“U.S. intervention in Syria: War for virtue” by Henry Allen


"As John Updike wrote: “America is beyond power, it acts as in a dream, as a face of God. Wherever America is, there is freedom, and wherever America is not, madness rules with chains, darkness strangles millions. Beneath her patient bombers, paradise is possible.”
The United States doesn’t fight for land, resources, hatred, revenge, tribute, religious conversion — the usual stuff. Along with the occasional barrel of oil, we fight for virtue.
Never mind that it doesn’t work out — the Gulf of Tonkin lies, Agent Orange, waterboarding, nonexistent weapons of mass destruction, the pointless horrors of Abu Ghraib, a fighter plane wiping out an Afghan wedding party, our explanation of civilian deaths as an abstraction: “collateral damage.”
Just so. We talk about our warmaking as if it were a therapeutic science — surgical strikes, precision bombing, graduated responses, a homeopathic treatment that uses war to cure us of war. “Like cures like,” as the homeopathic slogan has it; “the war to end all wars” as Woodrow Wilson is believed to have said of World War I. We send out our patient bombers in the manner of piling on blankets to break a child’s fever. We launch our missiles and say: “We’re doing it for your own good.”"  Henry Allen


I have long dealt with the minimally hidden messianism of the American tradition
and style.  A great many people do not accept or comprehend the extent to which this kind of "thinking' colors our decisions.  pl  


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57 Responses to “U.S. intervention in Syria: War for virtue” by Henry Allen

  1. Dave Schuler says:

    This is off-topic but I thought you might be interested in adding it to your collection of stories that contradict the official account of Syrian chemical weapons use. From the Russian language online newspaper Utro:
    “US and Saudi Arabia Gave Chemical Weapons to the Rebels”
    The article is in Russian but the gist is that the Syrian military has found chemical weapons precursors in the hands of the rebels in containers marked “Made in Saudi Arabia” or “Product of the USA”.
    I honestly don’t know what to think about reports of this sort. The detail (the markings on the containers) actually makes me believe the story less rather than more since if I were supplying chemical weapons precursors to the rebels I wouldn’t leave my fingerprints on them but it is what it is.
    You might want to add this story to your collection. I do find it interesting that we’re seeing multiple sources for the Syrian rebels having chemical weapons and, apparently, only a single unnamed, classified source for their use by the Syrian military.

  2. FB Ali says:

    This messianism would be amusing, were it not for the fact that it made the US so prone to use its immense military power.
    The rest of the world, except for America’s acolytes, and especially those at the receiving end of these “virtuous wars”, neither comprehends nor cares about these professed motives. For them it is just hypocrisy, or rubbing salt into the wounds inflicted.

  3. seydlitz89 says:

    Col. Lang-
    Sir, Henry Allen’s view is interesting, but I don’t believe it fits our current reality. The examples he makes are of situations where the US actually had a foreign policy for the situation in question . . .
    Has there actually been a US policy regarding Syria since the start of the civil war? Or is it much more simply us blindly supporting Saudi policy? With the Israelis signaling their support as well? I suspect the latter since we have been “secretly” aiding the rebels for over a year . . .
    Saudi policy was initially the overthrow of the Assad govt, but unable to achieve that they have settled on supporting a war of attrition, but with the hope seemingly of bringing Assad down in the end, regardless of the cost to the Syrian people. So far from being some sort of moral judge as to the terrible things that have happened in Syria, we are one of the behind the scenes enablers supporting the rebellion which includes the latest Saudi financed version of “Al Qaida” . . . BHO’s hands are hardly clean at this point, so how can he preach Allen’s “virtue” to anybody? Given especially the character of the Saudis and what they support . . .
    Had the US wished to act like a “Great Power” imo we could have worked together with the Russians and at least de-escalated this civil war or with luck even have ended it by now without the foreign Islamist element being entrenched in country as it is today. Imo the Russians had every reason to work with the US regarding Syria once it was clear that the Assad govt was actually threatened. Had we then acted like a Super Power and reigned in the Saudis, Turks and others from fanning the flames we would have proved our ability to influence events . . . Russia’s response? I think it’s obvious . . . and we would be dealing with a very different situation now.
    In all the current situation in Syria a massive failure of US leadership, vision and strategic competence since I’m sure this option was never seriously discussed by BHO’s crew or the McCainiacs . . . far better had we never got involved at all.
    So, sir, imo, Allen’s view is more a comparison to our past wars, than a description of this current monstrosity . . .

