Spendor and Tragedy of the American
excerpted from the book
America Right or Wrong
An Anatomy of American Nationalism
by Anatol Lieven
Oxford University Press, 2005,
The American Thesis has also been called the American Creed and
the American Ideology. It is the set of propositions about America
which the nation presents to itself and to the outside world:
"Americans of all national origins, classes, religions, Creeds,
and colors, have something in common: a social ethos, a political
Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote of adherence
to American governing principles as a form of religious conversion.
This Thesis or Creed, with its attendant national myths, forms
the foundation for American civic nationalism and makes the public
face of the United States an example of civic nationalism par
excellence. In theory, anyone who assents to the American Thesis
can become an American, irrespective of language, culture, or
The essential elements of the American Creed and American civic
nationalism are faith in liberty, constitutionalism, the law,
democracy, individualism and cultural and political egalitarianism.
They have remained in essence the same through most of American
history.' They are chiefly rooted in the Enlightenment and are
also derived from English traditions: the liberal philosophy of
John Locke as well as much older beliefs in the law and in the
"rights of freeborn Englishmen."
Economic egalitarianism is definitely
not a part of the Creed. On the contrary, it has been closely
associated with belief in the absolute superiority of free market
capitalism, unlimited economic opportunity and consumerism. These
elements are contested by larger numbers of Americans than are
its political elements, which are believed in by overwhelming
The myths attendant on the [American] Creed include a very widespread
belief that the United States is exceptional in its allegiance
to democracy and freedom and is therefore exceptionally good.
And because America is exceptionally good, it both deserves to
be exceptionally Powerful and by nature cannot use its power for
evil ends. The American Creed is therefore a key foundation of
belief in America's innate innocence."
Even most American dissidents throughout history have sincerely
phrased their protests not as a rejection of the American Creed
as such, but rather as a demand that Americans, or American governments,
return to a purer form of the Creed or to a more faithful adherence
to it. Groups which really step outside the Creed soon find themselves
marginalized or even suppressed. The mass of the White population
at least simply takes the Creed for granted.
Far from being a "new" or "young" state America
therefore has some claim to be almost the oldest state in the
world. It is "the oldest republic, the oldest democracy,
the oldest federal system; it has the oldest written constitution
and boasts the oldest of genuine political parties."
As Dr. Martin Luther King l Jr. declared at the Lincoln Memorial
on August 28, 1963, "I still have a dream. It is a dream
deeply rooted in the American dream that one day this nation will
rise up and live out the true meaning of its Creed.
... the American Thesis, like democracy in India, is also a matter
of necessity for the United States. It is essential to preventing
the country's immensely disparate and sometimes morally absolutist
social, cultural, religious and ethnic groups from flying apart.
Creedal civic nationalism and belief in the value of the American
Thesis for America and humanity are perhaps the only things on
which Pentecostalists in Texas and gays in San Francisco can agree."
The American Creed, and the institutions
which it underpins, are indeed the nation's greatest glory and
will be its greatest legacy after the United States itself has
disappeared. The fruits of American economics may prove ambiguous
or even disastrous in the long run; but the principles which have
allowed masses of diverse people in an enormous land to live together
and prosper without coercion will always have positive lessons
Our moral perils are not those of conscious malice or the explicit
lust for power. They are the perils which can be understood only
if we realize the ironic tendency of virtues to turn into vices
when too complacently relied on; and of power to become vexatious
if the wisdom which directs it is trusted too confidently."
Of these perils, two in particular have
been remarked on by American historians and commentators: conformism
and messianism. Both are usually somewhat latent and held in check
by American traditions of empiricism, pragmatism and open debate."
In moments of national shock and trauma, such as 9/11, however,
they tend to become active and to do much to shape America's response.
Both these tendencies draw on a set of
common myths, so deeply embedded as to operate beneath the level
of most American's consciousness. These myths are not, strictly
speaking, part of the formal Thesis or Creed, but help give it
much of its emotional force. Among other things, these myths affirm
the idea of America's innocence. Or as President George W. Bush
put it, "I'm amazed that there's such misunderstanding of
what our country is about that people would hate us. I'm like
most Americans, I just can't believe it because I know how good
As the Bush administration's National
Security Strategy of 2002, has it: "Today, the United States
enjoys a position of unparalleled military strength and great
economic advantage. In keeping with our heritage and principles,
we do not use our strength to press for unilateral advantage.
We seek instead to create a balance of power that favors human
freedom: conditions in which all nations and societies can choose
for themselves the rewards and challenges of political and economic
This belief in American innocence, of
"original sinlessness;' is both very old and very powerful.
