Our Last War on Spain

Murray Polner reminds us of the continuing relevance of William Graham Sumner, particularly his 1898 essay “The Conquest of the United States by Spain.” Some choice snippets from Sumner:

    It has become almost a doctrine with us that patriotism requires that we should hold our tongues while our interests, our institutions, our most sacred traditions, and our best established maxims have been trampled underfoot. There is no doubt that moral courage is the virtue which is more needed than any other in the modern democratic state, and that truckling to popularity is the worst political vice.

    The thirst for glory is an epidemic which robs a people of their judgment, seduces their vanity, cheats them of their interests, and corrupts their consciences.

    Upon a little serious examination the off-hand disposal of an important question of policy by the declaration that Americans can do anything proves to be only a silly piece of bombast, and upon a little reflection we find that our hands are quite full at home of problems by the solution of which the peace and happiness of the American people could be greatly increased.

One bit needs a little updating:

    We are told by all the imperialists that these people [of the former Spanish possessions] are not fit for liberty and self-government; that it is rebellion for them to resist our beneficence; that we must send fleets and armies to kill them if they do it; that we must devise a government for them and administer it ourselves; that we may buy them or sell them as we please, and dispose of their “trade” for our own advantage.

Today’s imperialists constantly tell us that Arabs/Muslims [i]are[/i] ready for liberty and self-government, but imperial practices remain exactly as Sumner described them. Oh, it’s no longer called [i]rebellion[/i] to “resist our beneficence”; it’s called [i]terrorism[/i]. But where is the liberty and self-government? The U.S.-named Iraqi Governing Council? A constitution drawn up by American social democrats? And why, as I have asked before, do the imperialists think that free and independent Arabs/Muslims will tolerate U.S. foreign policies that harm or offend them?