  4. turcopolier says:

    No. I thnk Allen has it right. In fact, the “Battle Hymn of the Republic’ says much of the spirit of the thing. “With the beauty of a lily, Christ was born across the sea, with a glory in his bosom that transfigures you and me. As he died to make men holy, let us die to make men free.” I have seen this phenomenon all my life and I am a close student of US history. pl

  5. confusedponderer says:

    Mr. Lang,
    your post reminds me of my favourite line in ‘Breaker Morant’.

    Lord Kitchener: Needless to say, the Germans couldn’t give a damn about the Boers. The diamonds and gold of South Africa they’re after.
    Major Bolton: They lack our altruism, sir.
    Lord Kitchener: Quite.

  6. Alba Etie says:

    Col Lang
    How much of this “as he died to make men holy, let us die to make men free” thinking has its beginnings in “manifest destiny ” ideology from our collective expansion West ? I believe it can be argued that a big part of the” manifest destiny” ideology was also driven by mercantile interest then & now. As we had Hearst admonish the then sheeple to remember the Maine, we now have prime time commercial talking up Lockheed Martin’s war making products. Just which commercial interest will benefit most from a barrage of cruise missiles unleashed on Syria ? I know to my mind its always about who benefits most economically from this over reaching interventionist foreign policy ? KBR & Irak come to mind …

  7. turcopolier says:

    People everywhere want to make money and be prosperous. Nevertheless, there is a special quality in American political and military messianism that marks it as something apart from the simple minded commercialism that you persist in believing to be causative. Do you really believe that we go to war so that more criuse missiles can be bought from business? If you do, you should be a panelist on “Shark Tank” where the obscenity that is the business mind is fully displayed. No, my English Puritan ancestors brought this “city on a hill” malignancy to the new world. Only in this country does the self obsession of 17th Century English Puritanis survive and most Americans glory in this and believe themselves to be the saviors of mankind. If you think we invaded Iraq to benefit KBR or other business then you have learned nothing here. pl

  8. confusedponderer says:

    FB Ali,
    IMO it is hypocrisy only from the outside.
    From the inside it that these folks more often than not truly believe in their virtuous cause.
    For those people, there is no contradiction between doing one thing while pontificating against others who do the same. There is no perceived contradiction as the US cause is per default just.
    Look at all the harm the US has caused in Iraq and is by proxy now fomenting in Syria. None of that is America’s fault. All the dead in Iraq are Saddam’s and Al Qaeda’s fault, and likewise, the death in Syria are Assad’s fault. The embargo against Iraq that killed half a million Iraqi children? Worth it – and Saddam’s fault.
    They are Saddam’s fault because that villain blatantly flouted US demands to unconditionally surrender, which simply proves his evil character – and not the excessiveness and unreasonableness of the demand – but that’s what the idea that regime change is a policy gets you.
    As a result, the US merely happens to be around and somehow involved all the time such horrible things happen, meaning that Anti-Americanism in Iraq or Syria must be perceived as an something of an incomprehensible phenomenon. Obviously, we live in a world full of ingrates.

  9. WP says:

    One listens to air-warriors the likes of John McCain and Obama and wonders if they ever really study the gut wrenching hatred that exists on the ground in Syria. To McCain, war for him was a quick trip by air from a well appointed carrier ready room to torture and POW prison. Such clean and clear experience is not the war experienced on the ground under US bombardment. He never got to see the results of his air career on the ground.
    There is some good reporting by Frontline that shows the reality that our messianic desire to sacrifice for freedom is simply insanity. These people are fighting to the death of one side or both. Our Tomahawks will just kill hundreds for naught and increase the world’s hatred for US.
    The show is also available on Amazon streaming for a price.

