Monday, December 11, 2006

There's No Place Like Home

In the eighteenth century, the English ruling classes – squirearchy, merchants, aristocracy – were men hard of mind and hard of will. Aggressive and acquisitive, they saw foreign policy in terms of concrete interest: markets, natural resources, colonial real estate, naval bases, profits. At the same time they were concerned to preserve the independence and parliamentary institutions of England in the face of the hostility of European absolute monarchies. Liberty and interest alike seemed to the Georgians therefore to demand a strategic approach to international relations. They saw national power as the essential foundation of national independence; commercial wealth as a means to power; and war as among the means to all three. They accepted it as natural and inevitable that nations should be engaged in a ceaseless struggle for survival, prosperity and predominance.

Correlli Barnett, The Collapse of British Power, (Humanities Press International, reprint ed. 1987, p. 20).

Wow. If anything written could possibly sum-up the way I think about politics and national policy in a paragraph, this above quotation would be it. I first read Correlli Barnett’s Collapse of British Power as an undergraduate at the University of Texas in the 1980’s (not assigned, just something I read) and have never forgotten the book. I’m on my second copy: I re-read the thing about once every two years.

Mr. Barnett, in this book, and in several of this other works, notably The Audit of War: the Illusion and Reality of Britain as a Great Nation, (published in this country as The Pride and the Fall) wrote extensively on the decline of the British Empire (mostly to the benefit of the United States), caused, as he saw it, by a ruling class that became dominated by “moralizing internationalists” who took their country’s power and position for granted. Sounds sort of familiar, doesn’t it ?

With all the talk about “realism” in the press lately, it seems to me that we often forget what “realism” really consists of. Quite aside from the specific problem of Iraq: there appears to be a widespread feeling among the public that “realism” consists in doing what is convenient -- cutting and running -- coming home and putting up the drawbridges. to walking away from power.

As we power-up our Chinese made Christmas lights, which we can run on cheap electricity, drive our imported cars, use our credit cards like crazed cocaine addicts, laugh at Iranian blustering about a new Holocaust, we seem not to care about whether the Euros or the UN, or India or Borneo runs the world. Let the Chinese have it all eh ? As George McGovern would say "come home, America." Meanwhile we can forget Osama and all the loons trying to kill us and go back to arguing about abortion, gay marriage and Britney’s belly-button.

It’s going to be such an interesting little experiment, isn’t it ? Neo-Isolationism, I mean. It's just divinely ordained that Americans are going to enjoy cheap oil, easy credit, imports and Christmas lights forever, huh ? People are always gonna want American dollars. The world is always going to care what we think, because. . .well, just because, right ? Soft power's where it's at, and we need to learn to work and play well with others, again. As for winning wars, and military power. . .that's all obsolete and beside the point, isn't it ? Surely you believe me. . .or the Pelosi Democrats anyway.
Merry Christmas, folks.


louielouie said...

er, ah, well you started out great but scated the hell outta me with that last para.
imo, the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.
for the last 50 years, the USA has been running an 8 hour day.

El Jefe Maximo said...

Yeah, an 8 hour day with two hour lunches. . .coasting on the margins our grandparents built up. I plead as guilty as the next guy.

Wonder how our kids will do in a world full of people who are both turbo-capitalist and HUNGRY, and who don't have this need to believe that we are all brothers, and feel like they have to play nicey-nice ?