force.” No. Sorry. I’ve seen us all-too-easily led into beginning new wars. We love ‘em. Starting them, that is. “Yeah, let’s go kick some small, foreign ass! Take that, you tiny despots!” It’s perpetuating wars that we have no stomach for. “What’s that? It’s been going on for over six months? Uh-oh. I have a bad feeling about this.” In this light, the Gulf War was pretty much the perfect modern American War. Quick, clean, with a clearly accomplished goal and leaving feeling even more like the bad-add of the globe. Plus, you know, showing off our latest military tech. Guided missile videos for the cable TV news! Whee!

    In my opinion, any war that drags on longer than that risks us examining exactly why the heck we’re involved over there, throwing boatloads of cash and not a few of our compatriots’ lives. And then you have Vietnam, Korea, Iraq, Afghanistan, …

    I’m sure there are holes in my theory, but I think it would be very difficult to argue from the past decade that Americans don’t like using force.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Kerner (@43), after noting that America’s intentions aren’t always as good “as we like to pretend they are” and that “we are constantly taking actions that adversely affect the world, even our friends”, you ask, “what do you suggest?”

    Honestly, I think just getting most people here to admit that much would be a huge first step. Not there yet.

    Trotk (@44), I’m going to half-disagree with you and strike a position somewhere between you and Porcell (naturally, I do this because I am a weak-kneed liberal seeking only to compromise because I fear striking a strong pose; I presume this is because I am predominantly German by heritage, and you know how we Germans like to cave).

    “Most Americans seem completely unwilling to use force.” No. Sorry. I’ve seen us all-too-easily led into beginning new wars. We love ‘em. Starting them, that is. “Yeah, let’s go kick some small, foreign ass! Take that, you tiny despots!” It’s perpetuating wars that we have no stomach for. “What’s that? It’s been going on for over six months? Uh-oh. I have a bad feeling about this.” In this light, the Gulf War was pretty much the perfect modern American War. Quick, clean, with a clearly accomplished goal and leaving feeling even more like the bad-add of the globe. Plus, you know, showing off our latest military tech. Guided missile videos for the cable TV news! Whee!

    In my opinion, any war that drags on longer than that risks us examining exactly why the heck we’re involved over there, throwing boatloads of cash and not a few of our compatriots’ lives. And then you have Vietnam, Korea, Iraq, Afghanistan, …

    I’m sure there are holes in my theory, but I think it would be very difficult to argue from the past decade that Americans don’t like using force.

  • trotk

    tODD,

    I would agree with your position. I didn’t specify clearly enough. We do start wars and then lose our stomach, and I believe it might be because we have had non-violence and tolerance preached at us all of out lives (most schools have a no touching policy to curtail fights, and this slowly seeps into us, teaching us that all physical confrontation is bad) and when we see the media images of the death that naturally occurs in war begin to pile up, we balk and lose our nerve.
    We do seem to be growing increasingly wary of starting wars, though. There was far more opposition to Iraq than Afghanistan.
    This could be very bad, because we are no longer really reacting to whether the war ought to be fought, but instead the emotion of death convince us that all war is to be avoided. If we are placed in a situation where war is necessary, I wonder if we will be able to sustain it. Sometimes necessary war takes a long time and kills a lot of people.
    This isn’t the position of a weak-kneed liberal, unless I am one. And I doubt that, because I am a descendant of William Bradford and Samuel and John Adams, and you can’t deny that they were part of the foundation of this country. Because someone’s distant ancestry clearly dictates their abilities and intelligence now.

  • trotk

    tODD,

    I would agree with your position. I didn’t specify clearly enough. We do start wars and then lose our stomach, and I believe it might be because we have had non-violence and tolerance preached at us all of out lives (most schools have a no touching policy to curtail fights, and this slowly seeps into us, teaching us that all physical confrontation is bad) and when we see the media images of the death that naturally occurs in war begin to pile up, we balk and lose our nerve.
    We do seem to be growing increasingly wary of starting wars, though. There was far more opposition to Iraq than Afghanistan.
    This could be very bad, because we are no longer really reacting to whether the war ought to be fought, but instead the emotion of death convince us that all war is to be avoided. If we are placed in a situation where war is necessary, I wonder if we will be able to sustain it. Sometimes necessary war takes a long time and kills a lot of people.
    This isn’t the position of a weak-kneed liberal, unless I am one. And I doubt that, because I am a descendant of William Bradford and Samuel and John Adams, and you can’t deny that they were part of the foundation of this country. Because someone’s distant ancestry clearly dictates their abilities and intelligence now.

  • Cincinnatus

    Ah, Jacksonian foreign policy: yet another reason Jackson is one of my least favorite presidents ever (an opinion in which I concur with Tocqueville).

    And let’s none of us pretend that America isn’t an empire, please.

  • Cincinnatus

    Ah, Jacksonian foreign policy: yet another reason Jackson is one of my least favorite presidents ever (an opinion in which I concur with Tocqueville).

    And let’s none of us pretend that America isn’t an empire, please.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Trotk (@51), in reply to your statements that “we do seem to be growing increasingly wary of starting wars, though; there was far more opposition to Iraq than Afghanistan”, I’m not sure that two data points really suffice. Frankly, there was a lot less justification for the Iraq War (9/11 somehow? WMDs, maybe?), so it’s not surprising that people were more wary of it.

    I will agree, however, that the highly questionable motives behind our getting into Iraq (or Vietnam) will likely mean that any future international clash will have to justify our intervention all the more, due to those who have become jaded from these wars. The Boy who Cried Wolf, and all that. “No, really, this time, the USA has to go to war and waste billions of dollars and thousands of lives! For reals! It’s different this time!”

    “This isn’t the position of a weak-kneed liberal, unless I am one.” Oh, don’t worry. You’ll be accused of being one. Trust me.