It plays a tremendously important role in strengthening American
nationalism and in diminishing the nation's willingness to listen
to other in countries viewed in turn as originally sinful. This
belief in national sinlessness like all such beliefs, contributes
greatly to America's crowning sin of Pride-the first deadly sin
and, in medieval Catholic theology, the one from which all other
sins originally stem.
liberal commentator Richard Cohen wrote in 2003,
"The Iraq War was no mere failure of intelligence. This
was a failure of character. Why? ... Finally, there was our smugness-the
sort of American exceptionalism that so rankles non-Americans.
No one better exemplified that than Bush himself?"
An unwillingness or inability among Americans to question the
country's sinlessness feeds a culture of public conformism in
the nation, which has been commented on across the centuries.
"In the abstract we celebrate freedom of opinion as part
of our patriotic legacy; it is only when some Americans exercise
it that other Americans are shocked .... Intolerance of dissent
is a well-noted feature of the American national character",
in Senator Fulbright's words.
This is not true of the United States
as a whole, and certainly not of American academia; but in my
experience it certainly is true for dominant sections of the political,
intellectual and media worlds of Washington, DC, and the American
ruling elites. Tocqueville (the most famous European admirer of
America, it should be noted) declared that "I know of no
country where there is so little true independence of mind and
freedom of discussion as in America .... The majority raises very
formidable barriers to the liberty of opinion: within these barriers
an author may write whatever he pleases, but he will repent it
if he ever step beyond them."
... America's "civil religion" [is] composed of a mixture
of the principles of the American Creed with a set of historical
and cultural myths about the nation. This became the essential
cultural underpinning of America's current version of civic nationalism.
... The conformism of ideological attitudes
reflects in part the self-definition of the great majority of
Americans as "middle class." By now this definition
has little to do with class in the economic sense, but everything
to do with being "respectable," which means, above all,
sharing a certain set of common values, including the American
Creed and American nationalism.
... [American] conformism is ... dangerous both to liberty and
to the frank and honest discussion of public issues; especially
in time of war, when it is exacerbated by a heightened nationalism.
It is particularly alarming when combined with the loyalty and
trust which many Americans in time of war instinctively feel toward
their president and administration which was reflected for many
months in the deference paid to the Bush administration ...
... W. H. Auden in 1967
"For millions of people today, words like Communism, Capitalism,
Imperialism, Peace, Freedom and Democracy have ceased to be words
the meaning of which can be inquired into and discussed, and have
become right or wrong noises to which the response is as involuntary
as a knee reflex."
In Loren Baritz's bitter words of 1985, in a chapter entitled
"The American Lullaby"
"Our power, complacency, rigidity and ignorance have kept
us from incorporating our Vietnam experience into the way we think
about ourselves and the world .... For one brief moment, later
in the 1970s, it looked as if we had developed some doubts about
our international and cultural moorings. It looked as if we might
have the nerve and wisdom to be concerned not only about Vietnam,
but about ourselves. But there is no need to think unless there
is doubt. 'The era of self-doubt is over,' President Reagan assured
the West Point cadets. Freed of doubt, we are freed of thought.
Many Americans now seem to feel better about themselves."
The figure of Ronald Reagan is critical to an understanding of
how America dealt with the legacy of Vietnam and the consequences
for America today and in future." On one hand, Reagan's external
policy demonstrated that he and most of his administration were
determined not to get involved in any major conflict, and realized
full well how bitterly unpopular a serious war would be with a
majority of Americans. The common left-wing image of Reagan as
a warmonger is therefore quite wrong."
The Reagan administration conforms to
a key feature of the American security elites and military-industrial
complex ... that they tend to be "militarist, but not bellicose."
In Reagan's rhetoric, however, the "Great Communicator"
was a superb restorer of the founding myths of American nationalism,
so badly tarnished by Vietnam; and this was without question because
he believed them to the full himself, particularly regarding his
belief in American innocence, American beneficence and America
as the heartland of human freedom and progress. He held "an
innocent and unshakeable belief in the myth of American exceptionalism."
In Garry Wills's superb phrase, Reagan was "the demagogue
as rabble -soother."
Reagan's mixture proved the perfect one
to reassure Americans after the combined traumas of defeat in
Vietnam, bitter political divisions at home, the Watergate scandal
and the Iranian hostage crisis. But by far the most important
ingredient in the mixture was that, in Woodward's words, Reagan
"reaffirmed" America's national myths. He also did so
in a style which not only calmed but united most Americans. In
this Reagan's geniality, his acting skill and his genuine identification
with his country and countrymen made him a far more uniting figure
than George W. Bush, who represents the same nationalist mixture
but in a considerably harsher form.