  10. FB Ali says:

    “…it is hypocrisy only from the outside”.
    I agree. But on the inside there often are policy makers who have no such illusions but cynically use this general American attitude to advance their agendas.
    For example,I do not believe that Cheney and the neocons had any delusions about the “city on the hill” etc, but they used this belief among Americans generally to push through their attack on Iraq (Bush may well have deluded himself into believing he was launching a noble crusade).

  11. turcopolier says:

    FB Ali
    You have said before that the mass of Americans are dupes, led on by heartless, neo-imperialists seeking commercial advantage, but you are wrong. I know the neocons including Cheney and they are first and foremodest true believers. you do not know them. pl

  12. T for Texas says:

    Colonel, I appreciate the lessons your site teaches, esp. as to the continuing influence of Puritanism and the “Shining City on a Hill” conception of the U.S.
    Still, some of those seeking commercial advantage have become more transparent of late in their thoughts. For instance, this Aug. 31 tweet by Steven Rattner: “Punishing #Syria for using chemical weapons isn’t declaring war. Shouldn’t require Congressional approval. POTUS is our CEO.” There’s probably half a semester’s college lectures about what’s wrong with our elites in just those “140 characters or less.”
    Rattner, according to Wiki, is “an American financier who led the Presidential Task Force on the Auto Industry in 2009 for the Obama administration. He was a managing principal of the Quadrangle Group, a private equity investment firm that specialized in the media and communications industries. Prior to co-founding Quadrangle, he was an investment banker at Lehman Brothers, Morgan Stanley, and Lazard Freres & Co., where he rose to deputy chairman and deputy chief executive officer.[2] Rattner began his career as a journalist for the The New York Times. Rattner is currently chairman of Willett Advisors LLC, the private investment group that manages billionaire New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s personal and philanthropic assets. He continues to be involved in public policy matters as the economic analyst for MSNBC’s Morning Joe, and he has returned to The New York Times as a contributing writer for its Op-Ed page.”
    Source of the Rattner tweet published: http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/2013/09/qotd-ceo-or-king.html

  13. turcopolier says:

    T for texas
    “T for Texas?” You have to have balls to appropriate the motto of the 36th Division. Real balls. “some of those seeking commercial advantage have become more transparent of late in their thoughts.” So what? That doesn’t mean they run US foreign policy. Lobbyists are concerned with business law, bidding on contracts in existing strategy and regulation. Raytheon does not lobby for war so that they can sell more Tomahawks. To think that they do is childish, sophomoric silliness from the movies. I suppose that rich guy slaveholder George Washigton fought for seven years because the Stamp Act affected his bottom line. pl

  14. Mark Logan says:

    I’m thinking there might be a related hypocrisy at work in this, our view of “WMD”.
    We have internalized a view that CW and nukes are massively more awful than other ways to kill people. We burned whole cities with incendiary’s in WW2, yet wring our hands in guilt over Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This is being extended to “drones”, I noticed. I was stunned when I saw Fran Townshend and Michael Hayden nod it grave agreement that if we do not send piloted aircraft into Syria we would be “sending the wrong message” the other day in one of our news “talkies”. It might be that what Obama is saying is exactly what he is thinking in this. He is willing to go to war to stop it’s use.
    Did the rebs fake it or did some of Assad’s people, or even Assad give in to the temptation of a battle field expediency? Either way, putting the spotlight on it makes it tough for either party to continue. The rebs get caught false flagging something now and their dream of US help are dead.
    I’m posing a question, could it be Obama abandoned the idea of siding with Assad some time ago, yet be acting as he is now anyway?

  15. Al Arabist says:

    There’s victimhood for virtue too, you know. And there’s a cult of shame too. Not only in America do people attribute man made disasters to the wrath of God. This plays big in Syria.