    Cincinnatus (@52), I have to assume that #1 on the list of reasons why “Jackson is one of [your] least favorite presidents ever” is his serving a 1400-pound wheel of cheese at the White House. Admit it.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Trotk (@51), in reply to your statements that “we do seem to be growing increasingly wary of starting wars, though; there was far more opposition to Iraq than Afghanistan”, I’m not sure that two data points really suffice. Frankly, there was a lot less justification for the Iraq War (9/11 somehow? WMDs, maybe?), so it’s not surprising that people were more wary of it.

    I will agree, however, that the highly questionable motives behind our getting into Iraq (or Vietnam) will likely mean that any future international clash will have to justify our intervention all the more, due to those who have become jaded from these wars. The Boy who Cried Wolf, and all that. “No, really, this time, the USA has to go to war and waste billions of dollars and thousands of lives! For reals! It’s different this time!”

    “This isn’t the position of a weak-kneed liberal, unless I am one.” Oh, don’t worry. You’ll be accused of being one. Trust me.

    Cincinnatus (@52), I have to assume that #1 on the list of reasons why “Jackson is one of [your] least favorite presidents ever” is his serving a 1400-pound wheel of cheese at the White House. Admit it.

  • Cincinnatus

    Actually @53, that is why he now tops my list of favorite presidents.

  • Cincinnatus

    Actually @53, that is why he now tops my list of favorite presidents.

  • kerner

    tODD @50

    Well, maybe my use of the term “constantly”, was a little strong, but we certainly do make mistakes that affect everyone.

    But I also think we don’t get credit for the good we do. If not for us, Naziism, Communism, Japanese nationalism would all still be out there oppressing people. There wouldn’t be democracies in places like Korea or the Philippines if not for us; or in Iraq (pray for the continued success of this last one folks; a lot of good men died to make it so).

    I think this is partly because we are perceived as have done the good things we do for the wrong reasons. You know the drill:

    “America has replaced a brutal dictator with a democracy.”

    “Yeah, but, but, they didn’t do it because they CARED about the Iraqi people. America only wants to increase its wealth! It’s ALL about oil and money”.

    First of all, so what? We can’t just do a good turn for somebody, we have to be pure in heart as well? If we wait for that, no one will ever receive a good turn.

    Second, it was never ALL about the oil and money. Plenty of other countries (like the French) were perfectly willing to get oil from Saddam Hussein and sell him fighter jets. If that meant that Iraqis had to suffer, they didn’t care. We have played that game ourselves plenty of times throughout history. And we get criticized for that too. It’s almost like it doesn’t matter what we do. Somebody somewhere will decide that we are the bad guy regardless.

    Which brings me to a second reason we don’t get credit when we do something good. It’s the same reason nobody wants the Yankees to win another pennant. We’re the biggest, richest, winningest organization around, and we know it, and others just want to see the smugness wiped off our faces on general principles.

    I’m not here to defend smugness, but I also think that other supposed forces of “good” in the world (“cough” U.N. “cough”) are a corrupt, hypocritical joke.

    People who complain so loudly about the United States being the policeman for the world should gove some thought to what the world would look like, and what our relationship to the rest of the world would be if we weren’t.

  • kerner

    tODD @50

    Well, maybe my use of the term “constantly”, was a little strong, but we certainly do make mistakes that affect everyone.

    But I also think we don’t get credit for the good we do. If not for us, Naziism, Communism, Japanese nationalism would all still be out there oppressing people. There wouldn’t be democracies in places like Korea or the Philippines if not for us; or in Iraq (pray for the continued success of this last one folks; a lot of good men died to make it so).

    I think this is partly because we are perceived as have done the good things we do for the wrong reasons. You know the drill:

    “America has replaced a brutal dictator with a democracy.”

    “Yeah, but, but, they didn’t do it because they CARED about the Iraqi people. America only wants to increase its wealth! It’s ALL about oil and money”.

    First of all, so what? We can’t just do a good turn for somebody, we have to be pure in heart as well? If we wait for that, no one will ever receive a good turn.

    Second, it was never ALL about the oil and money. Plenty of other countries (like the French) were perfectly willing to get oil from Saddam Hussein and sell him fighter jets. If that meant that Iraqis had to suffer, they didn’t care. We have played that game ourselves plenty of times throughout history. And we get criticized for that too. It’s almost like it doesn’t matter what we do. Somebody somewhere will decide that we are the bad guy regardless.

    Which brings me to a second reason we don’t get credit when we do something good. It’s the same reason nobody wants the Yankees to win another pennant. We’re the biggest, richest, winningest organization around, and we know it, and others just want to see the smugness wiped off our faces on general principles.

    I’m not here to defend smugness, but I also think that other supposed forces of “good” in the world (“cough” U.N. “cough”) are a corrupt, hypocritical joke.

    People who complain so loudly about the United States being the policeman for the world should gove some thought to what the world would look like, and what our relationship to the rest of the world would be if we weren’t.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “after noting that America’s intentions aren’t always as good “as we like to pretend they are” and that “we are constantly taking actions that adversely affect the world, even our friends”, you ask, “what do you suggest?”

    “Honestly, I think just getting most people here to admit that much would be a huge first step. Not there yet.”

    Not sure I admit that. I also don’t see what it would be a huge first step towards. Those with mal intentions are various greedy individuals in corporations and government, not the American people. I do not believe that American people actively approve actions that they believe hurt other nations and their citizens.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “after noting that America’s intentions aren’t always as good “as we like to pretend they are” and that “we are constantly taking actions that adversely affect the world, even our friends”, you ask, “what do you suggest?”

    “Honestly, I think just getting most people here to admit that much would be a huge first step. Not there yet.”

    Not sure I admit that. I also don’t see what it would be a huge first step towards. Those with mal intentions are various greedy individuals in corporations and government, not the American people. I do not believe that American people actively approve actions that they believe hurt other nations and their citizens.

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    sg – I hope you are right. Unfortunately, my experience makes me lean towards Todd’s side of the argument.

