August 11, 2006

"These formidable people think freedom is so valuable that it is worth dying for."

A Brit's admiration of America:
We are inclined, in our snobbish way, to dismiss the Americans as a new and vulgar people, whose civilisation has hardly risen above the level of cowboys and Indians. Yet the United States of America is actually the oldest republic in the world, with a constitution that is one of the noblest works of man. When one strips away the distracting symbols of modernity - motor cars, skyscrapers, space rockets, microchips, junk food - one finds an essentially 18th-century country. While Europe has engaged in the headlong and frankly rather immature pursuit of novelty - how many constitutions have the nations of Europe been through in this time? - the Americans have held to the ideals enunciated more than 200 years ago by their founding fathers.
The writer makes a connection between our old Constitution and our willingness to fight wars. Do you see that connection?

ADDED: There is the converse notion, expressed by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. in Missouri v. Holland:
[W]hen we are dealing with words that also are a constituent act, like the Constitution of the United States, we must realize that they have called into life a being the development of which could not have been foreseen completely by the most gifted of its begetters. It was enough for them to realize or to hope that they had created an organism; it has taken a century and has cost their successors much sweat and blood to prove that they created a nation. The case before us must be considered in the light of out whole experience and not merely in that of what was said a hundred years ago.
So instead of seeing the Constitution as providing the foundation for the wars fought after it was ratified, one can also see these subsequent wars as giving meaning to the Constitution. These two views aren't contradictory, but mutually reinforcing.

74 comments:

Troy said...

Victor Hanson in his book "Carnage and Culture" expands on the thesis that a free people fight large wars more slowly, but when we do we come out swinging hard and fight to win.

We have a lot to lose and that "lot" is embodied and protected in our Constitution as well as the investment of blood put into it. I see the connection -- especially in our large wars.

That does sound a tad corny, ,but that says more about the age than the idea.

Ross said...

We fight wars because Washington built a consensus after the Soviet Union collapsed that we wanted to remain the "world's only superpower," and so we keep fussing around with other people's business halfway around the world.

I think if you asked the American people whether that was worth their blood and treasure, they'd say no.

So, yes, the Constitution does lead us to fight more wars, but only in the sense that it insulates the workings of government from popular opinion -- a republic, not a democracy, as they say.

Another Old Navy Chief said...

Indeed, as one who has on six separate occassions taken an oath to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America" I would remind everyone that the men and women who form our military are different from those in most countries. We will fight, not for the government, not for the territory, not for some leader or potentate, but rather for the ideals, rights and privlieges embodied in the Constitution...

Sloanasaurus said...

The limitation on our willingness to fight is that we are not willing to commit suicide for freedom. Committing suicide for freedom makes no sense at all. This is why we are at a disadvantage with fighting the islamic fascists.

One of the common cliches you hear is that Iraqis won't get freedom until they are ready to fight and die for it. I think they are. They appear ready to fight and die for freedom. But, are they willing to commit suicide for freedom? I don't think so. This is why we need to help them, because we are the only ones strong enough at the moment to counter the power the other side has with their willingness to commit suicide for jihad. If we leave, the Iraqis and other parts of the arab world will succomb to jihad.

Troy said...

Ross... If you think republics
fight more wars than democracies you need to study the ancient Greeks. Pure democracy is little more than mob rule -- a much more dangerous circumstance, though pure republicanism is oligarchy which of course can also breed war-mongering.

Congress -- the most democratic of our institutions funds these excursions/wars/adventures and last time I checked it has been mostly bi-partisan check writing. If "the people" really cared deeply about most of these wars then Congress would -- despite gerrymandering -- have more turnover. This year's election is interesting for precisely that reason. The primary Democrats in Connecticut are angry about the war presumably. Will the people of Connecticut at large be so anti-Iraq? We'll find out in November.

Dave said...

Well, that Brit isn't tendentious or anything...

Maxine Weiss said...

Tissues.

....And the comments are very stirring:

"When a nation's citizens decide that liberty isn't worth dying for they soon lose their liberty. If you doubt the validity of this statement take a good hard look at Europe these days."
Posted by Richard T. Ketchum on August 11, 2006 4:08 PM


"Give me liberty or give me death"

(I have no idea who said that, me---the clueless American, was it Patrick Henry?---who ever that is.)

"Shining City on the Hill"---

(I have no idea where that came from either, only that President Reagan said it. Don't know where he got it from, but I like it.)

Me, clueless and lazy American, but willing to fight nonetheless.

Peace, Maxine

David said...

Certain inalienable rights are worth dying for! Can a truly moral nation deny these rights to others and still refer to themselves as moral?

We shall see!

Troy said...

What editorials aren't tendentious?

Richard Dolan said...

Ann asks: "The writer makes a connection between our old Constitution and our willingness to fight wars. Do you see that connection?"

Only loosely, at best. The sad fact is that few Americans are familiar with the contents of the Constitution, and many would have trouble distinguishing it from the Declaration of Independence. Indeed, it is something of a parlor game for pollsters to ask random samples of Americans whether they support some particular standard -- without disclosing that the pollster is quoting or paraphrasing something in the Bill of Rights -- and get a response showing a large proportion of respondents are opposed.

I suspect that the willingness to fight to protect the "American way of life" is rooted in the more general conviction that the US embodies the principle of "one Nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all," and that it is exceptional among all other nations in its commitment to freedom, liberty and equality. Reagan particularly often captured that idea, and its religious subtext, by using the Puritan metaphor of a "shining City on a Hill." In contrast, Europeans have largely abandoned any connection to the religious roots of the political values that we share with them, and along with that have lost the fervor, conviction and belief in the rightness of those values that makes so many Americans willing to fight for them. In that sense, the American willingness to fight for the "American way of life" highlights the several senses in which the cliche "no atheists in a fox hole" captures a fundamental reality. The point is not that only religious people are willing to fight, but rather that one must believe in something deeply in order to be willing to die for it. Post-Christian Europe has long since stopped believing in traditional religion, yet has found nothing to substitute for it. Gimson's point about the European search for "novelty" is a bit far off the mark when he links it to the number of "constitutions" the Europeans have gone through. As an historical matter, his point is not even true for Britain, and with respect to continental Europe, the corrosive search for "novelty" runs far deeper than the French habit of changing constitutions and "republics" every 50 years or so.

dearieme said...