  16. Tom in Texas says:

    It is evident that context is seldom more important than on the internet. To explain: ever since I arrived in Texas in the late 1980’s, I have been a fan of country singer Jimmy Rogers (1897-1933), and particularly of his “Blue Yodel No. 1”, thus “T for Texas, T for Tennessee. (T for Thelma, the gal that made a wreck out of me.)” Submitting a comment under “T for Texas” was not my attempt to grant credibility to myself or otherwise appropriate to myself any aspect of the 36th Division or its history. I will say in mild defense that, in the late 1980’s, my exposure to Texas history at UT-Austin (in a required class for out-of-state undergrad students)inexplicably was more interested in illustrating the corruptions of George Washington Plunkitt (of Tammany Hall) than illuminating the lives and deeds of Stephen F. Austin, Col. Fannin or Juan Seguin. My lesson in context is that, had I been more educated in military history (and particularly in Texas military history), I would have chosen another name under which to comment.
    To the substance of your critique, I agree completely with your response. However, I submitted the Rattner tweet since I recalled some short time ago you discussed how the position of U.S. President IS NOT the same as that of a corporate CEO. I also agreed completely with that evaluation, but hoped to starkly illustrate to the community of correspondence that influential others often do not accept your good sense. (Particularly where, as here, Rattner was closely involved with the Obama administration in leading the Presidential Task Force on the Auto Industry starting in 2009.)
    I apologize for any indication that my previous comment was an attempt to hijack your article–it was rather poor word choice on my part.

  17. turcopolier says:

    Tom in Texas.
    OK. I might be a little tense these days. I have now read Rattner’s tweet. He is mistaken. the president is not CinC of the US. Nor is he the CEO of the US. It is a false analogy to imagine that the president has anything like the legal power of a CEO. Such an idea must be resisted. pl

  18. J says:

    One thing that I have always found a bit disconcerting, the misuse/abuse of the ‘executive order’ power by the current and past Presidents. Attempted rule by fiat does our nation no benefit. Trying to end-run/usurp Congressional/Judicial input in decision/law making undermines the Republic. Congress in the past had tried to usurp Executive/Judicial, and the Judicial has tried to usurp Executive/Congressional. Guess that we will never see the three where they get along for the benefit of the Republic.

  19. Bandolero says:

    I wondered if somebody – maybe you – would like to say something to a thought I had on a comment of Obama. See this Obama quote:
    “This kind of attack threatens our national security interests by violating well established international norms against the use of chemical weapons by further threatening friends and allies of ours in the region, like Israel and Turkey, and Jordan and it increases the risk that chemical weapons will be used in the future and fall into the hands of terrorists who might use them against us.”
    So, if I understand Obama’s final goal in launching an illegal war of aggression against Syria over alleged CW use, it’s strengthening or protecting “well established international norms.”
    In my view, it’s totally absurd in itself. A major international norm is the prohibition of the use of force against foreign souvereign states and even the threat of using force is illegal. In the Nuremberg tribunal of the Nazi war criminals it was ruled that waging a war of aggression is the prime international crime in itself, as it brings with it all the horros of other war crimes.
    So, and now comes Obama and tells the world openly that he intends to strengen the rule of law by waging a war of aggression? I find it absurd in itself.
    Maybe you’ld like to share some of your thoughts on this. I’ld appreciate it.

  20. Alba Etie says:

    Col Lang
    First I have learned very much here. Next I do believe that mercantile interest will at times be the necessary final impetus to start These United States down some rabbit hole of an ill advised occupation such as Iraq. And I do agree completely that there were and are overriding ‘save the world ” impulses in our history & culture imported here from the Puritans that drive ill guided policies such as R2P in current days . No KBR & other private profits were not the over arching reason we went to Baghdad ,- it was specifically the necon claptrap of “Clean Break ” that we invaded Iraq.
    And yes people everywhere ,myself included want to be prosperous and make money –

  21. Alba Etie says:

    Col Lang
    We all are more then a little tense these days – but we all continue to learn more as we correspond here at SST .

  22. Trent says:

    T for Texas, does your handle refer to the Grateful Dead’s rendition of the traditional “New Minglewood Blues”?