    Kerner: I’m not goinmg to comment on the Iraq war. As to earlier wars – both the WW’s and the Korean War were collaborative efforts – In the first 2, the US eneterd much later thatn the others. But i’ll leave that there.

    Nobody denies the good the US has done. But as the saying goes, resting on your laurels is wearing them in the wrong place! :)

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    sg – I hope you are right. Unfortunately, my experience makes me lean towards Todd’s side of the argument.

    Kerner: I’m not goinmg to comment on the Iraq war. As to earlier wars – both the WW’s and the Korean War were collaborative efforts – In the first 2, the US eneterd much later thatn the others. But i’ll leave that there.

    Nobody denies the good the US has done. But as the saying goes, resting on your laurels is wearing them in the wrong place! :)

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “Nobody denies the good the US has done. But as the saying goes, resting on your laurels is wearing them in the wrong place!”

    At least we got laurels.

    Who else would step up and do the dirty work?

    It is not like it got done before we did it. The world is a wretched hive of scum and villainy due to the sinfulness of humans. We aren’t God, but we do know Him, and at least we are trying.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “Nobody denies the good the US has done. But as the saying goes, resting on your laurels is wearing them in the wrong place!”

    At least we got laurels.

    Who else would step up and do the dirty work?

    It is not like it got done before we did it. The world is a wretched hive of scum and villainy due to the sinfulness of humans. We aren’t God, but we do know Him, and at least we are trying.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “sg – I hope you are right. Unfortunately, my experience makes me lean towards Todd’s side of the argument.”

    What have Somalia, India, and China done to make the world a better place and correct injustice? Maybe if they could just admit they haven’t done anything, it would be a huge first step. We helped the Chinese fight off the Japanese in WWII. Can you imagine them fighting and dying to defend our people from anyone ever?

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “sg – I hope you are right. Unfortunately, my experience makes me lean towards Todd’s side of the argument.”

    What have Somalia, India, and China done to make the world a better place and correct injustice? Maybe if they could just admit they haven’t done anything, it would be a huge first step. We helped the Chinese fight off the Japanese in WWII. Can you imagine them fighting and dying to defend our people from anyone ever?

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    SG – And Canada, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, England etc stepped up to do the dirty work long before the Americasns in both world wars. The Americans tipped the scale, and because of their shear size, played a vital role. All those nations also went into Korea with the US. If you want to talk about dirty work, and since today is Rememberance Day, maybe go read up about Vimy Ridge and Delville Wood. You are not the onl;y people with laurels.

    Somalia – India – China – of course. Nobody said they did. But the subject here was US foreign policy. Not Chinese, Indian or Somalian foreign policy.

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    SG – And Canada, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, England etc stepped up to do the dirty work long before the Americasns in both world wars. The Americans tipped the scale, and because of their shear size, played a vital role. All those nations also went into Korea with the US. If you want to talk about dirty work, and since today is Rememberance Day, maybe go read up about Vimy Ridge and Delville Wood. You are not the onl;y people with laurels.

    Somalia – India – China – of course. Nobody said they did. But the subject here was US foreign policy. Not Chinese, Indian or Somalian foreign policy.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “And Canada, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, England etc stepped up to do the dirty work long before the Americasns in both world wars.”

    Louis, come on, be serious, those are all British Commonwealth countries. The king/queen of the UK is/was their official head of state at least then if not still. So, uh, there is a huge difference.

    “Somalia – India – China – of course. Nobody said they did. But the subject here was US foreign policy. Not Chinese, Indian or Somalian foreign policy.”

    Uh huh, it is the constant criticism of the motives and actions of the US you brought up and that I challenge. You said, “Unfortunately, my experience makes me lean towards Todd’s side of the argument.” You brought it up, so tell us about your experience of US citizens promoting military action for the purpose of hurting foreign nations and their citizens.

    As for Somalia and India and China, of course no criticism. No way. Why not? Aren’t they people just like we are? Aren’t they capable of doing better just like we are? Isn’t their record far worse and with far more to criticise? Well, yeah, criticising them almost wouldn’t be sporting.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “And Canada, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, England etc stepped up to do the dirty work long before the Americasns in both world wars.”

    Louis, come on, be serious, those are all British Commonwealth countries. The king/queen of the UK is/was their official head of state at least then if not still. So, uh, there is a huge difference.

    “Somalia – India – China – of course. Nobody said they did. But the subject here was US foreign policy. Not Chinese, Indian or Somalian foreign policy.”

    Uh huh, it is the constant criticism of the motives and actions of the US you brought up and that I challenge. You said, “Unfortunately, my experience makes me lean towards Todd’s side of the argument.” You brought it up, so tell us about your experience of US citizens promoting military action for the purpose of hurting foreign nations and their citizens.

    As for Somalia and India and China, of course no criticism. No way. Why not? Aren’t they people just like we are? Aren’t they capable of doing better just like we are? Isn’t their record far worse and with far more to criticise? Well, yeah, criticising them almost wouldn’t be sporting.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    My cost/benefit point is that our foreign military engagements cost us too much and benefit us too little. They benefit others quite a bit.

    However, I am starting to get the idea that some feel our policies do not sufficiently benefit other countries and their citizens enough. Actually, that is the business of their own governments and companies etc. We negotiate deals with all of these folks. If they don’t like it they can renegotiate. It is their responsibility to hold their own governments accountable for their side of the deals.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    My cost/benefit point is that our foreign military engagements cost us too much and benefit us too little. They benefit others quite a bit.

    However, I am starting to get the idea that some feel our policies do not sufficiently benefit other countries and their citizens enough. Actually, that is the business of their own governments and companies etc. We negotiate deals with all of these folks. If they don’t like it they can renegotiate. It is their responsibility to hold their own governments accountable for their side of the deals.

  • kerner

    “the subject here is U.S. foreign policy”

    Louis @60:

    So it is, but you haven’t said anything specific about it. I ask you again, but this time to go beyond general platitudes. What do you suggest we do?

