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"It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape."

- I. Compton-Burnett, letter to Francis King (1969)

"Cynical realism – it is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation."

- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"

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Sunday, 21 March 2004

Topic: World View

New issue of JUST ABOVE SUNSET MAGAZINE now online!

No blogging today. In fact, I took yesterday off to reedit material for the magazine.

And Sunday is the day I do final assembly and post the week's new issue of this: Just Above Sunset Magazine.

Commentary here will resume tomorrow.

Check it out the news issue of the magazine! There are some "artsy" photos of Sunset Strip in the early morning fog that you might find interesting.

But it is already tomorrow in Europe, and I've been scanning the press.

You might find this of interest.

See Liberty takers: The entire Bush foreign policy is based on a dubious narrative of US history that has freedom at its heart
Tristram Hunt, The Guardian (UK) - Monday March 22, 2004

Tristram ("Sadness") Hunt makes some curious observations on history.

Although the neoconservative polemicist Charles Krauthammer has declared America to be "the dominant power in the world, more dominant than any since Rome", and Paul Bremer, the head of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, sounds every day more like an Edwardian viceroy, the White House is adamant that the war on terror is distinct from the colonial ambitions of previous great powers. Instead, what the Bush administration is concerned with is fulfilling the ideals of the American revolution.

However, although bookshops in the US are awash with new biographies of George Washington, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, what the White House has learned from all this scholarship seems little different from the historical interpretation of the Mel Gibson film The Patriot. For Gibson, the revolution was a clear-cut struggle for liberty from the wicked British.

The neoconservatives have taken this dubious history as read and then universalized the principle. The liberty won by the founding fathers in the 18th century is for the Pentagon hawks a value of global validity. As President Bush put it: "If the values are good enough for our people, they ought to be good enough for others." And as the disillusioned Republican thinker Paul Craig Roberts has pointed out, it is this claim of universality that seems to endow American principles with their monopoly on virtue. It behooves America, as a republic of virtue, to export these ideals around the world.

... This sense of moral clarity is what is meant to distinguish neoconservatism from plain old conservatism. While the likes of Kissinger and Nixon were happy to collude with terrorism and bolster tyrannies, Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy secretary of defense, and Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, will brook no such betrayal of America's heritage. It is this call of historic virtue that accounts for President Bush's recently launched "forward strategy for freedom in the Middle East". Instead of supporting friendly if corrupt Arab regimes, democracy and liberty would provide the litmus test for US diplomacy in the region. "For too long, American policy looked away while men and women were oppressed," announced the leader of the free world. "That era is over."

Leaving aside US support for some pretty distasteful regimes in the oil-rich Caspian basin, or Rice's intervention in the Venezuelan elections, or the decision to postpone the polls in Iraq, there [are] remainfundamental historical problems with the neoconservative vision.

For at the political core the American revolution was a highly restricted notion of freedom: the right of property holders to dispose of their wealth as they saw fit. Many revolutionaries simply wanted to be treated as Englishmen - which might account for Benjamin Franklin lobbying for a job in the Westminster government as late as 1771. No taxation without representation is a very different cry from the universal right to liberty.

Moreover, the property that many founding fathers wanted to protect was their slave holdings.
The whole thing is rather negative. It seems Hunt is arguing that it is presumptuous of the United States to say it is "the best" - the model of how the world should be, and everyone should be just like us, and it is our moral duty to make them over in our image.

As I have said before, if the Canadians thought like this we'd all have get our coffee and doughnuts from Tim Horton's, not Starbucks and Krispy Kreme, and we'd all have to put gravy on our fries. But we're the sole superpower in the world. They're not.

Heck, everyone thinks they're right and everyone else should be just like them. We just have the power to make it so. No one else does. Too bad. We win.

The world is now saying, hey, not so fast, cowboy.

It should be an interesting week coming up.

Posted by Alan at 20:07 PST | Post Comment | Permalink

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