'"no atheists in a fox hole" captures a fundamental reality': that'll be a fundamental reality as distinct from a real reality, I take it? Anyway, as for your Constitution: I admire it, but wonder why your Supreme Court doesn't.

Goesh said...

" the Americans have held to the ideals enunciated more than 200 years ago by their founding fathers." Tack onto that, "kill some of them and they will become angry, threaten their oil and they will destroy you and your children."

Freder Frederson said...

I would think it is only when we ignore the Constitution and place inordinate power in the Executive that we prove ourselves willing to fight wars.

Two things have happened since World War II that the Constitution spends a lot of ink trying to prevent. The executive has been able to wage war without an express declaration from Congress and, for the first time in our history, we have had a large standing peace time military. Both of these were seen as dangerous by the founders and devices were put into the constitution to frustrate them (e.g., appropriations for the Army can only be for two years, the responibility for declaring war and running the military are spread between the executive and the Congress).

This president and congress has gone further in shredding the Constitution than possibly any other in the history of the U.S.

We are going to war in spite of the Constitution, not because of it.

Editor Theorist said...

I too am a Brit who admires America, and I liked this piece.

In fact, IMO most Brits like the USA above all other nations, and the spontaneous out-welling of sympathy post 9/11 was beautiful and affecting.

But the leftish elites (who dominate the media, universities, teaching and the public sector) tend to be anti-American, and always have been.

I find an interesting parallel between the US now and the Britain in the 19th century, in terms of being prepared for a long fight to establish a better world. The British Empire were responsible for the abolition of world slavery (either directly or indirectly) - and this required use of military force over many decades -

Why is nobody interested in how the British Empire abolished slavery worldwide? - http://modernizationimperative.blogspot.com/

The US is just beginning a similar mission to impose democracy worldwide (with help from the UK). I regard this as the most noble, and potentially beneficial, aspiration since abolition. Let's hope they are able to sustain the confidence, cost and effort for the half century necessary to see this through.

Freder Frederson said...

Why is nobody interested in how the British Empire abolished slavery worldwide?

Because the sins and arrogance of British imperialism were as bad or worse than the sins of slavery?

Besides although the British didn't want their hands stained with slavery in their own lands, they were quite willing to trade with countries that practiced slavery and even overtly supported the south in the American Civil War because of the importance of cotton trade to the mills in England.

reader_iam said...

Maxine:

Indeed, it was Patrick Henry who said, Give me liberty or give me death, as the last line of a speech which, in re-reading it just now, resonates powerfully across the centuries.

"City upon a hill" comes from John Winthrop's "A Modell of Christian Charity" (not personally one of my favorite writings from the colonial era):

For wee must consider that wee shall be as a citty upon a hill. The eies of all people are uppon us. Soe that if wee shall deale falsely with our God in this worke wee haue undertaken, and soe cause him to withdrawe his present help from us, wee shall be made a story and a by-word through the world. Wee shall open the mouthes of enemies to speake evill of the wayes of God, and all professors for God's sake. Wee shall shame the faces of many of God's worthy servants, and cause theire prayers to be turned into curses upon us till wee be consumed out of the good land whither wee are a goeing.

reader_iam said...

I understand why people are fond of the phrase shining "city upon a hill," but I must say that I'm uncomfortable with its modern day usage to evoke some sort of special destiny on our part with regard to the world, given the nature and intent of the speech from which comes.

How ironic, if one thinks about it, that we should evoke this particular point of view (explicitly religious, and of a particular kind) as a banner under which battle the forces of Islamism--that is, a particularly fundamentalist and militant from of Islam.

Freder Frederson said...

In contrast, Europeans have largely abandoned any connection to the religious roots of the political values that we share with them, and along with that have lost the fervor, conviction and belief in the rightness of those values that makes so many Americans willing to fight for them. In that sense, the American willingness to fight for the "American way of life" highlights the several senses in which the cliche "no atheists in a fox hole" captures a fundamental reality.

Have you ever considered that the Europeans, after having their continent torn apart twice in the last century, and that after a millenium of almost constant war, have maybe come to believe that there must be a better way? Compared to Europe, this country got off easy in both world wars. We lost a fraction of the young men that were slaughtered on all sides in the First. In the second, our homeland wasn't bombed or invaded and we were the only major combatant to emerge with our economy intact. Even our casulties were relatively low compared to most of the other participants.

We just don't know what suffering is, so we think we are invinceable and don't think about the consequences. We are like reckless teenagers who think nothing bad can happen to us because we are immortal.

Katharine Lindgren said...

Federson wrote:

Because the sins and arrogance of British imperialism were as bad or worse than the sins of slavery?

Besides although the British didn't want their hands stained with slavery in their own lands, they were quite willing to trade with countries that practiced slavery and even overtly supported the south in the American Civil War because of the importance of cotton trade to the mills in England.


This is highly misleading. Why is it that British colonies have fared so much better in the world than the former colonies of other European countries?

Jim Lindgren

Tristram said...

"Shining City on the Hill"---

IIRC, Reagan (well, his speech writers) adapted it from Matthew 5:14, talking about Israel.

"5:14
Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid."

As for the being an 18th Country, we are conservative, no? (At least compared to the rest of the world...)

RogerA said...