In his brilliant essay of 1982, "The
Care and Repair of Public Myth' William H. McNeill examined classic
American myths of superiority and benevolence, and remarked that
"no one is likely to reaffirm these discredited notions today,
even though public rhetoric often assumes the reality of such
myths without expressly saying so. Politicians and journalists
really have little choice, since suitably revised national and
international myths are conspicuous by their absence. "
This passage brings out the full responsibility
of Reagan and indeed those who voted for him. After all, they
elected him in part precisely because he was so good at restoring
their myths about their country, including the belief that Vietnam
had been a noble crusade. As a result, while Americans remember
in their guts that Vietnam was an unpleasant experience the repetition
of which should be avoided, its deeper lessons remained largely
unlearned, and in our own time it has proved possible to "reaffirm
these discredited notions."
One reason for this was that while the
Vietnam War was a dreadful experience for those Americans who
fought in it, their numbers were small, and-as mentioned before-unlike
European and Asian wars, or for that matter the experience of
the Vietnamese, Americans at home were physically unaffected:
"for most Americans the tangible consequences of the debacle
in Southeast Asia seem inordinately slight." This lack of
personal knowledge of war was of course true of Reagan himself,
and is true of George W. Bush and all the other men in his administration
of 2000 to 2004 who were of military age during the Vietnam War
but for some reason failed to serve.
In another way, however, the trauma of
Vietnam was if anything too deep to be addressed: nothing less
than "the death of the national god" and the national
religion of American innocence, goodness and God-given success.
Without these beliefs, it was feared by Americans at some deep,
semiconscious level, U.S. civic nationalism itself would also
wither and die. This fallen national god therefore had to be pieced
back together and returned to his pedestal.
British journalist, Andrew Gumbel, 2003 when his son first went
to school in California. His article is worth quoting at some
length, as the appalled reaction of a politically centrist citizen
of a vital English-speaking ally of the United States to behavior
which most Americans take for granted:
Even after five years in the United States,
I continue to be surprised by the omnipresence of patriotic conformism
.... With my son's education at stake, I can't help pondering
the link between what is fed to children as young as six and what
American adults end up knowing or understanding about the wider
world. There is much that is admirable in the unique brand of
idealism that drives American society, with its unshakeable belief
in the constitutional principles of freedom and limitless opportunity.
Too often, though, the idealism becomes a smokescreen concealing
the uglier realities of the United States and the way in which
it throws its economic, political and military weight around the
globe. Children are recruited from the very start of their school
careers to believe in a project one might call Team America, whose
oft-repeated mantra is: we're the good guys, we always strive
to do the right thing, we live in the greatest country in the
world. No other point of view, no other cultural mindset, is ever
seriously contemplated ...
The manipulation of education is more
subtle and, arguably, more insidious than it was 50 years ago
at the height of the Cold War and the great Red Scare. Then, the
battle for hearts and minds was about the straightforward exclusion
of certain books and topics in pursuit of a political agenda .
... These days, the issue is no longer banning books, even if
that still goes on in parts of the heartland dominated by the
Christian right, but rather systemic conformism. It used to be
that an inspiring teacher could overcome the shortcomings of bland
textbooks and blinkered administrative madness. But with the curriculum
now much more closely defined and homogenized ... [teachers] are
effectively forced into complicity with the textbook pretence
that every historical struggle has now been settled and can be
summarized in a few soothing lines of near-meaningless analytical
The ideas of American civic nationalism ... cannot be seriously
questioned without endangering the stability of the entire structure.
Their absolutist character influences in turn the underlying ideology
of American foreign policy, making it more difficult for even
highly educated and informed Americans to form a detached and
objective view of that policy; for to do so would also risk undermining
the bonds uniting diverse Americans at home."
The intense identification of the American Ideology with the American
nation also feeds American national messianism, a belief in the
nation's duty to save the world. This belief makes it much more
difficult for most Americans to imagine the United States as a
country among others or an "international community"
that includes America as a member rather than a hegemon.
This messianism contributes to the shortage
of true internationalists in the United States ... it can even
contribute to a kind of racism. Richard Hughes has written that
"there is perhaps no more compelling task for Americans to
accomplish in the 21st Century than to learn to see the world
through someone else's eyes." The messianism inherent in
a combination of the American Creed and American national myths
makes the development of such a capacity even more difficult.
