IS REALLY NAIVE?
Dana, however, was having none of this.
He dismissed hopes that China might evolve in a market-oriented
and democratic direction as hopelessly naive, not in touch with
the not-so-secret ambitions of China's rulers. Those who expect
everything to turn out just fine (or at least short of utterly disastrous)
if the United States ignores problems and threats in other parts
of the world are not realists.
At the same time, however, Dana, like many conservative Republicans,
is not wedded to the Clintonite policy of "humanitarian'' military
intervention in the interest of world order, multilateralism, international
organizations or the good of humanity. He expressed doubts about
the Kosovo bombing and criticized the Somalia and Haiti interventions.
He argued that it was precisely an American intervention two years
ago into what was essentially a civil war in Afghanistan that helped
the Taliban regime cement its power. So he's not an unqualified
friend of US intervention everywhere.
But the magic words "national security'' combined with reasonably
plausible evidence of a totalitarian regime with the potential to
be a threat beyond its borders carry a mystical power with many
conservatives who came of age during the Cold War. America's national
security, as many see it, is constantly subject to threat from a
host of international bad guys and if we want to survive as a nation
we need a stronger military and the will to use it from time to
During the conversation I revised my opinion of Dana. I used to
think he was a libertarian who has simply taken the easy political
path of drifting in a conservative direction, which makes him much
more palatable and electable in a Republican district. I have recently
remembered, however, that before he went into his most activist
libertarian phase (he was kicked out of YAF in 1969 for his radical
libertarian tendencies) he was essentially a conservative anti-communist
who had few qualms about the necessity of the Cold War or something
more active. He had a period in his life when he moved in a more
libertarian direction (although even then he didn't buy into non-interventionism),
then he reverted to being the conservative (with a few quirks and
the occasional intrusion of charmingly anarchic attitudes) he has
been almost all his life.
That makes him oh, how I shudder to admit practicing politicians,
even those who are personal friends, might be human more true
to himself than the first scenario. But I think it's fairly accurate.
The Dana phenomenon an essentially
decent person for a politician who fairly sincerely buys most of
the premises of globalism presents those of us who believe
the more authentic and beneficial American policy is non-interventionism
a with a serious problem. Most Americans who came of age during
the cold war and disliked communism (surely a healthy impulse) implicitly
bought into some form of globalism as the preferred American policy.
Communism, in this view, presented a worldwide threat that the forces
of freedom had to be prepared to encounter on a worldwide basis.
I think this view is mistaken. But many of the people who still
hold it and have gotten into the habit of thinking about potential
future enemies (especially those who are still nominally communist)
the same way they used to think about the Soviets are not bad
people or insincere pleaders who hold such views only to enhance
the power of the American establishment and the American empire.
Many even worry about the power of the establishment, though they
have trouble understanding that supporting foreign adventures is
the best way to keep the establishment established.
It might be helpful to understand and acknowledge that there are
different varieties of American globalists or imperialists. Tom
Fleming, the properly curmudgeonly editor of the paleo-conservative
magazine Chronicles, provided a useful morphology of American
imperialists in the August issue of the magazine (perhaps too hopefully
themed as "the end of the American Century'').
AND MILITARY IMPERIALISTS
"The oldest and best form of American
imperialism,'' Fleming wrote, "is the commercial expansion
advocated by Republicans McKinley, Taft, Hoover, and Eisenhower
who warned against the military-industrial complex. Although
all of these free-traders were occasionally willing to back up the
politics of self-interest with gunboats, they preferred to rely,
whenever possible, on dollar diplomacy. McKinley had no hesitation
about establishing American economic hegemony in Cuba and the Philippines,
but he had to be dragged into war.''
Bill Clinton's contention that attacking Yugoslavia was necessary
to provide a stable market for American goods had its roots in this
tradition, though his imperialism is more eclectic and expansive.
"The second strain,'' Fleming avers, "is represented by the military
imperialists: the two Roosevelts, neoconservative hawks like Jeanne
Kirkpatrick, and our hormonally challenged secretary of state. One
hundred years ago they put their trust in the Navy and gradually
switched to advocating reliance on airpower. The common thread is
a concern with long-range power and a desire to minimize risk to
our troops. They want the United States to be the international
cop or, increasingly, mercenary rent-a-cop hiring out to Saudi Arabia,
Kuwait, and Turkey.''
Fleming thinks we'll see convenient switches soon and a rationale
for using US forces to help our heroic ally Turkey put down its
"The third strain,'' Fleming believes,
"is represented by sentimental imperialists, exemplified by
Woodrow Wilson and Jimmy Carter, who sugarcoated America's global
mission with the language of democracy, progress, human rights
an approach that justifies even more dangerous adventurism than
the rent-a-cop militarism of George Bush.''
Americans are and have long been suckers for a messianic appeal.
Most of us think it really would be nice if we could export "our
values'' of freedom, democracy and free markets, thus expanding
liberty and human rights and reducing human misery. Too few wonder
actively whether missiles and threats are the most efficacious means
available to get that job done.
Identifying three strains of imperialistic thought, each with serious
roots in American history, doesn't mean they remain separate in
"There is, of course, a convergence of interests in these three
strains,'' says Tom Fleming. "Bringing human rights to China means
exporting pop commercial culture, which degrades the peasantry to
the level of ours and forces them into the global marketplace of
jeans and Cokes and McDonald's, while the militarists get to sell
the most sensitive technology or give it away in return for bribes which thus alarms the right-wing paranoids in Middle America and
gets them ready for all-out war, if necessary, with China.''
It is far from inevitable that the
imperialistic tendencies in the United States will continue to predominate.
There are and have been strong anti-imperialist forces in American
politics populists, peaceniks, progressives, America Firsters,
libertarians, adherents to Joe Stromberg's Old Cause and
they have won some victories. It might even be the case that the
demonstrations against the WTO in Seattle, which were about a lot
more than trade and corporatism, mark an important phase in the
development of the anti-imperialist movement.
the imperialist impulse in America is still dominant, still controls
who writes most of the history books that are taught in reliably
PC college classes, and still controls most of the levers of government
power. And it has deep roots in American history as well. If we
don't recognize that we are likely to fail.
contribution of $20 or more gets you a copy of Justin Raimondo's
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