  23. russ says:

    Pat is right about American messianism. It was strongly present in what is the first “American War” — The King
    Phillip War which pitted the English Puritans and their offspring mainly from Massachusetts but also to a lesser extent from other New England states against several of the regions mainly non-Christian Indian tribes. Land was probably the key issue but the Puritan City on the Hill rhetoric cloaked that. The fate of the non-Christian survivors was not pretty. American messianic ideology probably had one of its greatest flowerings during the imperialist era around the time of the Spanish American War.

  24. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I think US could gain more commercial advantage through Caterpillar selling gas turbines, earth-moving equipment, and other stuff like that for the Iran-Iraq-Syria-Lebanon gas pipelines and their branches.
    And then there is the training and maintenance (Services) part of the contract that could be as valuable as the original one.

  25. Dan Gackle says:

    I was about to ask: was this messianic tradition a factor in the WBS? and in particular, did the north apply it to the south? Then I looked up the origin of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” and saw that its very existence is an obvious answer (‘yes’) to both questions.
    Do the northern and southern states of today differ with respect to this messianism?

  26. FB Ali says:

    Col Lang,
    I don’t believe most Americans are dupes. I do think that, like people everywhere, they can, and often are, manipulated by politicians and supporting media by playing on their fears or/and their altruistic instincts.
    Some of the biggest demonstrations against the looming Iraq war took place in the US. These Americans certainly weren’t dupes.
    I accept your contention that the neocons are also “true believers”. It’s just that, for the unfortunate targets of these enterprises (and for other outside observers), it doesn’t matter very much if their goal is a “virtuous” one or just old-fashioned expansion of power and hegemony.

  27. turcopolier says:

    Dan Gackle
    you have to answer that for yourself. try reading Ann Norton’s “Alternative Americas” for background. pl

  28. kao_hsien-chih says:

    Some businesses may have profited from warmongering, but others have lost dearly. The increased global insecurity (in all senses) from the warmongering have made doing business enormously expensive for everyone. Far more people would happily roll back the clock to the days when we were really at peace. Why would the businesses who profited have more influence on policy making than the many more who lost?

  29. Dan Gackle says:

    Thank you for the tip. I have added it to my next Amazon order.

  30. Eliot says:

    “I was about to ask: was this messianic tradition a factor in the WBS? and in particular, did the north apply it to the south? ”
    In Virginia, no. I suspect the early settlement patterns combined with the influence from the Church of England had quite a lot to do with that.
    The early colonists were driven by economic concerns, not religious freedom. That was compounded by the legal situation in the colony, from 1624 to 1750 settlers were required to attend Anglican services and dissenters were forbidden from holding public office. The moderate norms of the Church of England ruled the colony. Dissenter radicalism was largely frozen out and would be till 1786 when Virginia passed Jefferson’s act for religious freedom.

  31. BHO has now pulled a Pontius Pilate on Syria. Probably still hopes that violence will be a choice of Congress and maybe the UN. But the bankruptcy of USA FP is now clearly revealed. The leadership is not smart enough to use other than drone strikes and cruise missiles to implement its FP.
    Oh Sorry! Forgot that US does not have a FP but instead a country by country pas de deux that is more line dancing than ballet.
    Has one serious analysis of what comes after the drone strikes or cruise missile strikes in Syria been written?

  32. elev8 says:

    Col. Lang:
    Would you attach any significance to Rafsanjani apparently also claiming Assad’s responsible for the gas attacks?

  33. Alba Etie says:

    ” War is Peace & Peace is War ” George Orwell 1984

  34. turcopolier says:

    IMO you are partly right. In spite of their shared protestantism the Puritans of New england thought of the Chesapeake Anglicans as heathen. The lack of focus on creating a “kingdom” of the godly in Virginia and Maryland as opposed to mere personal sanctity was unacceptable to New England for the first hundred years and the attitide persisted. the feeling was to some extent mutual and puritan ministers were not welcome in Virginia. Presbyterians, essentially another “brand” of Calvinist English belief became acceptab;le in virginia but only after it evolved somewhat. See “Albions Seed.” pl

