Wednesday, October 18, 2006

I've Got a Fever ... And the Only Prescription is More Kagan

Appropriately enough after class today, this week's New Republic Cover Story is a fascinating article entitled "Cowboy Diplomacy: Against the Myth of American Innocence" by, you got it, Robert Kagan.

Kagan's central observation is that while today's debate over the posture and reach of American foreign policy (essentially, how idealistic and interventionist should we be abroad), it is rather off on its history. That is amidst the talk of about America's need to take a step back from current empirical tendency, we conveniently ignore the fact there's not much to step back from, as the reality is (at least more than we might like to think):

"American's expansionist, intrusiveness, and tendency towards political, economic, and strategic dominance are not some aberration from our true nature. That is our nature."

Kagan presents a fascinating, albeit carefully crafted, picture of American history in which Presidents have long sounded quite a bit like George W. Bush and current concerns about American power around the world are just building upon worries developed centuries ago:

Concerns of European Diplomatics in the Early 19th Century:

"Since the Americans have acquired Louisiana, they appear unable to bear any barriers round them."

Americans are "numerous," "warlike," and an "enemy to be feared."

"The universal feeling of Europe in witnessing the gigantic growth of [America's] population and power is that we shall, if united, become a very dangerous member of the society of all nations."

Kagan goes on to tie this historical tendancy towards American power (both in how we view ourselves and how we are viewed by the rest of the world) as sort of a dual product of the unique liberal roots of the American product (the Declaration of Independence as the greatest treatise of American power, more than either Washington's farewell address or the Monroe Doctrine) and the unique manner in which Americans came to become so quickly to enormous global influence and power. That is, American ideals started out bigger than any nation in the history in the world, and those ideals only grew with our power, which gave us unparalleled ability to act upon those ideas.

Anyway, a very interesting article I would commend to any of you.

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