Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Manifest Destiny

How Little the World Understands

I was visiting one of my favorite sites, Crossroads Arabia, which links to many Arab news sites. John, the owner of the site, has taken great pains to show the myriad of opinions in the Arab world. They range from liberal to ultra conservative, but gives you a better view of the place that we are so uninformed about. Articles include careful introspection on the Arab and Muslim world, calls for change in the Arab/Muslim society as well as lambasting America for not understanding their culture and America's force upon it.

Please make sure you take time to read John's blog. He worked in Saudi Arabia and the middle east for many years and has a balanced understanding of it's conditions. I find it very refreshing whenever I despair of a change in the middle east. It is proof positive that such a change can come and that we have embarked on the best course at present to insist upon it.

Having said that, while reviewing an article from John's blog, I came across another one, written by Martin Kettle in the Guardian, which he titles: Militant Conservatism in American Public Life.

It is Mr. Kettle's attempt to explain the new "manifest destiny" of the United States, which he comes close to, but fails, as all liberals do, because he assigns it some mystical religious reason:

The Lebensraum aspect of manifest destiny is less significant now. But the military power that always went with it is not. Yet the part of O’Sullivan’s phrase that resonates most for many core Republicans today is the part that concerns Providence’s wishes for America. There has been this strand to American ideology ever since the Puritans first described their settlement in the New World as the creation of a city upon a hill, on which the eyes of the world were trained. It has always been part of many American religious cultures, most notably Scots-Irish Protestantism and the too often neglected phenomenon of Mormonism

Read the entire article (there is a place at the bottom to comment by the way) and then return to the inner sanctum to see my reply, written to the Arab news.

My reply below. We'll see if it gets printed or if they are just too happy to accept Mr. Kettle's explanation since it makes them feel better.

While Mr. Kettle has some parts of his article correct (manifest destiny), he, like many of our liberal friends, is mistaken on what drives the American populace. Far from "militant religious conservatism", it is a different religion all together.

It is, frankly, the religion or, if you will, ideology of "freedom".

It is easy to understand how someone would confuse the issue. Because the President of the United States is not ashamed of his belief in God and invokes his name in prayer and blessing, does not make him some evangelical militant. Anymore than the Queen of England being the protector of the Anglican church or singing "God Save the Queen" make British foreign policy subservient to evangelical desires.

And the President of the United States is not even dubbed with the title "Defender of the Faith" because, simply put, the government is prohibited from creating or supporting any particular religion.

His article would also seem to negate the pluralism (not polytheism; but multiples) of the religions in the United States. If one is Hindu or Muslim and believes in the ultimate destiny of freedom, does that make one "evangelical"?

Simply put, he and any who believe like him, are at a loss to understand the policy and look for some sort of label to place on it in order to make them feel comfortable in their liberal morality.

There is but one driving force behind the policy of the United States. That is that freedom is the right of every man. Men are born free and choose to place themselves under laws to govern them. They are not born to the laws.

America has seen what over thirty years of liberal morality has wrought in the world. Much hand wringing over the plight of their fellow man, but no efforts to truly change them. It is comfortable to sit in one's house and see pictures and stories of the poor and oppressed and send them money or even possibly volunteer to build a school or dig a well. All important aspects of lifting people up in the world.

But, hand wringing and pleas for men to behave better towards one another falls on deaf ears in some places of the world. In the end, it is the intemperate laws of man and the governance of intemperate men which is the final oppressor of freedom and man's ability to lift himself up above the conditions. It is these men and these laws which must be opposed by all means.

Unless of course, one feels no compunction about his fellow man, but is happy enough that, at least, it isn't he that is suffering.

In reflection, he may have actually chosen the correct term already, "manifest destiny", but only ascribed to it a cause that is false. The reality, the reason, the purpose, comes from a document that we hold to be sacred here in the United States, the Declaration of Independence. In which, the opening paragraphs give the meaning to "manifest destiny":

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security."

Maybe, if Mr. Kettle actually understood American history, he would actually understand the current foreign policy as well as the meaning of "manifest destiny".


Mike H. said...

If Mr. Kettle understood world history he wouldn't have written the article. While he quibbles about religious precepts of the west, Darfur festers. His analysis of the subject (western religion) is really avoidance of the subject (problem religions). He doesn't appear to be walking in the same direction that he's looking.

