am not actually going to say much about Henry Cabot
Lodge here. He is useful, however, as a symbol of
one particular approach to U.S. imperial policy. Lodge
was an influential Senator (R., Massachusetts), a
crony of Theodore Roosevelt and other high-toned turn-of-the-20th-century
was thus one of the architects of what TR and his
circle called "the large policy," that is,
a neo-mercantilist strategy of engrossing foreign
markets by political-military means so as to overcome
allegedly inbuilt defects in American capitalism.
Like their economist-spokesmen Charles A. Conant and
Jeremiah W. Jenks, these large policy men were, in
effect, "right-wing Leninists." Indeed,
they invented the Leninist thesis that problems
endogenous to the market economy required expansion
into overseas markets lest the system run down and
picked up the theory from John A. Hobson, a sort of
proto-Keynesian English Liberal and anti-imperialist,
who had in turn picked it up from the American pro-imperialist
school. For all these theorists, the great bugbears
were "overproduction" and "underconsumption,"
twin evils to be cured by economic empire. The difference
was that Hobson and Lenin condemned empire, while
their predecessors, the actual founders of this tissue
of economic fallacies, embraced it.(1)
I noted a few weeks ago in a column on the Liberal
Imperialism of John Stuart Mill, a similar argument
had been knocking around in English circles since
"large policy" triumphed in the Spanish-American
War of 1899 and its sequel, the Philippine Insurrection.
The U.S. organized the Philippines as a formal colony
and well-meaning Progressive reformers got to try
out their ideas there, as well as in informal parts
of the rising empire such as Cuba. Government-favored
capitalists got to make some money on it.
far so good.
two could play at this game, and the Democratic Party
mongered itself into World War I in April 1917. Professional
belligerents like TR were heartbroken that Wilson
had gotten both the war and the joys of running it.
Disagreements about how to run the rising U.S. Empire
soon joined with partisan jealousies to produce a
famous fight over the settlement that followed the
"catastrophe of 1914-1918."
standard textbook account has long been along the
following lines. Wilson, a spiritually developed idealist,
wished to organize the postwar world via a League
of Nations which would toss coins in the air and read
tea leaves before pronouncing upon who "the aggressor"
was in any international dispute. As an international
posse comitatus, all nations in good standing
would join in imposing "sanctions" on the
certified aggressor in the name of preserving peace.
would have been a wonderful thing, apparently. Everyone
would have lived happily ever after. It was a bit
jarring, however, to see Italy denounced for doing
in the 20th century exactly what the denouncers
had done in the 19th (and even into the
20th). Somehow, repressing the natives
to keep an empire was much more moral than
repressing them to get an empire.
narrowly nationalist and bigoted elements in the Senate,
mostly Republicans, rallied against Wilson’s great
vision, and the Senate failed to ratify the Treaty
of Versailles. The U.S. remained outside the League.
This was the terrible and costly victory of "isolationism,"
a force so diffuse and malevolent as to be comparable
only with "hate."
this account conflates two different groups who opposed
the League for entirely different reasons. Unilateral
imperialists, like Lodge, wished to continue to build
U.S. economic empire (the Open Door), but did not
want their hands tied by any prior commitment to consult
with other imperialist powers. By contrast, anti-imperialists
like Senator William E. Borah (R., Idaho) shied away
from any form of U.S. imperialism, cooperative
anti-imperialist minority of Progressive Republicans
– the term "Progressive" covered a lot of
ground – saw the League as nothing but a central committee
to coordinate the imperialist policies of Britain,
France, etc., and the U.S., should we be foolish enough
to enter the League. Between the unilateralists and
the anti-imperialists, there were enough votes to
defeat the treaty. It was hardly a clear-cut victory
for "isolation" as such.
Appleman Williams sorted this out nicely some forty
IDEOLOGY OF THE INTERWAR YEARS
U.S. refusal to take part in the League, Leaguism
(my term), or "collective security," enjoyed
great popularity in the interwar years. Coordinated
opposition to "aggression" by blockade
("sanctions") or possibly stronger measures
would preserve peace, not to mention the existing
empires and properties of the World War I victors.
The Soviets even swore their allegiance to collective
argued that Leaguism had the potential to turn every
local dispute into a regional or world war. It was
a snare and a delusion. It set aside older notions
of the laws of war and the rights of neutrals, already
severely damaged by World War I practices, in favor
of arbitrary assignments of guilt by a cabal of interested
parties. Among the critics I shall mention only Edwin
M. Borchard, a great American authority on neutral
rights and international law.(4)
TO THE PRESENT
came the set of wars that we call, collectively, World
War II. One afterthought of that glorious struggle
was the United Nations. The Cold War, which pitted
several holders of a veto power in the UN Security
Council against two others, Russia and China, prevented
serious appeal to the UN as a quasi-world government.
