What America owes to Haiti

Pat Robertson callously brought up the old legend that Haiti owed its independence from the French to a pact with the devil. That story probably originated as an attempt to answer the question how could a group of slaves in revolt defeat the French army that had conquered virtually all of Europe? Americans, whose country owes so much–including maybe its very existence–to that slave revolt, should credit not the devil but the Other Side.

In 1801, Napoleon Bonaparte, having defeated pretty much every European power except for England, turned his attention to the New World. He sent an army of nearly 50,000 troops to New Orleans to begin an occupation of the French holdings in America west of the Mississippi. His goal was evidently colonization. But some scholars think the reason he sent an army was to attack the British in Canada. While the army might have made its way up the Mississippi and through the wilderness to Canada, an easier way, with a surer supply of provisions, would have been to march through the United States. In fact, if Napoleon wanted to add the new country–which didn’t even have a standing army–to his empire, there was not much to stop him. Americans were on the verge of panic, including President Jefferson, who, though a supporter of the French Revolution, did not know what to do with Napoleon.

On the way to New Orleans, though, Napoleon ordered the fleet to stop first at Haiti to put down the slave revolt. The slaves of that colony, which had earned France much revenue from sugar and coffee, had risen up around the same time as the French Revolution, assuming that “liberty, equality, and fraternity,” applied to them as well. Under the leadership of Toussaint L’Ouverture, the slaves won their freedom and established their own government. Napoleon resolved to crush it and put the slaves back into French service.

The vaunted French army, however, could not defeat the free Haitians! They faded away into the landscape, only to come back at night with their machetes, terrorizing the French soldiers. And then yellow fever struck. Napoleon sent reinforcements, but to no avail. Some 24,000 French soldiers died in Haiti.

With this, Napoleon gave up his American ambitions. Instead, he sold the French possessions in America to the United States, a transaction known as the Louisiana Purchase.

So if you are glad America’s independence was not snuffed out shortly after birth, and if you are glad you are not ruled by the French, and if you live in what used to be the Louisiana Purchase, thank the Haitians. You can do that by helping them in their hour of great need by giving here.

Bushism on steroids?

The Washington Times may be fading away, but here is a parting shot from columnist Jeffrey T. Kuhner:

The past decade will be remembered as the pivotal tipping point where the United States ceased to be a superpower. Like the Roman Empire in its later stages, America’s imperial grandeur masked moral rot and economic decay.

The beginning of the 21st century promised continued U.S. global dominance. Our economic might seemed unrivaled; the dot-com boom had not yet gone bust. Washington was still basking in the warm glow of its victory in the Cold War. America bestrode the world like a military and economic colossus.

The Sept. 11, 2001, attacks changed everything. Like Rome and Imperial Britain, the United States embarked upon costly, prolonged wars in far-away countries. The result is that America remains mired in Iraq and Afghanistan. The two wars have cost more than 5,200 dead and $1 trillion with no victory or end in sight.

The fundamental mistake was made by President Bush. Contrary to popular myth, Mr. Bush was not a unilateralist conservative traditionalist; rather, he was a Great Society Republican who championed nation-building abroad and Big Government corporatism at home. Our goal should have been to smash the forces of global jihad through a strategy of total victory through total war – just as in World War II, when every domestic priority was subordinated to defeating the Axis Powers.

Instead, Mr. Bush tried to plant democracy in the sands of Mesopotamia and the stony soil of Afghanistan. He followed a foolish – and ultimately, destructive – policy of seeking to implement social engineering, nation-building projects. The result was imperial overstretch.

Moreover, he also stressed that America could have both guns and butter.

There was no need to choose. Tax cuts, federalizing education, a massive Medicare prescription drug plan, runaway government spending, soaring deficits, huge bank bailouts and expensive stimulus programs – Mr. Bush’s brand of corporatist Keynesianism paved the way for socialism and reckless spending.

President Obama is making the same mistake. He is not the antithesis of Mr. Bush, but his culmination. Mr. Obama represents Bushism on steroids. He is seeking to erect a European-style social democracy characterized by a bloated public sector, a burdensome welfare state, economic sclerosis and foreign policy impotence.

This is a strong indictment of BOTH President Bush AND President Obama. It is surely an insult to both Republicans and Democrats to say that their guy is the same as his opponent. Does the author have a point? Can you defend your guy against his charges?

Happy New Year! Happy Thresholds!

And Happy January! This month is named after Janus, the Roman god of thresholds, and thus, of transitions. He had two faces, one that could see the past and the other that could see the future. So in going from one year to another, as we celebrate the New Year, it has been customary to both look back and look ahead. In the buildup to New Year’s Day on this blog, we have been looking back. Now let’s look ahead.

Predictions for 2010?

What do you think will happen in this new year of 2010? We’ve been doing this for a few years and checking the results (see below). The more specific you are, you more amazed we will be if you turn out to have been right.

Checking the predictions for 2009

Last year CNN assembled some journalists and politicos to make predictions about what would happen in the year 2009. As promised in my blog post back then, we’ll check their predictions. Actually, they didn’t do too bad.

Of greater interest, I asked YOU to make your predictions. See how you did. My former student Cindy Ramos was prescient (I taught her so well):

In college football, Texas will once again defeat Oklahoma. They will also beat Texas Tech and everyone else on their schedule, putting them in the BCS title game. (I won’t predict the outcome of that game, since it won’t be played until 2010.) Colt McCoy will win the Heisman.

Except for that last sentence. There were some other seemingly unlikely predictions that came true. Get a load of this from Eric M:

No major terrorist attack will occur on US soil which will set the stage for a relaxing of many of the “security” measures put in place by President Bush. This will be a good thing overall. As the wars in Iraq and Afganistan wind down, the terrorists will have more freedom of movement leading to major events in 2010.

He had some other spot-on predictions, as did Jeff Samelson and others. Good prognosticating. There were, however, some misses. The world did NOT end because we elected Barack Obama president.

Here is an even bigger miss.

UPDATE: Jeff Samulsen predicted that the stock market, at the time in free fall, would go up by double digits by the end of the year, possibly, he said, as high as 20%. I just read that it had gone up 20%. Let Jeff manage your money, if you have any.

Predictions for the next decade?

So what do you think will happen in the decade ahead? Make your predictions here. As an example, here is what Anne Applebaum is predicting:

If I had to read the tea leaves and make a grand prediction, I would say that in the closing days of the 2000s, the future does not look good for authoritarian regimes in general. The signs, however, are very positive for one in particular: China. The signs also lead me to wonder whether competition between China and the United States — for resources, influence — will not be the dominant political story of the next decade. We are already heading that way: The Copenhagen climate summit failed, after all, because the United States and China could not agree on a matter that affected their prospects for growth. Meanwhile, Islamic fundamentalist terrorism, the focus of U.S. foreign policy for the past decade, looks more and more like a major nuisance — albeit one that keeps coming at us in different forms from different countries — rather than a coherent threat.

I think she is being extremely naive. What she says about the Underwear Bomber in the rest of her column concentrates on the fact that the attack was botched, rather than the more important fact that shows that all of our security measures are apparently ineffective when it comes to preventing a terrorist attack like this. She is remarkably sanguine about China, despite the fact that the growth of that country into a superpower would mean the rise of a new and successful form of Communism. She thinks that authoritarian governments are on the way out, looking at protests in Iran. I am more worried that we will have one ourselves.

Surely you can do better than this in your own prognostications. What do you think the next ten years holds? (We will suspend the Levitical penalty of stoning for inaccurate prophets.)

If this blog and I are still around in 2020–predict the likelihood of that!–we’ll check your performance!