America, the Nice Empire

DIGG THIS

In Friday’s FrontPageMag feature, Jamie Glazov interviews Robert Kagan. Kagan is a well-known Neocon writer and courageous advocate of sending Americans off to fight wars he supports.

The title of Glazov’s interview with Kagan says it all: America and Empire. In the interview, Kagan argues that America was founded on universal principles so noble and inspiring that they propelled Americans to ignore George Washington’s advice in his famous Farewell Address:

"The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible."

The reason Washington urged his countrymen to avoid these connections was simple: to avoid Europe’s wars, which would only harm our republican principles:

"Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves by artificial ties in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities."

Wrong, says Kagan. America was not meant to be a peaceful republic, but an ideological empire with the mission of transforming the world:

"And from the Revolution until today, Americans have been ideological expansionists, driven by the universal principles of the Declaration of Independence. They have sought to transform the world, or at least as much of the world as they had the power to transform, to conform with American principles, ideals, as well as American interests."

America, then, is really an empire. Not just any old empire, mind you, but an idealistic empire driven by the burning desire to spread democracy. Kagan’s view of the Spanish-American War of 1898, for example, is that it wasn’t fought for selfish reasons, as critics charge, but "was almost entirely fought for humanitarian and moral ends." Well, of course. Tell that to the 600,000 Filipinos who died resisting US occupation.

And what does Kagan say to those who point out that it was the US that first intervened in the Middle East, thereby inciting Muslim hatred against us? Nonsense, he says:

"Now, when critics of American foreign policy point out that American actions in the Middle East helped spur Osama Bin Laden to action, they usually mean to suggest that the United States should stop acting in ways that offend Islamists. I would argue that:

(a) we should not stop attempting to spread our principles and our influence

and

(b) we could not stop it even if we wanted to, because ideological expansionism is embedded in the American DNA."

Maybe George Bush can use that defense at his war crimes trial. "I couldn’t stop myself! My DNA made me do it!"

And for those delicate American souls who might feel a twinge of guilt for the mayhem and destruction their tax dollars fund, well, the important thing to remember is that bloodying the world for its own good is just a thing we do, even when we’re not aware of it – after all, it is in our DNA. Americans are so democracy-driven, we can’t help ourselves, and if it appears we’re a tad careless while tossing our bombs, we should just ignore those who don’t appreciate us for what we are – ravenous zombies of liberation:

"What I would suggest is that Americans stop letting themselves be surprised by the reactions they, often unconsciously, provoke in others."

So there.

December 11, 2006

Michael C. Tuggle [send him mail] is a writer and activist living in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Political Theatre

LRC Blog

LRC Podcasts