Freder--While clearly Europeans did suffer much in WWI and WWII, the American polity has had its share of blood and destruction during the civil war--a war fought over whose interpretation of the consitution was correct--

Freder Frederson said...

Why is it that British colonies have fared so much better in the world than the former colonies of other European countries?

You mean like Bangledesh, Nigeria, Sudan, Zimbabwe and Burma?

Or are you referring to the former colonies where the native peoples were practically wiped out and replaced with white people and former slaves like Australia, the Bahamas and Canada?

R C Dean said...

The executive has been able to wage war without an express declaration from Congress

A common misunderstanding is on display here. The Constitution does not require Congressional action for the executive to fight a war that we didn't start. The Constitution only requires Congress to "declare" war.

Thus, while an "authorization for the use of military force" does not contain the magic words "declare" and "war", it doesn't need to, because (a) it is the functional equivalent (substance over form) and (b) to the extent the war is defensive or required by existing treaties, no "declaration" is necessary.

for the first time in our history, we have had a large standing peace time military.

Perhaps this is because we can no rely on the oceans to keep us safe.

Freder Frederson said...

Freder--While clearly Europeans did suffer much in WWI and WWII, the American polity has had its share of blood and destruction during the civil war--a war fought over whose interpretation of the consitution was correct--

Comparing WWI and WWII to The American Civil War demonstrates my point. During World War I the French and British armies suffered casulty rates of 1/3 of their total fielded military at a time of almost total conscription. During World War II, countries like Poland and some regions in Eastern Europe lost more than 1/4 of their population. The Civil War in this country was bad, but in both time and impact, it doesn't even approach the impact of both world wars on Europe.

k said...

Shining City on the Hill also references Jerusalem as depicted in Revelation 21:10 - "And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem..." and Revelation 21:23 - "And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it; for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof."

(Sorry, all I have handy is a KJV, or I'd give you a more modern rendering.)

El Presidente said...

Freder is right. Nothing is worth fighting for.

Except the socialist revolution.

RogerA said...

RC Dean--interesting point about declarations of war--I had not thought about it in those terms--clearly the executive branch has been fighting wars without congressional declaration since John Adam's undeclared naval war with France in the 1790s--it's as old as the Republic; I for one would prefer to see the Congress as a matter of course invoke a formal declaration of war for any military adventure for many many reasons, not the least of which it puts them on record, slows down the rush to use force, and tends to mobilize public opinion.

Abraham said...

the American willingness to fight for the "American way of life" highlights the several senses in which the cliche "no atheists in a fox hole" captures a fundamental reality

What? I think you gravely misunderstand the idiom about there being "no atheists in foxholes." It's not meant to imply that soldiers fight out of religious certitude. Those non-atheists aren't in their foxholes praying for righteousness; they're praying for forgiveness.

knoxgirl said...

We just don't know what suffering is, so we think we are invinceable and don't think about the consequences. We are like reckless teenagers who think nothing bad can happen to us because we are immortal.


Just another American who saw too many movies as a child? Another orphan of a bankrupt culture who thinks he's John Wayne? Rambo? Marshall Dillon?

Editor Theorist said...

Freder Frederson said... the sins and arrogance of British imperialism were as bad or worse than the sins of slavery? Besides although the British didn't want their hands stained with slavery in their own lands, they were quite willing to trade with countries that practiced slavery and even overtly supported the south in the American Civil War because of the importance of cotton trade to the mills in England.

I say... I used to think this as well - and like you, I also used to think that the British Empire ex-colonies had suffered especially badly. But the historical facts are against these opinions. If you don't know the story of how the British Empire abolished slavery - you should. Slavery was perhaps the most unmitigated evil in world history, and a feature of all large societies; and we should not be blase about the amazing moral transformation involved in recognizing its evil, and the massive sustained effort it took to abolish it. I can't think of any comparable moral advance in the history of humankind.

The fact that abolishing slavery cost so many lives and so much money for so many years, and involved so many moral compromizes, should make us reflect on the tough choices involved in taking action and actually working to improve the world.

Freeman Hunt said...

You mean like Bangledesh, Nigeria, Sudan, Zimbabwe and Burma?

Or are you referring to the former colonies where the native peoples were practically wiped out and replaced with white people and former slaves like Australia, the Bahamas and Canada?


How about like Hong Kong? An incredible country with great opportunity and phenomenal contemporary cultural achievement and influence through film.

Mark R. said...

As someone who emigrated from the former Soviet Union (long time ago - 1979) and lived in US, except for a 2-year break when I was in Britain, I actually see quite a bit of parallel in American ideals and long history of freedom and democracy in Britain. A lot of common American attitudes resonate with what one hears on the streets of London and elsewhere in UK.

For whatever the reason, Churchillian attitude, refusal to appease the enemy, and its ideals resonates much strongly across the Atlantic than it does across the English Channel. And yet, the famed European post two world wars "perspective" on peaceful resolution of conflicts is a mis-nomer. Some months ago when Iran was threatening Europe, Chirac was only too quick to threaten nuclear retaliation for terrorist actions(http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/01/19/AR2006011903311.html). And the periodic return to mob rule on French streets and highways is a good indication that peaceful settlement of conflicts exists only in a rarified atmosphere of the appeaseniks rather than within populace at large.

Back to the topic at hand... I think the US Constitution is the expression of those ideals, which, in whatever diluted form, still form the basis of American values and underlie the views of the majority.

The so-called "fellow travelers" have always been the more vocal bunch, whether trying to appease the communists or islamo-fascists, but at the end of the day their influence on American public at large remains a minority view. It's only their counterparts in mainstream media that create the "Puffer Fish" effect.

Parallels with Pearl Harbor attack and our long coming entry in to WWII are obvious. The only difference now is that we had tried to appease or ignore the islamo-fascists for 30 years, and it took 9/11 to wake us up and put us in a more "forward-leaning" posture a la Churchill. Really, after 30 years we shouldn't be faulted for more decisive response. Some would argue it wasn't decisive enough, and we are now paying the price in Iraq and elsewhere.