    Frankly, I think the “dirty work” of WWI was a huge mistake for everybody concerned. That war shouldn’t have been fought by anybody, much less by us. “Tipping the scales” on behalf of the British and French empires was probabably one of our biggest blunders in my opinion. Talk about a “war of choice” where neither an idealistic principle nor a vital American interest was concerned. WWI is the prime example of that.

    WWII was something else again. The enemy in Europe was barbarism personified. Of course, so were our Russian allies, but we ended up having to deal with them too.

    But don’t be shy about Iraq, or Afghanistan. I’m not a mind reader, but I gather from prior conversations that you disapprove. What do you think would have been the right thing for the US to do in 2002?

  • kerner

    “the subject here is U.S. foreign policy”

    Louis @60:

    So it is, but you haven’t said anything specific about it. I ask you again, but this time to go beyond general platitudes. What do you suggest we do?

    Frankly, I think the “dirty work” of WWI was a huge mistake for everybody concerned. That war shouldn’t have been fought by anybody, much less by us. “Tipping the scales” on behalf of the British and French empires was probabably one of our biggest blunders in my opinion. Talk about a “war of choice” where neither an idealistic principle nor a vital American interest was concerned. WWI is the prime example of that.

    WWII was something else again. The enemy in Europe was barbarism personified. Of course, so were our Russian allies, but we ended up having to deal with them too.

    But don’t be shy about Iraq, or Afghanistan. I’m not a mind reader, but I gather from prior conversations that you disapprove. What do you think would have been the right thing for the US to do in 2002?

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “All those nations also went into Korea with the US. If you want to talk about dirty work, and since today is Rememberance Day, maybe go read up about Vimy Ridge and Delville Wood. You are not the onl;y people with laurels.”

    I am not an expert on the Korean Conflict, but I bet that war could have been won if it had not been a UN project. We beat the Japanese and they were very organized and determined. I can’t imagine that if the Koreans had to face the full force of the US, A-bombs and all, like the Japanese did, that we would have come out with a draw.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “All those nations also went into Korea with the US. If you want to talk about dirty work, and since today is Rememberance Day, maybe go read up about Vimy Ridge and Delville Wood. You are not the onl;y people with laurels.”

    I am not an expert on the Korean Conflict, but I bet that war could have been won if it had not been a UN project. We beat the Japanese and they were very organized and determined. I can’t imagine that if the Koreans had to face the full force of the US, A-bombs and all, like the Japanese did, that we would have come out with a draw.

  • kerner

    And while ou’re at it, what should our foreign policy be in 2010?

  • kerner

    And while ou’re at it, what should our foreign policy be in 2010?

  • kerner

    sg:

    We did beat the North Koreans in Korea. It was the Chinese, who entered the conflict as we reached the border between Korea and China, with whom we were unwilling to fight an all out war.

  • kerner

    sg:

    We did beat the North Koreans in Korea. It was the Chinese, who entered the conflict as we reached the border between Korea and China, with whom we were unwilling to fight an all out war.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Still, without the UN, I think we could have whooped them, too. It doesn’t matter now anyway other than the UN’s half hearted actions are no match for truly motivated tough opponents. The UN by its nature can’t be a no holds barred kind of deterrent. The UN can only police the willing, so what about the unwilling?

    Okay, 2010. I am not an expert on military action, so I can only comment on the psychological aspects of policy. Acting weak and accommodating is a recipe for defeat and disaster because there are plenty of confident regimes with a no compromise position from the outset. I mean, that is why we are in Afghanistan.
    Overall we need to get out of many of our deals and let some folks fend for themselves. Japan doesn’t need us, nor do Korea, Germany, and dozens of other spots. If something goes wrong, well, yeah, that kind of thing has a tendency to happen. Leaving would help clarify the public’s understanding of what is really going on.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Still, without the UN, I think we could have whooped them, too. It doesn’t matter now anyway other than the UN’s half hearted actions are no match for truly motivated tough opponents. The UN by its nature can’t be a no holds barred kind of deterrent. The UN can only police the willing, so what about the unwilling?

    Okay, 2010. I am not an expert on military action, so I can only comment on the psychological aspects of policy. Acting weak and accommodating is a recipe for defeat and disaster because there are plenty of confident regimes with a no compromise position from the outset. I mean, that is why we are in Afghanistan.
    Overall we need to get out of many of our deals and let some folks fend for themselves. Japan doesn’t need us, nor do Korea, Germany, and dozens of other spots. If something goes wrong, well, yeah, that kind of thing has a tendency to happen. Leaving would help clarify the public’s understanding of what is really going on.

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    Kerner:

    1. Forget forcing democracy on foreign peoples – let them develop at their own pace, rather focus on practical help – schools, roads (NOT aid).
    2. Don’t let economic expansionism lead you into war – for example, see Iran, 1953.
    3. Don’t urge others to go to war, and then change your mind – example: Outskirts of Luanda, 1975.
    4. Don’t imagine that you can be successful where countless others have failed (ok, this includes the Canadian, UK and other governments): Afghanistan.
    5. Learn about the history and culture of other nations, and teach your children. An educated public is less likely to support a war-mongering regime – it is well known that the average American student has abysmal knowledge of the world outside the US.
    6. Don’t chnage the past – see the current GW Bush – G Schroëder mix-up.
    7. Ideas like the Monroe doctrine, American Exceptionalism, Christian Zionism and all that should be discarded on the dung-heap of history. For the latter two, witness the Patriot Bible. this one is especially important for me, because these ideas are very close to the policies / ideology of the Nationalists in SA who kept Apartheid going, esepcially after 1975 (that is, especially under PW Botha and his Total Onslaught Ideology).

    There it is.

