Rants and Raves

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Thursday, December 28, 2006

Summation; criticism Q and A

A reader, who emphatically didn't like my post: 'Western Civilization and its discontents: Is it true?' sent this link

http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/US-Interventionen_im_Ausland

which details a number of American military interventions abroad. It's in German but shouldn't be too hard to follow.

I'm going to deal with the issues raised in several future posts, but for now I'll point out that they missed an important one, the US' first foreign war in 1804 against the Barbary pirate state of Tripoli. Note that example.

The sender charged that all these interventions were for the benefit of the US. One is tempted to answer with a witty, "Huh?" As in, why the hell else would you spend money and send troops in harms way if it didn't benefit your national interest in some way? Governments are not charitable institutions. They exist to serve the interests of, and meet threats to the lives and property of their citizens, by the use or threat of force. That's why they're so damn dangerous. (Hold that thought - it's important to the development of the series of arguments to follow in future posts.)

* Important point #1: All governments capable of projecting power beyond their borders, on occasion do so. Without exception. Note that France maintains the right to intervene in any country once under French rule, and nobody carps about it. (This has relevance to the Latin American cases cited.)

Since the US undertook the defense of Western Europe, they seemed to have evolved the idea that governments exists to make the lives of their citizens comfortable. Relieved of a huge part of the burden of their own defense during the Cold War*, they nonetheless feel free to 'backseat drive' about the way the US is meeting the new security threats to the West.

*Important point #2: A eunuch may not boast of his chastity. Europe has a long and bloody history of internal warfare and foreign conquest. The European powers did not discover the formula for love and harmony and create this unprecedented 60-year period of peace (the longest in European history). It was created and enforced by the Anglo-American alliance. When they've discovered how to make peace among themselves, by themselves, then I'll pay close attention to what they have to say about how to go about it.

*Important point #3: As the old Italian lady said about a previous pope's pronouncements on birth control, "He no play-a da game, he no make-a da rules."

One of the themes of future posts will be that Europe and America, the whole West in fact, is in the middle of a civilizational crisis amounting to a low-level, slow-motion war. The debate about how to deal with it starts with the alternatives, appeasement - or response. After that the question is, how? My contention is that appeasement is not possible, only capitulation. So if there is to be a response, the question is: What will work and how high is the price?

If any country or alliance of countries wants to have serious input into how to respond, they have to be contributing to the common purpose. Europe has to become a great power again, if they still have it in them.

So, let's have a little Q and A.

Q: Do you think the US is above criticism?

A: Not only no, but hell no! I can cite chapter and verse about horrible injustices by the US government that I bet you've never heard of. (How about the WWI example of two young Hutterite men tortured to death in Leavenworth and Alcatraz for refusing to serve in the military?)

Part of the whole point about free societies is that their incredible economic vitality - and the lethality of their armed forces, comes from the freedom and willingness to criticize possessed by their citizens.

My point is not that the US and the West is perfect - but that in comparison with the whole sorry history of the human race, it looks pretty good.

Q: So what's your problem with contemporary critics of the US?

A: Three things; context, accuracy and motivation.

Context: Too much of the criticism of America is based on a comparison with hypothetical perfection, not historical reality. The US allowed slavery in some states until the Civil War. Yes, and slavery was universal in human history until the West realized it was a great evil - and enforced that view on the rest of the world. The founding of the US was in many ways a tragedy to native peoples. Yes, and the 19th century was a bad time for indigenous peoples all over the world. But do you have any historical examples of a people who were so thoroughly defeated getting any measure of retroactive justice, as the First Nations of the US and Canada have?

Accuracy: Much of the revisionist history of the Western world and the US has been distorted to serve an agenda. The recent case of historian Michael Belisles, who cited nonexistent sources to 'prove' that gun ownership in America was historically not important, for example. Not to mention the tissue of fabrications, clever video editing, quotes taken out of context etc in the Michael Moore productions.

Motivation: Much of the criticism of Western Civ and the US in particular, is not criticism at all but part of a propaganda campaign to destroy it. This motivation exists on a continuum of course, from Europhiles who fear and distrust how the US took important elements of our European heritage farther than any country in Europe did, to those who hate everything about the West, European culture included. The difference is that criticism is intended to improve - not destroy.

Q: How do you tell the difference?

A: My suggestion is this - who else are they criticizing? If they criticise the US' actions in Vietnam, did they also criticise the Vietnamese communists' expulsion of the ethnic Chinese and the massacres by the Khmer Rouge? If they criticise America's support for Israel, what do they have to say about Islamofacism, Hamas, Al-Qaeda and middle eastern despotisms in general?

Even simpler, do they reserve their criticism for those whose principles require them to tolerate it - and say nothing about those who will kill you for it?

If so, I see two possible explanations: 1) Cowardice, 2) Admiration for brutality and tyranny. (Or both, I will deal with this at greater length in future posts.)

Q: What is your purpose in lining out this series of arguments?

A: Well to begin with, our principles require us to tolerate criticism. They do not require us to refrain from answering it. Dare I point out that the tone of the comment cited was a tad hysterical? I obviously touched a nerve in someone's belief system. One that involves the assumption that Americans are not supposed to respond to criticism or have criticism of their own. Where I come from we say, "You can dish it out - but can you take it?"

Secondly, the crisis of our civilization is not one of power, but of confidence. Europe seems almost devoid of it, (to the point that they are failing to breed at replacement levels, see previous post on 'America Alone') and America's is severly shaken. We need to remind outselves (both the US and Europe) that while we've made many mistakes and committed many wrongs, we still have much to be proud of and much to offer the world.

Q: You keep saying 'Western Civilization' but you talk almost exclusively about America. What is your point?

A: Like it or not - and believe me, a lot of Europeans, Brits and Canadians do not, America is the center of power of Western Civilization, which stands or falls as America does. If America does not maintain its power and confidence, the rest of the West will surely not.

It's interesting to note that America is geographically on the periphery of the original home of Western civilization, as are our closest allies: Australia, much of Eastern Europe and Israel.

My wife, as is often the case, had the final word on this discussion the other night. She said that American self-loathing reminds her very much of the tiresome martyrology common in Poland. "There is nothing productive about it and it keeps you from moving forward."

Note: Future posts will deal with my own criticisms of American culture.

*Note: West European intellectuals I know of have denied that there ever was a Soviet threat to the NATO countries. Too bad the Polish government has over the past year been releasing secret Warsaw Pact documents detailing the plans for the intended invasion of the West. Before the breakup of the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact, they made all the satellite countries sign agreements not to do so. Poland did anyway. The Russians are furious. The Poles could give a crap.

Question for you: You didn't read about this in the MSM did you?

4 Comments:

  • At 9:43 AM, Blogger The Jackel said…

    A very well thought out post. I am always amazed by comments many have about the US. You are right in that is is always an idealized version from some other perspective and has little to do with reality. To paraphrase America is a terrible place...except for all the others.

     
  • At 1:23 AM, Blogger Cindi said…

    Thank you for this.

     
  • At 8:51 PM, Blogger Galt-In-Da-Box said…

    Excellent post.
    The impotence you allude to is the chief error in thought that holds America back from doing what needs to be done with Middle Eastern terrorists.
    As evidenced by the fact we won a world war on two fronts in less time than "clust-Iraq" has eaten up, "Western Civilization" may well have become too civilized for its own good.

     
  • At 3:00 PM, Blogger Douglas said…

    Funny how the article in German states that we intervened in Germany's affairs during World Wars I and II. I am not sure we would have intervened if we hadn't been provoked into doing so. A more complete list of US military interventions can be found at:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/US_military_interventions

     

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