Simon said...

Ann,
I think the key point the writer makes is that "The Americans are prepared to use force in pursuit of what they regard as noble aims."

There's a saying that violence never solved anything, but historically, it's not entirely clear that anything else ever has. It was Washington's armies in the war of independece, not Jefferson's words in the declaration of independence that made independence a reality; it was Grant's armies, not Lincoln's words that transformed the emancipation proclamation from an empty promise into an operative fact. It was FDR's war that finally put rest to Europe, not Wilson's league of nations, and it was nuclear standoff which kept the world from a shooting war for forty years, not the United Nations. Ideas are important, and force should be avoided except as a last resort, but sometimes it is unavoidable and necessary.


(Incidentally, r.e. Freder's comment - no one who supports what judges, of both liberal and conservative stripes, under the guise of substantive due process and a flawed conception of equal protection, have done to the American constitution can seriously make the charge that "[t]his president and congress has gone further in shredding the Constitution than possibly any other in the history of the U.S.," even allowing, arguendo, that such a statement were true. To appeal to the sacrosanct Constitution is to reject a half-century of liberal precedent-making - something I fully agree should be done, but is a peculiar argument for a liberal to advance).

The Drill SGT said...

Ann asked: The writer makes a connection between our old Constitution and our willingness to fight wars. Do you see that connection?

Of course, but there is an obvious intermediate linkage:


We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Our willingness to fight for our freedoms comes from the recognition that we need to
secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity,


The Old Navy Chief let an interesting part out of our Oath of Office, taken in some form by the Military and Civilians in Federal service. I offer the rest of the sentence.

"support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America" from all enemies foreign and domestic

Synova said...

maxine...
Patrick Henry:
"It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace-- but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!"

The whole speach is fabulous.

Tibore said...

"Have you ever considered that the Europeans, after having their continent torn apart twice in the last century, and that after a millenium of almost constant war, have maybe come to believe that there must be a better way?"

The real lesson is to prevent oppresive, nihilist ideologies and governments a chance to push the civilized world to the point where destructive wars are necessary for survival. The real lesson is to recognize real threats and deal with them before they reach such a cataclysmic point as was reached in WWII. Remember: The Munich Agreement was an attempt at a "better way". It failed miserably.

I understand the laudable desire to avoid the death and extreme suffering that war brings. But sometimes the choice is not between war and peace, it's between war and casualties now, or much larger war with many more casualties and God knows what other consequences later.

Comrade X said...

"Because the sins and arrogance of British imperialism were as bad or worse than the sins of slavery"

That is the single stupidest thing I've ever read on the internet. Congrats Fred!

Comrade X said...

or as Fred might say: give me slavery or give me death, but for the love of god keep your imperialism away!!!

Pogo said...

I read this just yesterday, by a man who was an ambulance driver in France in World War 1, fought against the fascists in Spain, and was a US journalist in WW2. This he wrote at the dawn of the Cold War:

"Every generation rewrites the past. In easy times history is more or less of an ornamental art, but in times of danger we are driven to the written record by a pressing need to find answers to the riddles of today. We need to know what kind of firm ground other men found to stand on. In spite of changing conditions of life they were not very different from ourselves, their thoughts were the grandfathers of our thoughts, they managed to meet them sometimes lightheartedly, and in some measure to make their hopes prevail. We need to know how they did it.

In times of change and danger when there is a quicksand of fear under men's reasoning, a sense of continuity with generations gone before can stretch like a lifeline across the scary present and get us past that idiot delusion of the exceptional Now that blocks good thinking.

In our past we have the hope that kept Washington's army together the winter at Valley Forge. That was the world view of 1776. It still has meaning today."



John Dos Passos
The Theme Is Freedom
1956 pp.153, 159

Simon said...

Freder Frederson said...
"Because the sins and arrogance of British imperialism were as bad or worse than the sins of slavery"

It seems to me that most of the suns and arrogance of British anti-imperialism were far worse than anything perpetuated during the British empire. Somehow, I find it hard to justify calling "arrogant" Britain's attempts to reign in some of the more horrific barbarities of pre-imperial Indian "culture". Is it "arrogant" to end a practise whereby widows were burned alive on their dead husband's funeral pyre? Would it be arrogant for us today to stamp out female genital mutilation? I think not. You have been addled by and infected with multiculturalism - a belief that all cultures must be considered to be equal, notwithstanding evidence to the contrary.

Indeed, I would argue that their [the British Empire's] single biggest failure was refusing to do more to civilize their charges before bugging out - something accomplished, by the way, at the behest of a leftist government. If you want someone to personally pin the blame for the strife endured through much of Africa in the last half-century, Clement Atlee is your man.

Old Dad said...

Human beings are innately a violent species. I'm not sure that Patton was precisely correct in asserting that Americans love to fight, although my experience teaches me that many do. The Brits, too, have a long history or martial prowess, as do the French, the Germans, the Italians, the Spaniards, the Mongolians. Humans are adept at slaughtering one another.

We become especially adept when opportunity, technology, and resources combine to make a perfect storm. The British Empire resulted from good soldiers, good rifles, good leadership and lots of money.

Our Constitution, uniquely I think, helps us balance the sometimes divergent pulls of liberty and society. It's, for the most part, worth it to behave yourself in America. We're free enough, and blessed enough with natural resources, that most do very well. So well that we find it worth fighting for.

Something worth fighting for, good fighters, the best technology in the world, and plenty of dough--a formiddable combination.

lucas m. said...

