"You'd think -- to hear some of them talk -- that we're about to emulate China, which seeks only energy sources and advantageous trade agreements and cares nothing at all for the moral improvement of regimes in such places as Zimbabwe, Burma and Uzbekistan."Jefferson is fine, and Locke is better, but the seeds of almost everything I believe about politics and the proper governance of a free nation are contained in Washington's farewell address, the purest example of political thought and public oratory in the history of this or any modern nation. It's all there: the importance of Constitutional spheres, the danger of unitary power, the warnings about entangling alliances, the exhortations to simple commercial relations with other countries, the warnings about democratic missonarism, the dangers of "those overgrown military establishments which, under any form of government, are inauspicious to liberty, and which are to be regarded as particularly hostile to republican liberty."
-Robert "The Bad" Kaplan-
"The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements, let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop."
Robert Kaplan, meanwhile, is a perfect exemplar of the bipartisan incoherency regarding our proper relations with the rest of the world:
But without an idealistic component to our foreign policy, there would be nothing to distinguish us from our competitors. And that, in and of itself, would lead to the decline of American power.While it is the principle occupation of the political classes to sap words of their meaning, those two sentences are something beyond. This man is a professor at the Naval Academy. There, he teaches our future military leaders that an integral "component of our foreign policy" and, by extension, of our power and standing in the world, is an indefinable idealism, which is, after all, the hoary old specter of moral uplift, as if the United States of America is to be or become the Salvation Army of the World, with only the substitution of bomb blasts for ringing bells.
"The moral improvement of regimes" is a crafty euphemism for the conquest of foreign lands and the imposition of governments more amicable to our supposed interests. But such intent is largely irrelevant. Washington:
In the execution of such a plan, nothing is more essential than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded; and that, in place of them, just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated. The nation which indulges towards another a habitual hatred or a habitual fondness is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest. Antipathy in one nation against another disposes each more readily to offer insult and injury, to lay hold of slight causes of umbrage, and to be haughty and intractable, when accidental or trifling occasions of dispute occur. Hence, frequent collisions, obstinate, envenomed, and bloody contests. The nation, prompted by ill-will and resentment, sometimes impels to war the government, contrary to the best calculations of policy. The government sometimes participates in the national propensity, and adopts through passion what reason would reject; at other times it makes the animosity of the nation subservient to projects of hostility instigated by pride, ambition, and other sinister and pernicious motives. The peace often, sometimes perhaps the liberty, of nations, has been the victim.It's as if he anticipated Iraq, Iran, and Israel two centuries too soon. It's certainly a rebuke to our current crop of world-savers, Wilsonians without the affection for the Klan.
So likewise, a passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification. It leads also to concessions to the favorite nation of privileges denied to others which is apt doubly to injure the nation making the concessions; by unnecessarily parting with what ought to have been retained, and by exciting jealousy, ill-will, and a disposition to retaliate, in the parties from whom equal privileges are withheld. And it gives to ambitious, corrupted, or deluded citizens (who devote themselves to the favorite nation), facility to betray or sacrifice the interests of their own country, without odium, sometimes even with popularity; gilding, with the appearances of a virtuous sense of obligation, a commendable deference for public opinion, or a laudable zeal for public good, the base or foolish compliances of ambition, corruption, or infatuation.
Here is the result of our Wilsonian principles: 3,700 dead Iraqi civilians last month alone. Imagine if 37,000 Americans died violently in October. It's inconceivable to us, and yet we blubber on six years later about "September 11, 2006," even as we monthly engender such destruction and worse in a country that we murdered, ultimately, just because we could.
Well, Washington saw that coming too:
In offering to you, my countrymen, these counsels of an old and affectionate friend, I dare not hope they will make the strong and lasting impression I could wish; that they will control the usual current of the passions, or prevent our nation from running the course which has hitherto marked the destiny of nations. But, if I may even flatter myself that they may be productive of some partial benefit, some occasional good; that they may now and then recur to moderate the fury of party spirit, to warn against the mischiefs of foreign intrigue, to guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism; this hope will be a full recompense for the solicitude for your welfare, by which they have been dictated.I long ago concluded that if we're all going to spin down the gyre, I'm going to go down laughing. The Boyfriend and I popped into the new Bond flick Monday night, and now I'm afraid I'll laugh so hard I'll begin weeping blood. Those in power are absolutely intent on "running the course which has hitherto marked the destiny of nations." They're perfectly plain about it. They say so publically.
Meanwhile, as Kaplan notes, China, though hardly a model of Washington's dreamed-of Republic, pursues energy and commerce, gives aid where prudent and where not, not. It has avoided debt. It cares not at all for the moral character of the nations with which it trades. Can we fail to note that while it remains a repressive--sometimes brutally--state, freedom and liberty are on the increase in China, the fruits of business and commerce alone it seems, while America's pet project Iraq is now among the bloodiest, most miserable places on a globe never deficient in misery and violence.
There are so many models for the rise and decline of the United States of America. There's the Roman Empire, the Bourbon dynasties, the Third Reich, Soviet Russia. I'd aver that if anything we most resemble Rome, not the classical colossus, but the Holy See, the Vatican, once a great power both temporally and spiritually, now a rich, secretive, impotent, pedophilic irrelevancy reduced to hollow ritual and hortatory moralisms that even its most devoted adherents mostly ignore.