Wednesday, February 27, 2019

The Original Dream

     I found this on Gab and had to steal it:

     That was the original idea. George Washington himself said so: “Steer clear of permanent alliance with any portion of the foreign world.” Thomas Jefferson echoed the sentiment: “Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations; entangling alliances with none.” The Old World, whence America had been born, was a quarrelsome, strife-riven place. The New World had the potential to be free of that nuisance – but only if it could remain aloof from the Old World’s quarrels.

     So what changed? What was it that caused the United States, once referred to by European statesmen as “the Great Neutral,” to immerse itself in the troubles of all the nations on Earth? Never mind the wars we’ve fought; we operate military bases in dozens of other countries. Uniformed Americans stand posts around the globe. How did this come to pass?

     Harry Browne is of the opinion that by 1914, America had developed a governmental class, or power elite, that was eager to be recognized as such by the power elites of other nations:

     By then, the U.S. government resembled the typical old-world governments, and was anxious to take its place as a “world power.” This was facilitated by entry into the European “World War.”

     In passing, I will note that as august a figure as Winston Churchill stated on at least one occasion that there was no need for America to enter World War I, and should have stayed out of it.

     When World War I was over and the disastrous Versailles Treaty had been imposed upon defeated Germany, Americans’ natural “mind your own business” instincts reasserted themselves. We reduced our Army back to pre-War levels and remained aloof from the League of Nations. And of course, the eight Harding / Coolidge years were a time of great prosperity and optimism. But as I’ve written before, in the contest for power he who wants it above all other things will have a natural advantage over those who merely see it as a service to be rendered to the nation. And so we had the rise of “The Great Engineer,” Herbert Hoover, and the never to be adequately damned Franklin D. Roosevelt, men who worshipped State power and were eager to expand it – as long as they were at the helm, of course.

     The growth of State power inevitably involves militarization. The 1930s’ explosion of fresh conflicts in Europe and the Pacific could provide our governmental class with a perfect rationale for regrowing a “world power’s” military. However, Americans’ memories of sacrifice in World War I and disdain for involvement in the troubles of other lands remained dominant until the attack on Pearl Harbor – so much so that FDR had to promise, as part of his 1940 campaign for re-election, that “Your boys are not going to be sent to any foreign wars.” As anyone with a modicum of historical knowledge is aware, that was a flat-out lie.

     War has always been an engine by which to expand the State and its powers over private persons and their undertakings. A war that leaves half the world in a state of enervation and defenselessness offers even greater opportunities. Robert Higgs develops this thesis further in his masterwork Crisis and Leviathan.

     And so today we have the largest, most widely spread military in all of human history. Paradoxically, as it’s grown these past few decades, its traditional military capabilities have shrunk. We can no longer dominate other First World nations in conventional wars. (It’s fortunate for the U.S. that there’s no current need to do so.) Our possession of a large arsenal of weapons of mass destruction – almost entirely nuclear – is what makes us a “hyperpower.” While other nations fear to displease us, it’s mainly for our economic potency rather than our ability to invade them.

     The crowning irony is that there’s no going back, at least in the foreseeable future. America’s gigantic military has become a necessity owing to our involvements around the world, many by treaty, from which we cannot easily extract ourselves. Worse, two other large militaries, those of Russia and China, constitute threats that must be counterbalanced, and there’s no one else to do it. Perhaps worst of all, hostility to the U.S. within our own hemisphere is such that the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans are no longer sufficient protection against invasion. Consider the mess at our southern border in that light.

     I’m acquainted with a number of military men, both veterans and in current service. They’re honorable people doing a necessary task; no odium attaches to them. Indeed, they’re among the best of us. But it would be nice if the need for their service, and all that goes with it, were less than it is. And as I write those words, a great many aphorisms about the pointlessness of wishing come to mind.

1 comment:

Sam L. said...

DANG those Japanese! Played right into FDR's plans.