It feeds "our inveterate tendency to judge others by the
extent to which they contrive to be like ourselves.""
George W. Bush, 2000
"I think they [the people of the world] ought to look at
us as a country that understands freedom, where it doesn't matter
who you are or how you're raised or where you're from, that you
can succeed .... So I don't think they ought to look at us in
any other way than what we are. We're a freedom-loving nation.
And if we're an arrogant nation, they'll view us that way. But
we're a humble nation they'll respect us as an honorable nation."
American academia and quasi-academia have played an important
but complex role in the maintenance of the illusions and myths
underpinning "dynamic messianism' The world of academia in
general is a great exception to the patterns of myth and conformism
sketched earlier. It has produced not only distinguished centrist
critics of these tendencies, but even an intellectual Left which
continues to be highly influential within academia itself and
in parts of the world of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).
The progressive and left-wing liberal world also supports a number
of respectable intellectual journals.
This is why hatred of the nationalist
Right is particularly directed at the universities. And indeed,
as everywhere else, some of the attacks of the intellectual Left
on the U.S. ideology and ruling system deserve severe criticism,
being extremist, foolish and occasionally downright wicked. Powerful,
however, they are not leftwing intellectuals are almost completely
excluded from the American mainstream media and from those branches
of academia with close government dealings. Their only role in
these fields is to act as convenient whipping boys for the Right.
With time this picture may change, as
products of the pluralist university worlds find their way into
politics and government; but as yet there are few signs of this
happening. It might indeed seem natural that the radical Left
should be excluded from the "mainstream' except for one thing:
the radical Right is not so excluded. Even in the comment pages
of newspapers widely viewed as liberal, such as the New York Times
and the Washington Post, hard-line, right-wing nationalists such
as George Will, William Kristol, Robert Novak, William Safire
and Charles Krauthammer are to be found day after day.
In the areas of foreign relations and
security, a capacity for truly open debate on underlying principles
has been discouraged by the close links among government, particular
university departments, think tanks and journalists working in
the field. Paradoxically, the American system of political appointments,
whereby a president chooses some four thousand officials from
outside the civil service, has worked if anything to limit the
advice coming to government. Rather than opening the bureaucracy,
the system has tended to bureaucratize those sections of academia
with a role in the foreign policy debate. Because they are divided
into two political tribes, these parabureaucrats retain a capacity
to criticize specific policies of particular administrations.
With very few exceptions, however, like most bureaucrats they
lack completely an ability to distance themselves from the supporting
myths of the state system which supports them.
As a result of this complex of factors,
in the view of the American historian and former soldier Andrew
Bacevich, the basic American consensus on foreign policy "is
so deep-seated that its terms have become all but self-evident,
its premises asserted rather than demonstrated," and much
of the public and media debate on international issues within
the country is no more than "political theatre."
The Roman and Chinese state models, although universalist, were
authoritarian and bureaucratic, and there was no contradiction
in Rome and China spreading their own rule by force or in other
authoritarian monarchies adopting their form of rule. The American
model is supposed to be democratic and to be adopted voluntarily
by peoples. How far then can these lessons be presented as exclusively
American and used to feed American pride and power? How far can
they be spread by force of arms, how far they can be associated
with American national prejudices, interests and geopolitical
ambitions without losing their value and attractive power? How
can an approach supposedly rooted in democratization succeed if
it displays a brazen contempt both for international public opinion
in general and for the democratic votes of particular nations?
Inside America, this strategy works very
well in terms of political appeal and consolidation of the political
elites behind American strategy. Outside, it gives the impression
that the American conscience can be flicked on and off according
to tactical advantage like a strobe light in a particularly seedy
disco. This international perception of hypocrisy is increased
enormously by very strong and all-too-visible American national
hatreds of other countries and peoples.
This tendency is exemplified by Freedom
House, a politically independent but officially sanctioned body
whose annual survey of freedom and democracy in the world is treated
as a kind of biblical authority by many American journalists and
commentators. Yet this is an institution which over the past thirty
years has advanced China precisely one grade in its freedom rating,
from seven to six. That is to say, according to Freedom House,
after a generation of economic liberalization and the transition
from fanatical totalitarianism to authoritarianism, in 2004 Chinese
were only very slightly more free than they were in the depths
of the Cultural Revolution in 1972. In 2002 India rated a two,
despite severe repression
in Kashmir and the massacre in Gujarat
of more than two thousand members of the Muslim minority, with
the active complicity of the local government and police. And
so on."' In this, Freedom House was simply following the
pattern of many U.S. institutions during the Cold War, when a
range of abysmal dictatorships in Africa, Latin America and elsewhere
were classified as part of the "Free World" because
their allies were geopolitical allies of the United States.'