    BTW – I disagree with the praxis of the Afghanistan war – this should have been a special ops type invasion. but then again, if the US had entered with massive huminatarian help, the (intially American armed Mujadeen) Taliban might not have been so strong in the first place. The Iraq war was just wrong. Yes Saddam was evil, but that was not the reason for the war, was it? There are plenty of other evil, oppresive regimes and dictators – look at Burma/Myanmar, Zimbabwe, Sudan, and many other countries. Look at the Human Rights abuses in America’s big ally, Saudi Arabia. Evil oppression was clearly not the reason in Iraq.

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    Kerner:

    1. Forget forcing democracy on foreign peoples – let them develop at their own pace, rather focus on practical help – schools, roads (NOT aid).
    2. Don’t let economic expansionism lead you into war – for example, see Iran, 1953.
    3. Don’t urge others to go to war, and then change your mind – example: Outskirts of Luanda, 1975.
    4. Don’t imagine that you can be successful where countless others have failed (ok, this includes the Canadian, UK and other governments): Afghanistan.
    5. Learn about the history and culture of other nations, and teach your children. An educated public is less likely to support a war-mongering regime – it is well known that the average American student has abysmal knowledge of the world outside the US.
    6. Don’t chnage the past – see the current GW Bush – G Schroëder mix-up.
    7. Ideas like the Monroe doctrine, American Exceptionalism, Christian Zionism and all that should be discarded on the dung-heap of history. For the latter two, witness the Patriot Bible. this one is especially important for me, because these ideas are very close to the policies / ideology of the Nationalists in SA who kept Apartheid going, esepcially after 1975 (that is, especially under PW Botha and his Total Onslaught Ideology).

    There it is.

    BTW – I disagree with the praxis of the Afghanistan war – this should have been a special ops type invasion. but then again, if the US had entered with massive huminatarian help, the (intially American armed Mujadeen) Taliban might not have been so strong in the first place. The Iraq war was just wrong. Yes Saddam was evil, but that was not the reason for the war, was it? There are plenty of other evil, oppresive regimes and dictators – look at Burma/Myanmar, Zimbabwe, Sudan, and many other countries. Look at the Human Rights abuses in America’s big ally, Saudi Arabia. Evil oppression was clearly not the reason in Iraq.

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    BTW: Disagreeing with politicians, does not mean I am against the soldier on the ground. For these and their families, I have respect and sympathy.

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    BTW: Disagreeing with politicians, does not mean I am against the soldier on the ground. For these and their families, I have respect and sympathy.

  • Daniel Gorman

    SG@62: “My cost/benefit point is that our foreign military engagements cost us too much and benefit us too little. They benefit others quite a bit.”

    Yes, whenever America plays global policeman, there are winners and losers. In Iraq, the big winners were the Kurds (from persecution to prosperity), the Shites (from persecution to political power), and the Muslim extremists (from persecution to the power to kill people in large numbers). The big losers were the Sunnis (from privilege to equality) and the Christians (from protection to extermination). In Afghanistan, the big winners were the Warlords (from persecution to fabulous wealth), Cocaine distributors (from persecution to fabulous wealth), and Muslim extremists (from being geographically limited to being unlimited geographically). The biggest losers were the Afghan people (from persecution to extermination) and Taliban (from great power to limited power).

    Geo-politically, the biggest winner was the Chinese and the biggest loser was America. The Chinese gained access to Iraqi oil and Afghan mineral wealth at no cost to them. The trillions that America squandered in Iraq and Afghanistan will have to be borrowed from the Chinese and other foreign sources. America’s competitiveness will suffer for generations. The Chinese will dominate the Americans economically until America’s entire debt is finally paid off.

  • Daniel Gorman

    SG@62: “My cost/benefit point is that our foreign military engagements cost us too much and benefit us too little. They benefit others quite a bit.”

    Yes, whenever America plays global policeman, there are winners and losers. In Iraq, the big winners were the Kurds (from persecution to prosperity), the Shites (from persecution to political power), and the Muslim extremists (from persecution to the power to kill people in large numbers). The big losers were the Sunnis (from privilege to equality) and the Christians (from protection to extermination). In Afghanistan, the big winners were the Warlords (from persecution to fabulous wealth), Cocaine distributors (from persecution to fabulous wealth), and Muslim extremists (from being geographically limited to being unlimited geographically). The biggest losers were the Afghan people (from persecution to extermination) and Taliban (from great power to limited power).

    Geo-politically, the biggest winner was the Chinese and the biggest loser was America. The Chinese gained access to Iraqi oil and Afghan mineral wealth at no cost to them. The trillions that America squandered in Iraq and Afghanistan will have to be borrowed from the Chinese and other foreign sources. America’s competitiveness will suffer for generations. The Chinese will dominate the Americans economically until America’s entire debt is finally paid off.

  • Daniel Gorman

    SG: “My cost/benefit point is that our foreign military engagements cost us too much and benefit us too little. They benefit others quite a bit.”

    Yes, whenever America plays global policeman, there are winners and losers. In Iraq, the big winners were the Kurds (from persecution to prosperity), the Shites (from persecution to political power), and the Muslim extremists (from persecution to the power to kill thousands). The big losers were the Sunnis (from privilege to equality) and the Christians (from protection to extermination). In Afghanistan, the big winners were the Warlords (from persecution to fabulous wealth), Cocaine distributors (from persecution to fabulous wealth), and Muslim extremists (from geographical limitations to unlimited expansion). The biggest losers were the Afghan people (from persecution to extermination) and Taliban (from great power to limited power).

    Geo-politically, the biggest winner was the Chinese and the biggest loser was America. The Chinese gained access to Iraqi oil and Afghan mineral wealth at no cost to them. The trillions that America squandered in Iraq and Afghanistan will have to be borrowed from the Chinese and other foreign sources. America’s competitiveness will suffer for generations. The Chinese will dominate the Americans economically until the entire debt is finally paid off.

  • Daniel Gorman

    SG: “My cost/benefit point is that our foreign military engagements cost us too much and benefit us too little. They benefit others quite a bit.”