The UN didn’t work as planned and thank God for that.
the collapse of the Soviet Union and much redrawing
of the world map came the danger that the UN might
function as intended. In fact, however, the UN seems
to present primarily an ideological and creeping-NGO
threat, whose long-run consequences we cannot yet
see. In practice, the UN functions as a sort of fig-leaf
or cover story for U.S. imperial initiatives. When
it fails to play that role, the U.S. and its sometime
allies simply ignore the U.N.
OF THE HENRY CABOT LODGEMEN
is interesting is that for the first time in many
decades the unilateral brand of U.S. imperialism is
back. This is the crux of the criticism of the Bushies’
present policies coming from the Center Left and Left.
Lifelong advocates of U.S. imperialism tempered by
outward cooperation and coalition building are shocked
that the present U.S. politbureau wish openly to run
the world by their own lights and wisdom. Horrors.
the view of these critics, we must return to an imperialism
making use of nice international institutions. We
must create consensus and good feeling all around.
True, the U.S. will lead, always and in the end, but
it’s just so much more polite to ask for others’ opinions.
This is how the same Liberals and Left Liberals view
domestic policy: coalition building between business,
labor, the state, and (now) noisy ethnic pressure
groups leads, via the magic hopper of policy formation,
to policy and happiness alike.
"collective security" window-dressing for
U.S. imperialism is simply domestic interest-group
liberalism extended to the entire planet.
by Cold War Liberals, acquiesced in by those Cold
War Conservatives who got rid of the isolationist
Old Right, this policy had a nice run for more than
a half century. It is such a shame to see this useful
camouflage go. Woe is us.
so, the return of imperial unilateralism does help
clarify the existing world order. It lifts the curtain
just enough that we may see the Wizard behind the
multilateral and Atlanticist Oz. Transparency of this
kind is probably a good thing.
people say that Bush II should get "authorization"
from the UN for war against Iraq. This is a mistake.
An unnecessary and criminal war cannot be made into
anything else by any vote in the UN or elsewhere.
"Elsewhere" includes the U.S. Congress.
is doubtful that Bush II will really wait for the
UN. He will barely consult Congress. He probably should
consult Congress, constitutionally, but that is a
mere relic of republican thinking. Anyway, Congress
could "declare" a bad war, and has done
so before, so the role of Congress hardly goes to
the real problem.
can understand, I suppose, why critics of the rush
to war appeal to UN decrees, resolutions, and waste
paper in a last-ditch effort to prevent war. They
can’t imagine any other moral authority. We cannot
play this game. It befogs our grasp of the issues
at hand and tends to reinforce the idle gospel of
Leaguism and collective security, which are part of
a return to cooperative Cold War Liberal standards
of behavior would be a slight improvement. It hardly
begins to address the real issues. Meanwhile the Republican
Neo-Lodgeans have tied their "lives, fortunes,
and sacred honor" – okay, the last one is a joke
– to the cause of eternal warmongering. They think
that the War Card trumps the race, gender, and other
cards wielded by their enemies. They may be right
in the short run, but the short run can be very brief.
begin to remind one of England’s professional warmongering
classes in the late 19th and early 20th
centuries, as characterized by A. J. A. Morris: "The
political style of the Radical Right’s wildest publicists
embracing the intransigence of the diehard, the energy
and blind enthusiasms of the Ultra, the xenophobia
and reckless rhetoric of the super-patriot, was annexed
to serve the ambitions and hopes of the whole Tory
party. It was sincerely believed that there was no
better way to frustrate the knavish schemes of the
Kaiser’s Germany. But far from incidentally, it was
also designed to encompass the downfall and destruction
of the Liberal government."(5)
enough, a magazine called The National Review
was at the center of the fray. They got their wish:
a major European war. Anyone who visits contemporary
Britain can admire the long-range results of their
for "the downfall and destruction of the Liberal
government," we might well substitute for "Liberal"
such words as "constitutional," "limited,"
or even "American" – provided we want clarity.
preliminary finding is this: We have paid a very high
price for putting up with the Republican Party.
N. Rothbard, "The Origins of the Federal Reserve,"
in A History of Money and Banking in the United
States (Auburn, AL: Ludwig von Mises Institute,
2002), esp. pp. 208-234.
P. Sullivan, "Liberalism and the Imperialism:
J. S. Mill’s Defense of the British Empire,"
Journal of the History of Ideas, 44, 4 (Oct.-Dec.
1983), p. 608, and Murray N. Rothbard, An Austrian
Perspective on the History of Economic Thought,
II: Classical Economics (Cheltenham, UK: Edward
Elgar, 1995), pp. 287-288.
Appleman Williams, The Tragedy of American Diplomacy
(New York: World Publishing Company, 1959),
M. Borchard, "The "Enforcement of Peace
by ‘Sanctions,’" American Journal of International
Law, 27, 3 (July 1933), pp. 518-525.
J. A. Morris, The Scaremongers: The Advocacy
of War and Rearmament, 1896-1914 (London: Routledge
and Kegan Paul, 1984), p. 386.