Contemplating America and War

War and insecurity have been a consistent theme in world affairs. Humans have engaged in wars long before national governments or other forms of governance appeared. From tribes to monarchies, from Sparta to the Apache and Comanche, it is a real part of our species before and after the creation of the modern nation-state. In this light, the United States is hardly a rogue state and George W. Bush is but a mere hiccup in the grand scheme of history.

Thinkers are philosophically thoroughly disgusted with war. Unlike the Futurist art movement early in the 20th century, they do not embrace it. However, they would much rather ignore its history - at their own peril. Today certain elements in academia, operate on a selective revisionist platform. They bent on righting perceived wrongs by the hands of Western culture. America is its favorite target. This intellectual lashing and gutting of Western history is a fad gone awry. The shhhing of one part of a population to assuage another is an action of historical engineering that is bound to fail. The price is clear: people can't tell fact from fiction any more.

In contemporary times, specifically within the American Empire, the backlash against George W. Bush has been vociferous. While questioning America's growing romanticism with the military is legitimate, attempting to zero in on his actions and motives is a seductive game that break an idealist's heart.

Short-term considerations only serve to obscure the big picture - it's foolish to do so in the markets and it is foolish to do it in politics. The buy high and sell low of intellectualism.

A mild glance at history will reveal that there is nothing new in what Bush is doing. Alexander Hamilton, for example, would probably have agreed with the notion of a nation and its responsibility to itself. Its detractors follow an idealist version of Jefferson's yeoman characterization of the American republic. More importantly, people today seem obsessed with Jefferson's call for vigilance against the executive - even to the point of ignoring their enemies.

Bush's route of policy is very much in the lineage set forth by John Quincy Adams. Before Adams, Jefferson (like Clinton) was accorded the luxury of not having to design a security policy - until the Napoleonic Wars. This changed America's security views. It was left to Adams to devise one.

While Bush's policy of preemption is hardly an obscurity when history is consulted the reaction to it is. People have taken his actions, slightly out of context (is this not usually the case?) to be the work of an irresponsible person. Hardly a neo-conservative (or conservative for that matter. Classical conservatives want smaller government. In this light, they are very much similar to classical liberals and libertarians) Bush seems to march to his own beat. Single minded, he does not seem to fit any neat ideological definition. That's why everyone from all backgrounds had a shot at espousing their blue prints for a new global order after 9/11.

Great powers distrust instability abroad - especially in their own back yard. Instability within weaker states only invites greater and more aggressive powers to step in. In the case of America, this came in the ideological form of Nazism and Communism. Many nations tended to approach aggression by taking a defensive stance - through appeasement in the 20th century. This is not part of the American character. Americans have always risen to a challenge. This has left it vulnerable to post modern scrutiny - and the verdict is unpopular in the eyes of public opinion.

9/11 was no different than the Napoleonic Wars (or World War I for that matter) in the sense that prevailing international structures could not be relied upon to defend American security and interests abroad.

Iraq posed a legitimate concern of national security to Americans. It must be said that the Bush administration never said Hussein was behind 9/11 as some have asserted. Rather, based on intelligence at the time, the argument was that Hussein a) had links with Al-Queda and b) was quite capable of starting up his biological weapons program.

The leap from Islamo-fascism to Iraq was not a large one to make. It was a two-pronged attack in an effort to diffuse if not outright defeat terrorism. One is to subdue an advanced Arab society and introduce it to democracy and the other was to conduct a covert war in the massive mountains of Asia against terrorist networks.

Whether they succeed is way too soon to tell. In the short run, things always look bad. After surgery a flesh wound always makes the operation look worse than it is. Eventually it heals. It may never be perfect but it is strong and healthy.

Modern Muslim militants, derelicts among all things civil in the Arab world, represent a new security threat. America's threats are the world's threats. Its interests are very much aligned with most nations. Whether they are correct in their assessments is not the only point. It's that they believe it to be so. It's friends and allies should understand this.

There is no doubt this policy designed by Adams - and brought to its heights by Roosevelt - has sent mixed signals - thanks to, in part, an ambiguous foreign policy - to the world. Is American an empire? What are their motives? Why do they speak of peace but wage war? Simplistic as these questions may be they hold weight because people think them. Americans need to define their intentions in foreign policy with more coherence. They went from fighting terrorists to nation building all within two years of 9/11. Its swiftness caused many a cynical to raise their eyebrows.

The people and their thoughts are one thing. To watch many politicians and thinkers play hodge-podge with American history to satisfy their own goals has been a travesty of historical injustice. They can not possibly heave scorn upon Bush without doing the same to Adams, Roosevelt or Wilson. There are indeed many concerns to deal with within modern American culture and society. These issues must be brought up. However, I don't see relevant questions being raised - just petty attacks.

War is just a component of human affairs. Whether they are 'war pigs' of the nation-state or ancient tribes war is human. What is interesting to note, relative to its extraordinary power, America has not engaged in too many outright wars in the 20th century; preferring to abide by Truman's doctrine of containment.

From its flirtations with isolationism and its believe in exceptionalism, American political culture, filled with normal contradictions, is much more dynamic and impressive than we give it credit for. Bush is not the exception but the rule to this reality.

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