    Yes, whenever America plays global policeman, there are winners and losers. In Iraq, the big winners were the Kurds (from persecution to prosperity), the Shites (from persecution to political power), and the Muslim extremists (from persecution to the power to kill thousands). The big losers were the Sunnis (from privilege to equality) and the Christians (from protection to extermination). In Afghanistan, the big winners were the Warlords (from persecution to fabulous wealth), Cocaine distributors (from persecution to fabulous wealth), and Muslim extremists (from geographical limitations to unlimited expansion). The biggest losers were the Afghan people (from persecution to extermination) and Taliban (from great power to limited power).

    Geo-politically, the biggest winner was the Chinese and the biggest loser was America. The Chinese gained access to Iraqi oil and Afghan mineral wealth at no cost to them. The trillions that America squandered in Iraq and Afghanistan will have to be borrowed from the Chinese and other foreign sources. America’s competitiveness will suffer for generations. The Chinese will dominate the Americans economically until the entire debt is finally paid off.

  • kerner

    Louis:

    I’m not sure I understand your objections to the Monroe Doctrine, which was primarily an attempt to curtail and eventually end European colonialism in the Western hemisphere. Unless you object to those instances when the United States tried to replace European influence over Latin America with its own.

    I thought you were against colonialism.

    You won’t get any argument from me about Christian Zionism. Bad theology joined with bad foreign policy.

    I had never heard of the”Patriot Bible” before. But what little I have just now read about it doesnt sound so good.

    “Forget forcing democracy on foreign peoples. Let them develop at their own pace.”

    So, um, we should have left Germany and Japan alone, then?

    “focus on practical help–roads and schools (NOT aid)”

    I’m trying to imagine how this would work. My church supports Kareni refugees from Myannmar. Assuming the Myannmarese government would allow a mob of American construction workers to enter its territory to build said roads and schools, how does this help with the natural development of democracy? Won’t the Myannmarese military just be able to drive down the new roads faster and more efficiently as they travel about killing Karenis and other dissidents? Won’t the schools simply be used for government indoctrination, or army barracks, or whatever the government wants?

    Or maybe we should have done that in Iraq. “Hey Saddam, we’re here to build you some roads and schools”. “Great! The road to Uday’s rape room is full of pot holes! And we could sure use some schools in the north; there are some Kurds there I’d like to, er, re-educate.” Boy, I’ll bet THAT would have won Iraqi hearts and minds for democracy. ;)

    I have to concede your point 5, though. Americans are pitifully ignorant of the rest of the world’s cultures.

  • kerner

    Louis:

    I’m not sure I understand your objections to the Monroe Doctrine, which was primarily an attempt to curtail and eventually end European colonialism in the Western hemisphere. Unless you object to those instances when the United States tried to replace European influence over Latin America with its own.

    I thought you were against colonialism.

    You won’t get any argument from me about Christian Zionism. Bad theology joined with bad foreign policy.

    I had never heard of the”Patriot Bible” before. But what little I have just now read about it doesnt sound so good.

    “Forget forcing democracy on foreign peoples. Let them develop at their own pace.”

    So, um, we should have left Germany and Japan alone, then?

    “focus on practical help–roads and schools (NOT aid)”

    I’m trying to imagine how this would work. My church supports Kareni refugees from Myannmar. Assuming the Myannmarese government would allow a mob of American construction workers to enter its territory to build said roads and schools, how does this help with the natural development of democracy? Won’t the Myannmarese military just be able to drive down the new roads faster and more efficiently as they travel about killing Karenis and other dissidents? Won’t the schools simply be used for government indoctrination, or army barracks, or whatever the government wants?

    Or maybe we should have done that in Iraq. “Hey Saddam, we’re here to build you some roads and schools”. “Great! The road to Uday’s rape room is full of pot holes! And we could sure use some schools in the north; there are some Kurds there I’d like to, er, re-educate.” Boy, I’ll bet THAT would have won Iraqi hearts and minds for democracy. ;)

    I have to concede your point 5, though. Americans are pitifully ignorant of the rest of the world’s cultures.

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    Kerner: The Monroe doctrine sought to replace one influence by another. Simple as that.

    By development, I’m not talking about the extreme examples like Germany and Japan – those were different situations. And don’t be silly – by development aid Imean there are lots of countries that could do with development help, that are not yet bitter enemies. Yemen, for instance. Or Chad, and Burkina Faso, and Djibouti, etc etc.

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    Kerner: The Monroe doctrine sought to replace one influence by another. Simple as that.

    By development, I’m not talking about the extreme examples like Germany and Japan – those were different situations. And don’t be silly – by development aid Imean there are lots of countries that could do with development help, that are not yet bitter enemies. Yemen, for instance. Or Chad, and Burkina Faso, and Djibouti, etc etc.

  • kerner

    Also, I see point 4 (Afghanistan). Weirdly, I think Iraq will turn out better than Afghanistan. What ever we may think of it, Iraq had developed a civilization that could be built upon. Not so Afghanistan. One of my sons served in Iraq, and the other is just about to leave Afghanistan. My oldest came to like the Iraqis. So far, my youngest has very little good to say about the Afghans.

    I think that, ironically, the Iraq war may be judged by history to have been the “good” war, while Afghanistan will be judged to have been “bad”.

  • kerner

    Also, I see point 4 (Afghanistan). Weirdly, I think Iraq will turn out better than Afghanistan. What ever we may think of it, Iraq had developed a civilization that could be built upon. Not so Afghanistan. One of my sons served in Iraq, and the other is just about to leave Afghanistan. My oldest came to like the Iraqis. So far, my youngest has very little good to say about the Afghans.

    I think that, ironically, the Iraq war may be judged by history to have been the “good” war, while Afghanistan will be judged to have been “bad”.

  • kerner

    “The Monroe doctrine sought to replace one influence with another”

    I don’t know that that was true at all times, or even most of the time. And it seems to me that some places on earth need outside influence, or they become dangerous to their neighbors. Removing the colonial influences from many places created power vacuums.