Cigarette Smoking Man from the X-Files said...

It is indeed a militant libertarianism which drives the heart and soul of most Americans, and some even misunderstand their own world-view then they drape themselves in the mantle of "liberal". Whether it's the marijuana legalization activist who marches in the street to shake off the oppression of drug laws; or the protester trying to shame the G-7 conferences into backing away from policies restrictive of local sovereignty; or "far-right" militia types boasting about how their guns will only be taken from their cold dead hands; the single most common threat in both major parties, both major wings of American life, from corporate board room to teenage game room, is the near-fanatical adherence we have to the idea of LIBERTY.

In fact, if the Palestinian cause at the very outset of their troubles with Israel, were to have emphasized Liberty more, and hatred of Jews less, they probably would have tugged at our hearts and desires more effectively than could be established by any amount of Zionist bribes or Evangelical Christian belief in the imperative of blind apocalyptic alliance with Israel.

Liberty is what fuels our souls. Had Mel Gibson painted his face anachronistically blue and ridden his bareback horse to shout "For the rightful throne of Robert the Bruce" (as the real William Wallace would more likely have done), then he definitely would not have sold even a fraction of the movie tickets he did in American theatres. To make any movie character sympathetic to American eyes, he has to be a freedom-loving character. To make any movie villain hated, he has to be oppressive of the liberty of others.

Why are we so embarrassed by associations with Pinochet in Chile? It was because he had no regard for freedom, plainly and simply. For us to feel proud of an action on the world stage, it has to be a liberating nexus of activity. For us to feel ashamed of it, it has to be action counterproductive to people's liberation.

What did we not like about the Taliban? Their RESTRICTIONS.

You nailed it, Kat, in describing who exactly we are, on both sides of our political aisle.

Vadergrrrl said...

Your a good person Kat. Thank you for this post.


Kat said...

I would agree with you Ciggy that what drives most people to support Israel is not necessarily the thing that drove Truman to support their creation. I believe Truman was not necessarily about religion, but about the underdog, guilt and liberty.

I read a book about Truman which reprinted some of his internal memos in the government and it was very laden with guilt that we in the west did not recognize the "concentration camps" for what they were and did not take action for so long (ie, the reason for the UN). He felt that the world owed them something and they probably did. The jews have been persecuted from one end of the world to another.

Today I believe it is because we still perceive them as the underdog, a tiny bastion of civilization and democracy on the edge of a hostile world that wants nothing but their death.

From my perspective, that is how I see Israel today. Still very hunted by the forces of hate. It is why I support them although I have feelings for the Palestinian people as well.

I feel for the Palestinian people and wish them a homeland and a free, democratic government. But the reason I have such a problem supporting them 100% against the Israelis is because I see the Palestinian hatred and what they teach their children on MEMRI TV. I understand that they are really a proxy for the rest of the Arab world that tried to destroy Israel on three separate occassions and failed and are now using the Palestinians.

That must make the Palestinians both pitied and despised. At least their government and those that continue to support suicide acts against Israel.

One wonders what they will claim as their reason to fight when Israel has pulled back from all it's settlements and gave them the state they demanded?

Hatcher said...


Thanks for a great post--and not just the part where you liked my Crossroads Arabia blog!

I think that after Arafat--who's a weighty albatross on the Palestinian's neck--there will be a Palestinian Authority that will make peace.

They will make peace because of 50+ years of slaughter that brought them no gains.

But they're not going to be thrilled about it.

There are millions of people who consider themselves Palestinians, but who are forced to live outside what they consider their homes. A majority of them would like to return to Palestine. Any peace agreement has to make some accommodation for them and their desires.

They will not be permitted to return. There's no place to put them and they would destabilize the area even more than it is. But something has to be done. Some can be bought off, particularly those who have found homes in other countries. But that still leaves millions in Egypt and Syria, which have intentionally never granted them citizenship. Those countries don't particularly like the Palestinians as a group and don't want them in their countries any longer than necessary. How does that get fixed?