Bush in an address to the Congress on September 20, 2001
"Americans are asking, why do they hate us? They hate what
they see in this chamber-a democratically elected government ....
Great harm has been done to us. We have suffered great loss. And
in our grief and anger we have found our mission and our moment.
Freedom and Fear are at war. The advance of human freedom-the
great achievement of our time, and the great hope of every time-now
depends on US."
Bush's speech to graduates at the U.S. Military Academy at West
Point on June 1, 2002
"Wherever we carry it, the American flag will stand not
only for our power, but for freedom (applause). Our nation's cause
has always been larger than our nation's defense. We fight, as
we always fight, for a just peace-a peace that favors human liberty
.... The twentieth century ended with a single surviving model
of human progress, based on non-negotiable demands of human dignity,
the rule of law, limits on the power of the state, respect for
women and private property and free speech and equal justice and
In the wake of 9/11, a number of intellectuals still belonging
to the Democrat Party and calling themselves liberals set off
on the same well-worn path as the neoconservatives had done two
generations earlier, when most future neoconservatives were Democrats
and followers of the bitterly anticommunist, pro-Vietnam War and
pro-Israel Democratic Senator Henry "Scoop" Jackson.
Thus in 2003 Michael Tomasky declared that the Democrats needed
to adopt a new conception of foreign policy as a strong, clear
alternative to that of the Republicans:
The hard part is backing up the critique
[of the Republicans] with an alternative vision. That too should
be simple, and for consistency's sake it should follow from the
critique: The world's leading democracy should support... democracy.
The Cold War is over; the twentieth century, the century in which
all the "isms" became "wasms," is over. It's
the 21st century; the United States should declare it to be-American
liberals should declare it to be-the century of democracy ....
Picture a Democratic president, or even
a presidential candidate, making such a case forcefully on the
world stage; for the purpose of showing that he (or she) really
means business, he (or she) might choose one test case that highlights
some outrage to which the United States has heretofore turned
a blind eye-the plight of the Kurds in Turkey, or, better still
for the purposes of domestic political consumption, oppression
of women in Saudi Arabia. There will be initial resistance, but
ultimately, who can afford to buck the United States? The world
will start, in its lumbering, petulant way, to change."'
In 2003, very similar passages could be
found in the writings of numerous other supporters of the Democratic
Party. They were summed up in Progressive Internationalism: A
Democratic National Security Strategy drawn up by a group of former
officials, think tank members and academics with a view to influencing
the Democratic election campaign and the policies of a future
Democrat administration. This strategy was drawn up under the
aegis of the Progressive Policy Institute (PPI) in Washington,
a grouping which in U.S. domestic policy advocates a form of Blairite
"Third Way" for America. Some of its domestic proposals
are quite sound. Like other works by members of this school, this
document also differs from works by the right-wing nationalists
in that it stresses, no doubt sincerely, the theoretical need
for multilateralism. The problem is, however, that its other statements
on the use of force to improve the world are so alien to predominant
European and other thinking that, if implemented, they would make
such multilateralism very difficult.
In a related essay Dana Allin, Michael
O'Hanlon and Philip Gordon call for a future Democrat administration
to show "respect" for leading allies, unlike the Bush
administration. 130 It is difficult to show respect, however,
while categorically rejecting someone's advice. In this regard,
much of the content and even the language of the Progressive Internationalist
declaration is indistinguishable from neoconservative tracts."'
Several of the signatories to this document had joined with neoconservative
and other right-wing Republican commentators in supporting the
One of the signatories of the "Progressive
Internationalism" statement, Professor Michael McFaul of
Stanford, has written that "during the twentieth century,
the central purpose of American power was to defend against and
when possible to destroy tyranny"-a description almost Soviet
in its omission of inconvenient but crucial facts. Advocating
adoption of a "liberty doctrine" as the guiding principle
of U.S. foreign and security policy, McFaul writes in terms identical
to those of the neoconservatives: "to promote liberty requires
first the containment and then the elimination of those forces
opposed to liberty, be they individuals, movements or regimes
.... To effectively promote liberty abroad over the long haul,
the United States must maintain its overwhelming military dominance
over the rest of the world."