American history is rife with examples of mistakes. Countries canmake mistakes and sometimes excersise poor judgement too. All that aside, Ameria, for all it's despised status in the world, is the place that so many people want to be, as evidenced by our immigration rate (Legal and not). It is a kind country based on the amount of aid we give out (Matched by charity contributions, I understand) It is a protector of the those who cannot defend themselves. I don't hear countries asking for UN 'peacekeepers' when they get invaded. No, they scream for the United States Marines.

I am 25 years old. I have a good career as a Registered Nurse and am preparing to get into a Master's program. I want to marry my girlfriend, and someday have kids.
My life is going great. In spite of (because of) all the good things that I have going for me in my civilian life, I went to a United States Army recruiter last year and started the process of induction into the United States Army Reserve. I accepted my commission as 2nd LT in the Army Nurse Corps on July 22.
I belive in this county enough to offer service. I belive that for all it's flaws, it is a good place, populated with good people, protected from ourselves and our government by an amazing document, the likes of which the world will never see again.
Perhaps I am an idealist, but I think that the amazing opportunities and freedoms that we share need to be protected for the future. I am doing my part, quietly and honorably, just as millions of my fellow countrymen and women are doing. We stand ready to serve if needed.
I do not wish to die on some dusty feild in some land where I can't even speak the language, but if I have to to protect the United States, her freedoms and opportunities and people, I will join the ranks of millions of others who have fallen for the same thing.
No one wants to, but somone has to.

RogerA said...

Lucas M: from an old soldier to a new soldier--God bless.

lucas m. said...

Thank you, Sir. I appricate your support. It's an intimidating process, but one that I am honored to undertake.

Madison Guy said...

In contrast, the French (or at least their chief news agency) seem ambivalent.

Maybe you missed this. It's sort of fun -- if you can call it that. Agence France Press ran two different stories about Buschco and the new airline terror alert. One was a scathing critique of Bush, Cheney, et al. The second, later story made it seem both parties were equally guilty of exploiting the foiled plot for partisan political gain. The headlines were as different as the stories:

Bush seeks political gains from foiled plot

Bush, foes seek political gains from foiled plot

What a difference a word makes! Play the game of Compare and Contrast by checking out the two different versions of AFP story for yourself. And speculate on what the significance is, if any.

Jeff said...

Anyone who could seriously write "[t]his president and congress has gone further in shredding the Constitution than possibly any other in the history of the U.S.," has no knowledge of the Constitution or the history of this country. As far as the Europeans, "...have maybe come to believe that there must be a better way?" They have come to that conclusion after 50 years of living under the American umbrella.

$CAV3NG3R said...

Simon says: "Indeed, I would argue that their [the British Empire's] single biggest failure was refusing to do more to civilize their charges before bugging out....."

What part of civilizing requires that you ensure that it's the idiots that didn't want independence that were handed over to(exempli gratia - Nigeria), in order to make sure that a country doesn't find it's legs easily and remain dependent on you. What part of civilising requires that you play divide and rule and by so doing sow the seed for ethnic rivalries bordering on genocide. What part of civilising requires that you manufacture all sorts of lies to destroy a kingdom that did nothing but live in relative peace because you wanted the rubber trees in their enclave (e.g. benin 1897 so called 'punitive expedition ).

For the record I don't believe in multiculturalism but I also don't believe that the british were on some grand tour of the world to 'civilise' it. They wanted other peoples resources and if possible lands like any other empire before and after them. Those of us whose ancestors survived that era rightly understand they (the british, portuguese, dutch or whoever) had military might and they made us bend over and take it, but please don't insult our collective intelligence by these inanities you mouth about how they didn't 'civilise' us enough. We are indeed thankful for all the 'civilising' they did and maybe one of these days hope to return the favour.

Scott W. Somerville said...

I read the English tribute to American courage with tears in my eyes. I think the author is more kind than accurate, but I could use some kindness right now.

America is exceptional, however. I attribute a lot of it to our First Amendment. Our "free market" in ideas and religion has made us uniquely productive--yet uniquely religious. The established churches of Europe have withered away, but the street corner preachers in America are continuously converting our citizens, no matter what they teach in public school.

Freder Frederson said...

Thus, while an "authorization for the use of military force" does not contain the magic words "declare" and "war", it doesn't need to, because (a) it is the functional equivalent (substance over form) and (b) to the extent the war is defensive or required by existing treaties, no "declaration" is necessary.

In what possible sense was the war with Iraq defensive or required by existing treaties? And don't claim the Authorization was a declaration of war. Even the administration has made it clear it does not make that claim.

Johnny Nucleo said...

Abraham said: "Those non-atheists aren't in their foxholes praying for righteousness; they're praying for forgiveness."

Actually, I'm pretty sure they're praying that they don't get blown up.

What do atheists do when they are really scared? They wish really hard for deliverance. They say in their heads, "Please, please, please, please get me out of this." (To my atheists friends: You know you do this. All humans do this. You may feel silly about it after. But still, you do it. You can't help it.) Is that prayer? I think it is. It's just less honest. I mean, to whom are you wishing? Fate? Fate doesn't give a damn about your wishes.

$CAV3NG3R said...

Johnny Nucleo: "(To my atheists friends: You know you do this. All humans do this. You may feel silly about it after. But still, you do it...."

How are you so sure they do this? I used to be a christian of the born again variety (evangelical or whatever you want to call it) and i've seen people die around me, I've had guns shoved in my face both when I was a christian and when I wasn't. The funny thing is when I was a christian I spent the entire time praying to 'God' to spare me and when I wasn't a christian the only thing I thought about it was, 'so this is how the story ends'. I pretty much was ready to go. I guess it's different for different folks but If you've been to the edge and dropped a few feet before landing on a ledge you respond to life differently. Don't presume to know what goes on in other peoples minds. That's how people underestimate others, like it says in Mario Puzo's Godfather, that can be a very costly mistake.

altoids1306 said...