  35. Colonel Lang,
    An Anglican view of the same kind of Puritans as colonised New England comes in ‘Hudibras’, the classic satire on the (British) Civil War by the royalist poet Samuel Butler. His description of the religious beliefs of the central character, a colonel in the Parliamentary army, begins as follows:
    ‘For his Religion, it was fit
    To match his learning and his wit;
    ‘Twas Presbyterian true blue;
    For he was of that stubborn crew
    Of errant saints, whom all men grant
    To be the true Church Militant;
    Such as do build their faith upon
    The holy text of pike and gun;
    Decide all controversies by
    Infallible artillery;
    And prove their doctrine orthodox
    By apostolic blows and knocks;
    Call fire and sword and desolation,
    A godly thorough reformation,
    Which always must be carried on,
    And still be doing, never done;’
    One couplet describes, quite perfectly, a continuing strand in the perceptions of much of the outside world by a non-trivial body of Americans, from the seventeenth century to the present:
    ‘All piety consists therein
    In them, in other men all sin’.

  36. confusedponderer says:

    FB Ali
    “… , it doesn’t matter very much if their goal is a “virtuous” one or just old-fashioned expansion of power and hegemony.”
    I see your point, but it does matter as far as US politics are concerned.
    I think that Mr. Langs concern, and he will correct me if I’m wrong, is for the American body politic.
    The US will not get a sober debate let alone a functional foreign policy as long as they don’t understand their own motives.
    Materialists will always ascribe actions to base motives, like a profit interests. America’s current economic orthodoxy is built on the questionable assumtion that profit maximisation is pretty much all that matters in human agency. The leftist view is no less materialist, albeit from the different angle. These materialist views are just as much ab obstacle to a rational discourse on US politics as that blind ‘Americanist self-righteousness’.
    I presume that the qustion he is posing here to the American people is whether they are aware to which their foreign policy is messianic in nature, and has been in the past.
    As of now, there has not been a public debate on whether the US public is in suppot of a messianic policy aimed on, say, transforming the Middle East or alering the balance of power in favour of, say, israel.
    As a result, there is, beyond the elites, no nationwide consensus on whether it is feasible, whether that should be done, and whether it serves the national interest.
    None of these wars are defensive. They are wars of choice because the objective, usually ‘regime change’ appears doable.
    And yet, these splendid little wars continue unabated at great cost in blood and treasure (foreign and domestic), with an executive branch that under bowth parties for a decade now holds the view that to pursue such policies they need not ask anyone.

  37. turcopolier says:

    FB Ali
    Until we give up the notion that we are the saviors of you “poor benighted ‘eathens” we will never desist from trying to save you whether you like it or not. These wars have nothing to do with economic advantage. If we would desist from crusading we would put you all in your “proper” position as supply chains and markets. The wars are killing us and they have nothing to do with our prosperity except to ruin it. pl

  38. seydlitz89 says:

    Sir, I’ve been thinking about your comment and I’ve come to a tentative conclusion. I think the Spanish War of 1898 was a crass betrayal of what the American attitude (symbolized by the Battle Hymn of the Republic) was prior to that point. I think the majority of our wars since, have followed the Spanish War’s model rather than what occurred before. World War II is the exception since we were attacked. Call the pre-1898 version an American “exceptionalism” that was true to itself, whereas the Spanish War version is a manipulative and jingoistic response to expansive power and self-interest which existed outside the traditional American experience.
    Now the US did “inherit” certain responsibilities after WWII, essentially the Cold War which fit within the Spanish War model, but also had to do with much larger commitments and which were historically outside of pre-1898 US experience. So Korea and Vietnam fit within a very different political context than either the Spanish war, WWI, or the Iraq war, not to mention the current threat of war against Syria. To use the current vernacular, the Spanish war, WWI, Iraq, and now Syria were/would be all “wars of choice”.
    To get a flavor of what the US attitude was prior to 1898, I would recommend to your readers sir, William Graham Sumner’s essay from 1899 . . .
    I would add that the current potential war is – while fitting more or less within the Spanish war model – something of case in itself, reflecting as it does our current dysfunctional political relations . . . all from a strategic theory perspective . . .