In McFaul's view:
The United States cannot be content with
preserving the current order in the international system. Rather,
the United States must become once again a revisionist power-a
country that seeks to change the international system as a means
of enhancing its own national security. Moreover, this mission
must be offensive in nature. The United States cannot afford to
wait and react to the next attack. Rather, we must seek to isolate
and destroy our enemies by eliminating their regimes and safe
havens. The ultimate purpose of American power is the creation
of an international community of democratic states that encompasses
every region of the planet."'
"The United States should actively stand for and promote
its values around the globe. Every person deserves safety, health,
prosperity and freedom. The United States supports the core values
of constitutional liberty, the right to free speech (including
a free press), independent judiciaries, free markets, free elections,
transparency in government, the equality of women, racial equality
and the free exercise of religious beliefs. Without these values,
it is very hard to imagine a world in which U.S. safety can be
secured. We should not confuse respect for others with acceptance
of their values if they violate these principles."
... leading intellectual Scoop Jackson Democrats completed their
drift away from the Democratic Party and into the ideological
camp of the neoconservatives and the political camp of the Republicans.
In other words, Tomasky and his colleagues in 2003 were simply
following a path already marked out by Richard Perle, Irving Kristol
and others a generation before."'
The vision of the Democrat "progressive
internationalists" does genuinely differ from that of the
nationalist Right on a range of other vital international issues
including the environment, foreign aid, various international
treaties and in general the need to display a "generous vision
of global society and America's role in it.""' And if
actually implemented-highly dubious, given the past record of
the Democratic Party in Congress regarding these issues-such policies
would not only be very good in themselves, but would improve the
entire atmosphere between the United States and Western Europe
However, when it comes to the specific
issues of the conduct of the war against terrorism and the use
of force to improve the world, the progressive internationalists
present no real "alternative" to Bush administration
policies. Rather, like the neoconservatives, they represent a
form of liberal imperialism of a kind which characterized much
of the liberal scene in the United States and Europe a century
ago. Although this picture obviously has specifically, even uniquely,
American features, it also has melancholy antecedents in the history
of relations between nationalist and liberal movements in previous
ages and other parts of the world.
The psychological ascendancy of nationalism
over liberalism in this relationship is vividly demonstrated by
the nationalist language used in the passages from Tomasky and
McFaul, the spirit of which differs very little from that of the
neoconservatives. America "eliminates" the enemies of
liberty. It declares unilaterally what it wants, and the rest
of the world has to follow, for "who can afford to buck the
United States?" The "world" is seen as inevitably
responding "petulantly" thereby delegitimizing any criticism
and demonstrating yet again the need firm American command over
the rest of humanity.
Jesse Helms said to a senior member of French National Assembly,
Paul Quiles that he had told members of the UN Security Council
"states, above all the United States, that are democratic,
and act in the cause of liberty, possess unlimited authority,
subject to no external control, to carry out military interventions?"
"No one likes armed missionaries?'"
C. Vann Woodward warned during the Vietnam War:
"The true American mission, according to those who support
this view, is a moral crusade on a worldwide scale. Such people
are likely to concede no validity whatever and grant no hearing
to the opposing point of view, and to appeal to a higher law to
justify bloody and revolting means in the name of a noble end.
For what end could be nobler, they ask, than the liberation of
man .... The irony of the moralistic approach, when exploited
by nationalism, is that the high motive to end injustice and immorality
actually results in making war more amoral and horrible than ever
and in shattering the foundations of the political and moral order
upon which peace has to be built."'
... American messianic ideology ... encourages contempt for and
hostility to states; not only particular states, but to some extent,
states as such-at least, that great majority which do not conform
to American standards of democracy and economic success; and even
those that do, such as those of Western Europe, can be damned
for being too cowardly, cynical and decadent to support America's
courageous and idealistic mission to the world.
The Western colonial empires overwhelmingly failed to develop
most of their colonies, as witnessed by the catastrophic decline
in Indian industries and share of world trade under British colonial
rule. Indeed, that was part of the point, as the colonies were
intended to be captive markets, not competitors-an approach replicated
in the Bush administration's policy of distributing contracts
to rebuild Iraq to American corporations rather than to Iraqi
The only empires which successfully developed
their imperial possessions we those of Russia and Japan, which
treated them economically as part of the imperial metropolis itself.
Japanese rule over Taiwan and (South) Korea, for all its cruelty,
laid the foundations for these countries' later economic and social
progress. 111 America's former colony in East Asia, the Philippines,
by contrast, is the economic basket case of the region.
Right or Wrong