Whoever it was: You mean like Bangledesh, Nigeria, Sudan, Zimbabwe and Burma?

Or are you referring to the former colonies where the native peoples were practically wiped out and replaced with white people and former slaves like Australia, the Bahamas and Canada?


No, I think he meant Egypt, Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa - the four most prosperous nations in Africa. Or Hong Kong and Singapore, both of which have a per capita income greater than England. Or India. Seriously, why set yourself up to be smacked down?

Editor Theorist:

I agree with your comments - the British Empire helped create the current world order, and the US and the world owes a great debt to Britain. I believe the US will essentially continue with the legacy of the British empire, drawing more nations into the fold of liberal capitalist democracies.

Chum said...

'I believe the US will essentially continue with the legacy of the British empire, drawing more nations into the fold of liberal capitalist democracies.'

You left out 'whether they want to or not.'

Freder Frederson said...

No, I think he meant Egypt, Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa - the four most prosperous nations in Africa. Or Hong Kong and Singapore, both of which have a per capita income greater than England. Or India.

You just make it too easy. Egypt sure is a shining beacon of freedom and democracy, isn't it? Nigeria is a corrupt oil state where the oil revenue benefits a fortunate few while most of the country lives in abject poverty. Kenya teeters between military control and barely competent civilian governments. South Africa? The home of Apartheid? The country where the term "concentration camp" was invented (a policy advocated by a young Winston Churchill).

And do you really want to delve into Britain's history in Asia. That is where Britain was at it's most devious and duplicitous. Think of the Opium Wars or the Boxer Rebellion. Two economically successful city-states that with limited political freedom hardly make up for the deliberate policy of attempting to turn the Chinese into a nation of opium addicts. Singapore is nothing more than a benevolant capitalist dictatorship.

As for other nations' barbaric practices. Need I remind you that British kings had their wives executed and Europeans regularly burned witches at the stake well into the 18th Century (I lived in Wuerzburg, Germany for a while, and in on remarkable year in the 16th century they burned 515 witches). Lynchings regularly occurred, went unpunished, and were often community events in this country well into the mid-twentieth century (over 5000 document between 1889 and 1965). Britain let 1/8 of the population of Ireland starve to death (while it was still exporting food from Ireland) in the mid-19th century.

Before we go (or went) about "civilizing" other nations, remember that the so-called "civilized" nations of Europe and the colonies where the native populations were replaced by Europeans (the U.S., Canada, the Carribean, Australia, South America to a lesser degree) elevated mass slaughter to an industrial scale from the mid 18th to the 20th centuries. More people died in those two and a half centuries at the hands of Europeans than died in the entire history of mankind.

Synova said...

I'm gonna say it, freder.

So?

Seriously. You list this stuff like it matters.

It's a common error, knowing just enough history to feel like you know what you're talking about but not enough to be able to put anything into perspective. Or else being unwilling to put it into perspective. Is it enough to list the sins? Some people would think so.

But you're wrong and so are they.

So I'll ask you. Is any one or any nation without sin? Is any one or any nation not guilty of tresspass against their neighbor?

I put it in religious terms because what you're attacking is a position of religious righteousness that no one has claimed exists. What I'm unsure of is if you're making an alternate claim, that without the colonial period that occupied nations would have been *better* somehow?

That's where perspective comes in. The sins of the British Empire are compared against some standard of ultimate righteousness rather than the world it inhabited. It's pointless to do that because ultimate righteousness doesn't exist.

But a fact remains. The mere *concept* of human dignity didn't exist not so long ago. Where did it come from? Who looked at the world and said that the poor deserved compassion? That slavery was wrong?

British christians. Probably, more specifically, Protestants. Under Protestant doctrine every human being no matter how low was a complete spiritual agent, equal to anyone.

The *idea* of equality came from somewhere. The idea that all people have dignity and value came from somewhere.

Just recently someone was tried for slavery in the US (or is being tried, the wife was convicted but I think the husband hasn't been yet.) They did nothing that their CULTURE doesn't allow. There are still cultures and societies that treat human beings as though they are property, as though they can be owned. We aren't going to allow that on our soil.

The fact that the US (or England) haven't always been and are even now not PURE is beyond irrelevant. Way beyond irrelevant.

Why even bring it up?

altoids1306 said...

You left out 'whether they want to or not.'

Oh, they want to. Why do you think they're beating down our doors wanting to immigrate to the US, Europe.

Freder Frederson:

With regards to various comments about former African colonies of Britain. If imperialism screwed everything up, than Ethiopia should be a shining beacon of civilzation - having never been conquered by a European power. But it's not, is it? No, it's poorer that all four colonies I mentioned.

With regards to East Asian colonization. Trust me, as a Chinese, I assure you that the historical outrages visited on the motherland have not been forgotten. They will be repaid ten-fold, perhaps not in my generation, but perhaps by my grandchildren's generation. But I am not blinded to the many virtues of Western civilization, nor have I lost sight of US generosity. Of the eight nations which have invaded China, only the US returned, in full, the indemnities China was forced to pay, and the money was used to found one of the top universities in China.

If you believe that native civilizations before colonizations were some kind of drum-circle kumbaya, please note that local wars routinely destroyed 10% of the population at a time. Imperialism will inevitably cause some atrocites borne of unchecked power, but it also has many benefits. Modern medicine, sanitation, transportation. Like most in Taiwan, I am aware of both the good and bad brought by Japanese colonization.

As you liberals like to say, the truth is more nuanced.

Editor Theorist said...

Synova put matters beautifully, for me - calm and wise words.

My feeling, nowadays, is that we need to study something which we find morally admirable and find out how it was actually achieved. My example was abolition of slavery: it is mostly a noble and inspiring story - but it also involved all kinds of violence, suffering, hypocrisy, exploitation - not to mention fanaticism.

But this was how slavery was abolished.