    So, the European empires in Latin America should not have been opposed by the United States? The USA should have left the colonial empires in place, because their departure turned out to create a vacuum that we then filled? And everyone (the Latin Americans, the USA, the World) would have been better off if we had?

  • kerner

    “The Monroe doctrine sought to replace one influence with another”

    I don’t know that that was true at all times, or even most of the time. And it seems to me that some places on earth need outside influence, or they become dangerous to their neighbors. Removing the colonial influences from many places created power vacuums.

    So, the European empires in Latin America should not have been opposed by the United States? The USA should have left the colonial empires in place, because their departure turned out to create a vacuum that we then filled? And everyone (the Latin Americans, the USA, the World) would have been better off if we had?

  • kerner

    And won’t building infrastructure in Djibouti, etc. require security? Who will provide that?

  • kerner

    And won’t building infrastructure in Djibouti, etc. require security? Who will provide that?

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    Kerner – don’t split hairs (I realise it is difficult for a laywer not too, but… ;) ) – you do get my general drift.

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    Kerner – don’t split hairs (I realise it is difficult for a laywer not too, but… ;) ) – you do get my general drift.

  • kerner

    Which instance of my hair splitting, er, I mean my precise and detailed analysis, are you referring to?

  • kerner

    Which instance of my hair splitting, er, I mean my precise and detailed analysis, are you referring to?

  • Cincinnatus

    Louis, where exactly did kerner pedantically split hairs? Regarding the (basically defunct, because China runs rampant in Latin America these days) Monroe Doctrine as an instrument of blunt imperialism when it was actually designed to limit European imperialism seems to be a rather large hair.

    Otherwise, I agree with you. Except on the point of American exceptionalism. American exceptionalism, strictly speaking (and referencing the academic literature on the topic), refers not to America as naturally “better” than other nations, but as really and truly unique amongst other nations (in an evaluatively neutral way), particularly in relation to its unique foundations as a nation defined purely ideologically. I.e., America can only be properly understood with reference to its unique characteristics rather than the commonalities it shares with other nations. Think of it this way: to be “American” means only that one subscribes to an “American creed”, as it were, that upholds certain classically liberal traits, whereas other nations define themselves culturally, ethnically, religiously, etc. (i.e., to be Germans means that one is ethnically German). To a much lesser extent, this could possibly be said of Canada and Australia as well. I’m no fan of classical liberalism, but I personally don’t think it is possible to conceptualize the American project fully without reference to some form of exceptionalism.

  • Cincinnatus

    Louis, where exactly did kerner pedantically split hairs? Regarding the (basically defunct, because China runs rampant in Latin America these days) Monroe Doctrine as an instrument of blunt imperialism when it was actually designed to limit European imperialism seems to be a rather large hair.

    Otherwise, I agree with you. Except on the point of American exceptionalism. American exceptionalism, strictly speaking (and referencing the academic literature on the topic), refers not to America as naturally “better” than other nations, but as really and truly unique amongst other nations (in an evaluatively neutral way), particularly in relation to its unique foundations as a nation defined purely ideologically. I.e., America can only be properly understood with reference to its unique characteristics rather than the commonalities it shares with other nations. Think of it this way: to be “American” means only that one subscribes to an “American creed”, as it were, that upholds certain classically liberal traits, whereas other nations define themselves culturally, ethnically, religiously, etc. (i.e., to be Germans means that one is ethnically German). To a much lesser extent, this could possibly be said of Canada and Australia as well. I’m no fan of classical liberalism, but I personally don’t think it is possible to conceptualize the American project fully without reference to some form of exceptionalism.

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    Cincinnatus, I was referring to Kerner’s comment at 76 – providing security to a team of drillers / civil engineers hardly requires an invasion, and is a different manner altogether.

    American Exceptionalism means different hings to different people, it seems. I take it as virtually synonomous with Manifest Destiny, and that Mormon-infested crap that Beck balthers about.

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    Cincinnatus, I was referring to Kerner’s comment at 76 – providing security to a team of drillers / civil engineers hardly requires an invasion, and is a different manner altogether.

    American Exceptionalism means different hings to different people, it seems. I take it as virtually synonomous with Manifest Destiny, and that Mormon-infested crap that Beck balthers about.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “Cincinnatus, I was referring to Kerner’s comment at 76 – providing security to a team of drillers / civil engineers hardly requires an invasion, and is a different manner altogether.”

    Not sure I follow this. I mean, North Korea isn’t going to let some other group in. Now, maybe some poor nation might. I don’t think democracy is the answer anyway. In countries where you have people from top to bottom who have so little interest or even concept of the common good, democracy isn’t going to fix the problem. Democracy, as the founders noted, generally doesn’t last so well, with a few limited exceptions like Iceland that were small and had very limited suffrage. Universal suffrage is the end game for democracy because people are not universally civic minded. They are much closer to universally selfish and will vote the fruits of others’ labors for themselves. We appear to be in the end game now. There are folks now voting with no care for the future. For democracy to work, you have to start with people with something to lose, people who have something they want to defend. Many of these countries have very few folks like that. How is democracy going to work in a situation like that? I don’t see it.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “Cincinnatus, I was referring to Kerner’s comment at 76 – providing security to a team of drillers / civil engineers hardly requires an invasion, and is a different manner altogether.”

    Not sure I follow this. I mean, North Korea isn’t going to let some other group in. Now, maybe some poor nation might. I don’t think democracy is the answer anyway. In countries where you have people from top to bottom who have so little interest or even concept of the common good, democracy isn’t going to fix the problem. Democracy, as the founders noted, generally doesn’t last so well, with a few limited exceptions like Iceland that were small and had very limited suffrage. Universal suffrage is the end game for democracy because people are not universally civic minded. They are much closer to universally selfish and will vote the fruits of others’ labors for themselves. We appear to be in the end game now. There are folks now voting with no care for the future. For democracy to work, you have to start with people with something to lose, people who have something they want to defend. Many of these countries have very few folks like that. How is democracy going to work in a situation like that? I don’t see it.