Too, Israel needs to offer some sort of apology for taking over land that was already inhabited when they arrived. Take a look at any number of references and you'll find that Jews represented the smallest minority of inhabitants of Palestine until after WWII. The fact that they did take over somebody else's property causes a great deal of anger, and a loss of face. Providing some sort of face-saving device is extremely important in that part of the world. The entire region runs on a system that balances shame with honor. Right now, the Arabs feel shamed.

Kat said...


So glad you stopped by. Yes, I enjoy your blog very much. It gives me hope above all things that we are seeing some sort of change. I was worried about this election cycle frankly. I realize with the reaction of some in the region that the rhetoric may need to tone down some, but I think that we would have gone completely backwards on this with a Kerry administration.

As for the Palestinians, I am so glad you said what you did. About two months ago I wrote something similar about the Palestine/Israel situation. That is that certain Arab countries refused to give them citizenship in order to hold these people over Israel and to insure that the UN aid for refugees continued and they did not have to absorb them completely into their society or economy.

I also agree with you. Palestine could never absorb them and they will never return. It is not just Israel that keeps them away. Palestine does not have the space NOR the economy to absorb several million "returnees" it would be a worse humanitarian disaster than the day their families actually left.

Do I understand correctly that Israel has a court for sorting out the land claims and paying reparations?

That is what I expect. although, I really don't expect an outright apology for several years, if not a decade. It seems from history that states do not apologize for their aggression until they have had some long period of stability and peace. But, we will see.

Maybe Mr. Sharon will need a new cabinet and someone will give him some good advice. But not right now. He is negotiation and withdrawing from a place of power. He should not apologize until all the process in ironed out and on the move.

One of the posters here posted somewhere else a good point, it is going to take almost a decade to wash away the stain of the brainwashing of the children. I've seen so much of it, it is like state instituted child abuse.

Nothing glorious there. I pray for peace to come once Arafat is gone, but I am very worried that Hamas or Hezbollah will take the opportunity to strengthen their position and pull Palestine down even further.

Let us hope that the people are tired of endless bloody war.

Hatcher said...

I'm afraid it's going to take more than 10 years to change Arab minds about Israel. Some minds will never change; others are going to take generations. If we're lucky, some will decide that they need to accept the unacceptable.

Something we don't see in the West (and particularly in America) are the pictures that Arabs see daily in their media. After years of seeing pictures of children with their brains literally flowing from their skulls, or babies with bullet holes in their backs, one stops thinking about it. Those images, instead, go straight to the emotions. Those emotions, of course, are disgust, sorrow, and hatred. No thinking need be involved: there's a short and direct circuit between the eyes and the emotion.

For cultural reasons, we in the US don't like to see pictures of death and dismemberment. Do you recall how the pictures of the people jumping and falling out of the twin towers were excised from TV by 9/12 as being "too upsetting"? For cultural and religious reasons, Israel does not show bodies and body parts of those killed by terrorists. When a bomb goes off in Israel, the media are kept at least two blocks away. At most, they are permitted to photograph body bags and blood stains. There are no images of grotesquely mangled children.

Arab audiences see what is available to be seen: dead Arabs. One could argue that Arab media would never show the horrors inflicted upon Israelis, but that is an unprovable proposition because the images aren't available in the first place. I know that they do show pictures of dead Westernerns when those pictures are available.

I know, too, that when Crown Prince Abdullah visited Crawford, TX in April, 2002, he brought with him several photo albums and a video tape of the images that Arabs see daily. Pres. Bush was stunned by those images and, within days, re-engaged in the Middle East peace process. Those images are incredibly powerful.

It so happens that I'm reading a book about the fall of Warsaw in 1944 (Rising '44, by Norman Davies). This is a story of perfidy and tragedy, when both Americans and British were unwilling to support the Polish underground when it tried to overthrow the Nazi occupation. The Soviet Army was across the river and refused--for political reasons--to assist the Poles. This was 60 years ago. Talk to a Pole today about the battle for Warsaw and see how much support the Russians (or the British and Americans) get. Memories of historic disasters run long and deep. The most you can hope for is begruding assent.

I know, too, that the step necessary to bring peace to Northern Ireland was for people who had legitimate grievances to simply put them aside. Families who had had members killed by the IRA or any of the Protestant militias had to agree to let the killers out of jail so that the bloodshed would finally stop. That particular conflict went on for 800 years. It stopped, mostly, in 1998.