by Ryan McMaken
Robert Kagan’s feature, “Cowboy Nation,” in the October 23rd issue of The New Republic, contends that the United States, contrary to the popular myth, is now and always has been a nation committed to aggressive and often violent expansionist tendencies. As a leading neoconservative, Kagan’s analysis is meant to prove that American intervention throughout the world is perfectly in line with the United States government’s long history of projecting its power to every corner of the globe. Thus, tradition allows and even demands that the United States continue to have its hand in domestic and international affairs from Tokyo to Rome and from Ottawa to Buenos Aires.
While I’ll take exception to his conclusions here, it is nevertheless difficult to disagree with Kagan’s assertion that America’s history is indeed a history of aggression. One needn’t know every detail of American foreign policy history or of the history of westward expansion to see that the history of America in the world is not the America of George Washington’s Farewell Address, but is much more the history of Theodore Roosevelt’s Great White Fleet and of Roosevelt’s ally and disciple Albert Beveridge who made things quite clear in 1898 as he defended the American occupation of the Philippines with his speech entitled “The March of the Flag”:
“It is a glorious history our God has bestowed upon His chosen people; a history heroic with faith in our mission and our future; a history of statesmen who flung the boundaries of the Republic out into the unexplored lands and savage wilderness; a history of soldiers who carried the flag across blazing deserts and through the ranks of hostile mountains…Therefore, in this campaign, the question is larger than a party question. It is an American question…Shall the American people continue their march toward the commercial supremacy of the world? Shall free institutions broaden their blessed reign as the children of liberty wax in strength, until the empire of our principles is established over the hearts of all mankind?”
For Beveridge, the answer to these questions was obviously yes.
“Cowboy Nation” is subtitled “Against the Myth of American Innocence,” and Kagan asserts that while one can have a debate over the current role of the American state in the world, the position that the natural state of American affairs is one of international humility and isolationism, is based more on fancy than on fact.
In short, Kagan’s argument is this: The American Republic, driven by the ideology of liberalism, in its very essence, has always seen expansion and righteous aggression in the name of spreading its enlightened ideology as both justified and laudable. Liberalism, that is, classical liberalism, accepts only one truth – the truth of universal rights, and that if the world will not acknowledge those rights, then it is the role of the United States to force it to do so…..
- How the Interventionists Stole the American Right by Ryan McMaken (“Thanks to Ron Paul, the Conservative movement is having an identity crisis.”) (gunnyg.wordpress.com)
- Ron Paul, on Murray Rothbard and Lew Rockwell: “They enjoyed antagonizing people, to tell you the truth, and trying to split people” (reason.com)
- Lew Rockwell–the Man Who Ran Ron Paul’s Racist Scamming Newsletters–Sends Me a Fund-Raising Email This Morning… (delong.typepad.com)
- Ron Paul’s exotic past tells us much about him, the GOP, libertarians – and about us (fabiusmaximus.wordpress.com)
- An Empire of Liberty? by Ryan McMaken (gunnyg.wordpress.com)