  39. Eliot says:

    I was reading a bit too quickly there, did the Union view the conflict through a messianic Puritan lens? I would say yes. Did the Confederacy share a similar conception? I don’t think so, at least not here in the commonwealth.
    “The lack of focus on creating a “kingdom” of the godly in Virginia and Maryland as opposed to mere personal sanctity was unacceptable to New England for the first hundred years and the attitide persisted. ”
    I’ve always preferred personal sanctity to that Puritan public morality. Who am I to judge another? What gives me the right to intrude into another mans affairs?
    “Our particular principles of religion are a subject of accountability to our God alone. I inquire after no man’s, and trouble none with mine; nor is it given to us in this life ti know whether your or mine, our friends or our foes, are exactly the right.” – Thomas Jefferson in a letter to Miles King

  40. Tyler says:

    I’m kind of amazed at how many here decrying the directed at the foreign eagerly embrace it here when its dressed up with cute words like multicult and tolerance.

  41. Medicine Man says:

    A fine observation but I think ConfusedPonderer’s comments on the unilateral nature of exceptionalism held dear by the current US leadership explains the hypocrisy.

  42. turcopolier says:

    The Mexican war explodes your thesis. It was entirely a war of choice. It was caused by men who sought a “manipulative and jingoistic response to expansive power and self-interest.” We took over half of Mexico and since I am a practical man, I think we should have taken the rest as well. you have also conveniently neglected the long series of actions and campaigns against the indians. These were about acquisition, not civilizing the Indians. The awful campaigns against the Cherokee and other “Civilized Nations “illustrate that point. These were largely Southern in inspiration and had nothing to do with the “city on a hill.” None of this changes the ongoing psychological phenomenon of American obsession in the Northern parts with construction of God’s Kingdom on earth. This continues and can be seen in the continuing misuse of the phrase “to form a more perfect union…” from the preamble to the US Constitution. This phrase meant that the document was written to form a better functioning state. It did not mean to create a utopian state as the wide eyed claim it did. pl

  43. seydlitz89 says:

    Sir, I don’t think it’s quite exploded, yet . . . let me try to explain . . .
    First let’s consider that what we’re talking about: Essentially the moral and rhetorical sides of the strategic narrative. This narrative or “Strategy” being a complexus of rational, rhetorical (emotional) and moral arguments about a desired future condition, this seeing it strictly in terms of what Clausewitz would see as the “moral” as opposed to the “physical”.
    In modern war, people have to be “mobilized” (broadly defined) to support a war that the state leadership wishes wage. The rhetorical and moral elements have to fit the political identity of the people in question: “who we are”, “what we believe” . . . the actual “rational” reasons for going to war, the goals of policy, can remain (or not) unstated, or vaguely defined . . .
    My argument is that 1898 was a watershed, the first of a new form of American war in terms of all three elements. I think it was also seen that way by many at the time. I do understand that I am way out of my element here, discussing US history with you, sir . . . and I greatly appreciate this opportunity.
    Mexico in the 1830s had roughly the same land mass but only half the population of the US. The US govt saw an opportunity to expand and consolidate control over the entire continent and since political power abhors vacuum . . . this also consolidated US claims over the Northwest. I think annexing all of Mexico would have been difficult given the cultural differences, not to mention the possibility of opening up all of southern Mexico to slavery (difficult to sell up North). Baja California on the other hand . . . Still there was opposition, Henry David Thoreau being perhaps the most famous, but he and whoever else were not enough to constitute a sea change.
    So my point is, that in terms of strategic narrative, consolidating the contiguous US is one thing, embarking on wars to conquer foreign territory in the Pacific (Hawaii & the Philippines) and/or to influence events and contest power in areas occupied by established governments (WWI & Iraq) are something else.
    One sees for the first time (?) the desire here to act pretty much the same as other world powers, whereas before our intention as Americans had been the opposite.
    As to the Indians, we seem to have shared the same prejudices and attitudes that were common among Europeans (including Russians) towards indigenous peoples. It was “our land”, they were on it, so . . .