  • kerner

    Well, when the United States build oil wells in Mexico, and there was political chaos in Mexico, Gen. Butler and the Marines were called upon. After there was much hand-wringing (as a book promotion) on Gen. Butler’s part about how awful and amoral it had been to have to fight to protect Americans abroad.

    You have suggested that we help rebuild the infrastructure in Yemen. (YEMEN?!?!?!? the new home of Al-qaida!) and rely on Yemeni security? Where do you expect to find American construction workers willing to accept that risk?

    I suppose we could get the Army Corps of Engineers to do it, but then, that would involve sending an army.

    I hadn’t said anything about American Exeptionalism, but Cincinnatus just said it for me. America is unique in certain ways. It was truly unique in 1776 to say that your country was founded on a set of ideals. It is still unique to have made it work. I mean France tried to base its national ethos on “Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite”, but they ended up decapitating each other and alternating between Empires and Republics. And today, being French still means more “to be ethnically French” than anything else.

  • kerner

    Well, when the United States build oil wells in Mexico, and there was political chaos in Mexico, Gen. Butler and the Marines were called upon. After there was much hand-wringing (as a book promotion) on Gen. Butler’s part about how awful and amoral it had been to have to fight to protect Americans abroad.

    You have suggested that we help rebuild the infrastructure in Yemen. (YEMEN?!?!?!? the new home of Al-qaida!) and rely on Yemeni security? Where do you expect to find American construction workers willing to accept that risk?

    I suppose we could get the Army Corps of Engineers to do it, but then, that would involve sending an army.

    I hadn’t said anything about American Exeptionalism, but Cincinnatus just said it for me. America is unique in certain ways. It was truly unique in 1776 to say that your country was founded on a set of ideals. It is still unique to have made it work. I mean France tried to base its national ethos on “Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite”, but they ended up decapitating each other and alternating between Empires and Republics. And today, being French still means more “to be ethnically French” than anything else.

  • Louis

    sg – I don’t think we really disagree.

    Cincinnatus & Kerner, we have different conceptions of Exceptionalism. I think you use the term as something nearly synonomous to “unique”. From wiki:

    Although the term does not imply superiority, some writers have used it in that sense.[1] To them, the United States is a “shining city on a hill”, and exempt from historical forces that have affected other countries.[2]

    In my experience, the second option is often employed. I do not have problems with your conception though. As I said in my post above, the way this philosophy is sometimes employed is not much different from “Manifest Destiny”, or even what Pope Leo XIII referred to as Americanist Heresy – from wiki again:

    At the end of the 19th century, there was definitely a tendency among the Roman Catholic clergy in the United States to view American society as inherently different from other Christian nations and societies, and to argue that the entire understanding of Church doctrine had to be redrawn in order to meet the requirements of what is known as the American experience, which supposedly included greater individualism, civil rights, the inheritance of the American revolution, Anglo-Saxon cultural traditions, economic liberalism, political reformism and egalitarianism, and Church-State separation.

    Although the original Manifest Destiny doctrine (as used by Polk etc) is not so common anymore, the version popularized by Lincoln and Wilson is – from wikipedia again:

    The belief in an American mission to promote and defend democracy throughout the world, as expounded by Abraham Lincoln and Woodrow Wilson, continues to have an influence on American political ideology.

    Thus I think we were talking past each other, somewhat. Regarding the developmental issues – there is a line between protecting your own, and pre-emptive annihilation. Maybe there is a grey area too, but I’m not really inclined to argue that aspect of the matter at all.

  • Louis

    sg – I don’t think we really disagree.

    Cincinnatus & Kerner, we have different conceptions of Exceptionalism. I think you use the term as something nearly synonomous to “unique”. From wiki:

    Although the term does not imply superiority, some writers have used it in that sense.[1] To them, the United States is a “shining city on a hill”, and exempt from historical forces that have affected other countries.[2]

    In my experience, the second option is often employed. I do not have problems with your conception though. As I said in my post above, the way this philosophy is sometimes employed is not much different from “Manifest Destiny”, or even what Pope Leo XIII referred to as Americanist Heresy – from wiki again:

    At the end of the 19th century, there was definitely a tendency among the Roman Catholic clergy in the United States to view American society as inherently different from other Christian nations and societies, and to argue that the entire understanding of Church doctrine had to be redrawn in order to meet the requirements of what is known as the American experience, which supposedly included greater individualism, civil rights, the inheritance of the American revolution, Anglo-Saxon cultural traditions, economic liberalism, political reformism and egalitarianism, and Church-State separation.

    Although the original Manifest Destiny doctrine (as used by Polk etc) is not so common anymore, the version popularized by Lincoln and Wilson is – from wikipedia again:

    The belief in an American mission to promote and defend democracy throughout the world, as expounded by Abraham Lincoln and Woodrow Wilson, continues to have an influence on American political ideology.

    Thus I think we were talking past each other, somewhat. Regarding the developmental issues – there is a line between protecting your own, and pre-emptive annihilation. Maybe there is a grey area too, but I’m not really inclined to argue that aspect of the matter at all.

  • kerner

    I’n not always a fan of wikipedia, but I found the article about “manifest destiny” fascinating. It examines an aspect of my country’s history and traces its evolution across generations. It also shows how “manifest destiny” meant different things at different times, or how it meant different things to different people at the same time. And how the concept was a meld of different, and sometimes incompatable, impulses.

    I knew a lot of the information already, but the article sort of connects the dots.

  • kerner

    I’n not always a fan of wikipedia, but I found the article about “manifest destiny” fascinating. It examines an aspect of my country’s history and traces its evolution across generations. It also shows how “manifest destiny” meant different things at different times, or how it meant different things to different people at the same time. And how the concept was a meld of different, and sometimes incompatable, impulses.

    I knew a lot of the information already, but the article sort of connects the dots.


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