I really would like to hear of any comparable moral advance which was wholly good, which lacked the sinister side that we see for abolition.

If there are none, then we have to distinguish between a kind of parlour game/ ethical grandstanding (which we have all indulged in, especially during youth) to make us feel morally pure and superior; and, on the other hand, the morally-compromized business of taking action to improve the world.

I see parallels with the evolving mission of the west (mainly the USA and UK at present) to introduce liberal democracy everywhere. I think this is a morally justified goal - approaching abolition in its virtue. And I think it is a sufficient benefit to 'fight' for, in the same way that abolition was fought for.

But if world democracy is to be achieved, it will not happen without the same kind of compromizes, and short-term disadvantages - not to mention hypocrisy and incompetence - that accompanied abolitionism.

The British Empire was accused of all kinds of self-interest and hypocricy in its mission to abolish slavery - no doubt that was perfectly true. Nonetheless, these were (inevitable) blemishes in an amazingly virtuous endeavor. I think we should have the same attitude nowadays to the attempts to create democracies an Afghanistan, Iraq and (I hope) elsewhere, and to defend democracy in Israel.

We must remember the big picture even while criticizing the details. We should not be blinded by flaws and errors in execution, the imperfection of humans, and the presence of evil people on the side of good, to the greatness of the cause.

SippicanCottage said...
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Johnny Nucleo said...

$cav3ng3r,

You've got balls of solid rock, my friend!

How do I know what goes on in other people's minds? Telephathy.

But even if I didn't have telepathy, I could make a pretty good guess at human behavior because I'm pretty sure about what goes on in my mind and I have a theory that human beings, when you get down to the nitty-gritty, are all the same.

It's interesting. I used to be an atheist, and now I am not. You used to believe and now you do not. What happened to us? Did I used to be smart and then become dumb? Did you used to be dumb and then become smart?

Regarding the Godfather. Of course one must be cautious when estimating the motives and possible actions of others. But to be effective, one must try. What is truly dangerous, however, is underestimating the power of belief. Take two armies of equal strength. One army believes and the other does not. Which army do you think will win?

BrianOfAtlanta said...

Another Old Navy Chief said...
the men and women who form our military are different from those in most countries. We will fight, not for the government, not for the territory, not for some leader or potentate, but rather for the ideals, rights and privlieges embodied in the Constitution...


I tried explaining this to an acquaintance from India the other day and he could not understand what I was talking about. I truly believe he was trying to understand me, but he honestly couldn't believe that an army might fight for an ideal rather than personal honor, or hatred of the enemy, or loyalty to a leader. He couldn't bring himself to even conceive of such a thing. It was completely alien to him. I finally gave up, leaving him unconvinced.

TJM said...

British Protestants? If Martin Luther hadn't come along and given the Brits some principles to hang on Henry's religion of theft and treachery,they'd have no principles at all. Ask the Irish if the P-Brits have any principles. Ireland in the 1840's (you know the famine?) was a net exporter of food. Some Christians;some principles.

SippicanCottage said...
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Synova said...

British, because they had empire at the time which gave them more global influence than any other single nation, and Protestant because of the doctrine of direct access to God for every person. It's not that Catholicism didn't include value for the smallest or lowest person, only that it was particularly set out in Protestant doctrine. Luther or Calvin or Wycliff.

And here, again, the inhumanity and failures existing at the same time are sort of irrelevant. We can point to them and say that was wrong, we shouldn't do that, but beyond that the past is past. Lessons to be learned, certainly. Clubs to flog people or nations or religions with today? What's the point?

There seems to be this idea that without the moral creds a person, or nation, isn't allowed to speak. So people come with lists of grievances as though those grievances cancel something out. About all I can see that they cancel out is the need to make judgements and take action.

Excuses.

Chum said...

I'm responding to you Altoid because you've quoted me though you are obviously really responding to Freder.

Althouse blogg is on my 'every time I open Firefox visit list'. Mostly because of our host and her penchant for eclectic postings. What is annoying however, is posters like yourself endlessly referencing 'as you liberals', 'you liberals', ad nauseum. I don't see the need. Argue you point but quit with the 'you liberal' and 'you on the right' shit. Not everyone who comes here and posts such as myself is even from the US so your labeling of me is dumb as neither of these definitions applies to me....

Chum said...

'The internet doesn't have any wheels in it, after all.'

True, but I hear it's a series of tubes, though.

Freder Frederson said...

I don't really want to wade into a fight, but I must admit to a sort of bemusement when I find people arguing that the few hundred thousand fratricidal tribal barbarians that lived in North America for 10,000 years without ever inventing... the wheel... had it all going on until those nasty europeans showed up and ruined it for them.

Yep, I'm sure the Native peoples of North America consider it a fair trade to sacrifice 90% of their population and probably 99% of their property for the wheel. Of course now they are taking it back one quarter at a time.

My point is not that European imperialism is the greatest evil the world has ever seen. It was inevitable and unavoidable and was both good and bad. But to pretend it was a wonderful event for the entire world or was not carried out with an air of superiority and unconcern if not outright hostility for the native peoples who got in the way is deny reality. In many instances, extermination was the explicit policy of colonizers, including the British. The concept that all peoples were worthy of equal rights is an invention of the last forty years even in the most democratic societies including this one.

dick said...

Freder,

And before the last 40 years it was that all people were destined to be fascist slaves or communist proletariat serfs or Roman or Mongol or some other sect. Which flavor do you really want to support? or do you just really want to fight all of the above and whatever your mother wants.

At some point you need to determine whether you want to just sit there as an isolationist or whether you want to be a part of the real world. If you just sit there, you might as well pack your chador for your wife and have a watch to tell when the 5 times a day are so you can spread your prayer rug and don't forget the compass to point to Mecca.

SippicanCottage said...
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Freder Frederson said...