  44. turcopolier says:

    If you are out of your depth, then cease. pl

  45. Alba Etie says:

    A good question “Why would the businesses who profited may have more influence on policy making then the many more that who lost ? ” I do not know the answer to that – but I do know that Vice President Cheney put all of his Halliburton /KBR stock in a blind trust before we went to occupy Iraq. Perhaps profit matters not because Cheney was a true believer in the Clean Break agenda espoused by all the other neo cons. But I also know KBR made lots of money in Iraq.

  46. seydlitz89 says:

    Actually I think I’m in just about the right place.
    Heading with the wife to Santiago de Compostela (by car) for a couple of days.
    Have a nice week Colonel.

  47. turcopolier says:

    “the desire here to act pretty much the same as other world powers, whereas before our intention as Americans had been the opposite.” IMO that is a very naive idea.
    Don’t take the train. pl

  48. no one says:

    Col Lang, I am very interested in your opinion of the strength and nature of American messianism compared to the Islamic vision(s) of a caliphate. Are they in any important way coming from the same place in the human psyche? Same effects? Destined to collide? Totally different things? Thank you.

  49. FB Ali says:

    “…… The wars are killing us”
    They’re killing us, too!

  50. turcopolier says:

    FB Ali
    My duty is to the United States. I am trying to do that as I always have done. I have made it clear that I am repelled by the antic capering of recent American administrations. What do you want me to do, defect to Harper’s Canada? pl

  51. Walrus says:

    Col. Lang, is the messianism of which you speak morphing into a lust for planetary domination?
    To borrow a phrase from an Australian politician, are we in a “crash through or crash” situation?
    What happens if Obama succeeds in attacking Syria and they and the Iranians aided by Russia and abetted by China, succeed in engaging in a robust and costly defence?
    The Russians are good chess players, that may stump poker players like McCain.

  52. Walrus says:

    Col. Lang,
    On the subject of your own actions, I am sure you have done way, way more to try and inject reason, sanity, dignity, true patriotism and plain common sense into Washingtons deliberations than you could, or should, ever let on at your website and at great personal cost. Whatever happens we salute you.

  53. turcopolier says:

    The simple answer is yes. This kind of mindlessness is spreading with the dumbing down of the culture. pl

  54. FB Ali says:

    Col Lang,
    You are doing your duty in exemplary fashion. You provided valuable service to your country in the past and are doing the same now. I hope it is adequately appreciated by your country.
    From an outsider’s point of view you are also fulfilling a great need in raising your voice against those actions of your country’s leaders that negate the noble ideals on which it is founded, and which cause other countries and their peoples much grief.
    As for Harper’s Canada, I’m afraid you won’t find much peace here. This gentleman is trying his best to make this country a camp-follower of the US in its “antic capering”.

  55. Madhu says:

    As a flight of fancy, I wonder if there is a different period in our history (meaning the US) that can serve as a touchstone? Outside the waves of messianism that seem to come with regularity?
    “Built around mariners’ journals of their pioneering voyages, “Yankee India” charts the early development of commercial and cultural relations between the United States and India in the Age of Sail. The end of colonial rule in 1783 had given American merchants and ship owners the freedom to trade in Asia. Voyages from ports along the eastern seaboard were the first American links to the distant and exotic culture of India. Mariners’ journals and letters speak of encounters with vastly different ways of life that sometimes challenged and sometimes reinforced ideas about decorum, religion, and morality and that influenced attitudes toward imperialism, legitimate rule, and free trade.” Amazon description to “Yankee India”.
    An academic book review I stumbled across opined that the book showed some early American traders “avoided forming judgement”. Oh, they thought they were culturally superior but it was a more live-and-let live “American mariner”attitude. We trade with you, you trade with us, you are you, we are us, etc.
    A quirk of US history or some other cultural strand that can nurtured and rediscovered?
    One can only hope, the non-stop meddling is heartbreaking for us and for others.

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