For the most part, Indians were quite welcome in the new society, and most chose to join it. It was not slavery or death or fight.

You know, it just amazes me when I am accused of misunderstanding or misinterpreting history and then goes off and blames it on the deficient (presumably socialisitic American) public school system, yet goes on to make an ignorant statement like this.

You obviously know next to nothing about the history of Native Americans in North America. Is that what they teach you in Britain? That North America was "essentially empty" when the British showed up and that Native Americans were welcomed with open arms into European Society?

Estimates vary widely, but Native populations north of Mexico may have been as high as 20 million prior to European contact. By the time the British arrived contact with the Spanish had caused the collapse of complex agrarian societies as far north and west as present day Cincinatti and St. Louis because of introduced diseases (probably smallpox). Most of the societies the British first encountered were not nomadic and raised row crops. Once the British survived the first few years, often with the help of friendly Indian tribes, and began to expand their settlements, they had very little use for the formerly "noble savages" and drove them off their lands. If they refused to leave, they were exterminated or sometimes enslaved. This pattern continued until the end of the nineteenth century in the U.S. and even longer in British Canada.

Australia was even worse. Aborignes were never considered more than animals, and as late as the 1860s the Australian government actually paid bounties on dead Aborigines. Of course in the Caribbean, Native populations were simply hunted down and killed prior to colonization.

The British in their empire showed absolute disdain for Native culture. In both Australia and Canada they took children from native parents and sent them to boarding schools in an attempt to destroy all vestiges of native culture. These programs continued well into the 1960s in both country. Watch 'Rabbit Proof Fence' for a poignant story of two girls experience with the program in the 1930s.

One of Britain's greatest heroes, Scott, died in Antartica (and lost the race to the pole), because he refused to learn any lessons from the "savages" that had lived and survived in the Arctic for millenia. His rival, Admundsen, who adopted Inuit transportation, food, and clothing, not only beat him to the the pole by a month, but returned safely without losing a single man.

Britain is a country that has just recently given up the idea that people are entitled to serve in the legislature just because of their birth. They still think their head of state and the head of their state church deserves that title because "some watery tart distributing swords at random" is the basis of a government. Now that may be your idea of civilzation, but in the twenty-first century, it is just bizarre.

BTW, I am a dual British/U.S. citizen. My parents and one brother live back in the UK (they have been back there since 1981 after living in the U.S. for 18 years). So I don't hate the UK. I am just sick of this meme of how wonderful the British Empire was. It wasn't even that great for most English people. Remember, most of the original emigrants to Australia didn't even go there voluntarily.

Dobson Graham said...

There's a nice piece on the Abolition of Slavery - with reference to a new book on the topic - at:

http://www.usnews.com/usnews/opinion/baroneblog/archives/060803/who_ended_the_s.htm

Pretty much confirms that British Evangelical Christians were behind it all.

The blogger, Michael Barone, quotes a TLS review:

"Britain's behaviour is particularly hard to account for. As Davis points out, the British are not thought of as having been particularly humane in other respects, including their treatment of their own working population. He sees the intermittent slave rebellions that shook Britain's colonies as having been a response to the growing tide of abolitionist feeling rather than its cause. Indeed, on the basis of the available evidence it would appear that Britain's interests would have been best served by expanding the slave trade and broadening the frontiers of its slave empire. Just as the US expanded its slave system westward along the Gulf Coast into Texas, so Britain could have established new slave regimes in Trinidad, British Guiana and other recently acquired territories. Instead of seeking to suppress the slave trade, it could have dominated it, and in the process outproduced Brazil and Cuba, increased its own wealth, and contributed to the economic growth of the Americas. No wonder Disraeli called abolition "the greatest blunder in the history of the English people."

"In his History of European Morals from Augustus to Charlemagne (1869), W. E. H. Lecky describes England's crusade against slavery as "among the three or four perfectly virtuous acts recorded in the history of nations." Great powers do not as a rule behave selflessly. Not surprisingly, Lecky's comment has generally been regarded with scepticism. Now, knowing vastly more than he did about slavery and its abolition, Davis believes Lecky was basically right. Although the American abolition movement came later and assumed a somewhat different character, the same might equally well be said of it. Slaves had never liked being slaves, but the rise of a climate of opinion that objected to slavery on moral grounds was something new. There had been nothing like it in ancient or medieval times or in any other society of which we have record. The upsurge of popular support for abolition both in Britain and the northern USA was unprecedented. Perhaps, David Brion Davis hypothesizes, moral progress is possible."

SippicanCottage said...
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SippicanCottage said...
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Synova said...

Okay, so I know no one is reading this anymore but...

"His rival, Admundsen, who adopted Inuit transportation, food, and clothing, not only beat him to the the pole by a month, but returned safely without losing a single man."

Which, of course, had not a single thing to do with the fact that Admundsen was Norwegian. It wasn't that he had a unique background that gave him an edge in understanding what was necessary to survive an Arctic environment it was that he was *humble* and willing to learn from the natives?

All Inuit... no Lap? Really?

Norwegians did uncommonly well during the period of great exploration and I *really* don't think that it was because they were any less bigotted than anyone else at the time.

Stephen said...

Freder, not sure if you're still reading this, but -

"Estimates vary widely, but Native populations north of Mexico may have been as high as 20 million prior to European contact."

You will admit the overwhelming majority of deaths in North America were due to diseases the Native Americans had no immune system for, right? I'll cite stuff if you insist (not sure if you'd argue it or not), but this really isn't a debatable point.

If you are going down this route, Europe might as well hold Asians accountable for the Black Death.

Re: Australia:

What you're writing is conventional wisdom.

when you get a chance pour over this:

http://www.sydneyline.com/NSW%20HSC%20extension%202004.htm

Claims along these lines about Australian history have been under attack for a while and even what is out there doesn't actually go as far as saying what's often bandied about on this.