Neville Chamberlain Redux
"The world must be made safe for democracy," said President Woodrow Wilson to Congress on April 2nd, 1917, some months after he proposed "peace without victory." Four days later Congress approved a declaration of war against Germany. Wilson could have asked for a declaration much earlier. German submarines were sinking neutral American shipping in a policy of unrestricted submarine warfare, five merchant ships being sunk in February and March that year alone.
Wilson had been waiting for a more "overt" act of belligerence against the U.S other than the loss of American lives at sea at German hands. But the most recent sinkings, together with the Zimmermann note to the German minister in Mexico, forced him to face reality. The Zimmermann note pledged Germany to support Mexico in an invasion of the U.S. southwest to deter certain American entry into the European conflict until after Germany had beaten Britain and France to exhaustion. If the U.S. declared war, German foreign minister Alfred Zimmermann instructed his minister in Mexico to assure Mexico that "we shall make war together and together make peace. We shall give generous financial support and it is understood that Mexico is to reconquer the lost territory in New Mexico, Texas and Arizona."
A declaration of war was not what Wilson had in mind as an altruist "tonic of a moral adventure," as editor and fellow Progressive Herbert Croly had prescribed for America years before. Rather, it was the role of mediator and "peace maker" in the conflicts and international disputes of the early 20th century.
Shuttle ahead ninety years to Georgetown University, where British Prime Minister Tony Blair, in remarks about the "new" global politics, proclaimed, "Idealism becomes the realpolitik." An essential part of that "idealism" is the introduction of "democracy" in regions of the world that have seen no legitimate governments in over a century, chiefly because their inhabitants did not know what to do with democracy, except to vote themselves new tyrants or tolerate old ones. Democracy, however, means mob rule, no matter how legitimate it sounds. It recognizes no individual rights that a majority cannot abridge or abrogate.
Even Wilson's contemporary, Vladimir Lenin, understood that. "Democracy is not identical with majority rule." Off by one adverb in that statement, he elucidates the point in contradiction of himself. "Democracy is a State which recognizes the subjection of the minority to the majority, that is, an organization for the systematic use of force by one class against the other, by one part of the population against another." (Chapter 4, State and Revolution, 1919) Which is why democracy was as much his enemy as "capitalistic" republicanism, to be ruthlessly crushed. After all, in terms of a nation's population, a totalitarian party's members are always in the minority.
The point here is that President Bush's and Mr. Blair's "idealism" does not fundamentally differ from Wilson's. Its moral core consists of blind duty and the sacrifice of wealth and of lives to accomplish the spread of democracy. Integral to the concept is that the U.S. should eschew its selfish isolationism and adopt a proactive, Kantian "moral" role to correct wrongs wherever it might see them. Our political leaders are ruled by the little Prussian's categorical imperative to "do the right thing" regardless of cost, self-interest, or even of consequence.
"Democracy," rather than being an object of populist appeal or simply because it is easier for politicians to pronounce than "constitutional republic" (which is what the U.S. is becoming less and less), thus complements such "idealist realpolitik." That is the true character of Mr. Blair's "realpolitik." It is the "idealism" of humility, retreat, and ultimate self-destruction.
In the conflict with Iran and its neo-Hitlerian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Bush contends that the issue of Iran's nuclear weapons development can be resolved with "robust diplomacy." That was Wilson's premise behind his proposal for an international peace conference to end the fighting between the European powers, and the basis of Neville Chamberlain's negotiations with Nazi Germany.
Wilson also said, in April 1915, that "No nation is fit to sit in judgment upon any other nation." Both Bush and Blair have refined that idea, alleging that no religion is fit to sit in judgment of any other creed. Their altruist, Christian premises forbid them to condemn Islam, and allow them to claim that Islam is not the motivating force behind terrorism. It has been "hijacked," or "perverted."
Anyone who has read the Koran knows this is an absurd notion, as absurd a notion that Hitler "hijacked" Nazism or that Stalin "perverted" communism. But, then, Bush and Blair believe in democracy, as well.
Some commentators may suspect that the May 31st news that the U.S. is willing to negotiate directly with Iran is a ruse to assure world opinion that it is not trying to bully Iran into giving up its nuclear enrichment program, and that it does not intend to employ force against Iran.
Given recent developments, we can believe that it is not a ruse. President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice are willing to take both of Ahmadinejad's hands and personally lead him to the higher plateau of international amity, global peace, and pure "democracy," with Prime Minister Blair, Europe, Russia, China and others flinging confetti and flowers at them. Ahmadinejad can snarl and missile-rattle all he wishes; Bush and Rice are willing to forget dignity and take the abuse in the name of a higher cause.
Ahmadinejad is a beast, they agree. But he is there, a metaphysical given, and must be dealt with without igniting more conflict or exacerbating existing animosity. Ma Rice acknowledges that Iran is a supporter of terrorism "in Lebanon and Palestinian territories," she remarked at a news conference, according to an Associated Press report on May 31st. But, "Iran can and should be a responsible state." No mention by her or Bush of its support of terrorism in Iraq, where Iran's "insurgent" proxies and planners are picking off Americans and Iraqis by the busload. Apparently, that is not "overt' enough an act of war.
Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan were also metaphysical givens. Our policy more than half a century ago was to erase those givens, and that was the end of that. There were no negotiating "tables" to lure dictators to in the name of peace, just the burnt out shell of the Reichstag and the wind-blown ashes of Hiroshima.
As John Lewis remarked in correspondence elsewhere in response to the AP report, "Note that Rice's admission that Iran has a right to nuclear energy is the same error the British made prior to WW II, when they accepted that Germany had the same 'right to self-determination' as other nations."
Iran's "self-determination," in light of its record and especially in view of Ahmadinejad's bellicose rantings, includes the "destiny" of ruling the Mideast by force or subversion, the annihilation of Israel, and setting the terms of peace with the rest of the world in a quest for a Pax Persia via nuclear payload.
In the staring contest between Ahmadinejad, Bush and Rice, the pragmatists blinked. So they must always blink when facing bellicosity. Their concept of ensuring national security is to offer the aggressor bribes, such as the U.S and Britain did in Vienna on June 1st, and to rule out military force.
The "realpolitik" of U.S. policy to date has been one of uncompromising pragmatism. Pragmatism as an "ideal" and as a policy must by its nature sacrifice the good to evil; otherwise it would not be pragmatism. Evil derives its strength from compromised and ultimately vanquished principles. Pragmatism discounts principles as a guide to moral conduct; they are forgotten in a rush to keep a nemesis at bay.
The principle left behind here is the right of the U.S. to its self-defense against a threatening rogue state. Reason and reality have no role in a policy of pragmatism. Yet, despite pragmatism's sorry and costly role in history, especially in the 20th century, current leaders are convinced that pragmatism is the only "moral" path to follow. They are determined to make it "work." But it works only to the benefit of the enemies of civilization.
The New York Times, under the chortling headline on June 1st, "Bush's Realization on Iran: No Good Choice Left Except Talk," reported that the president asked Rice "several months ago that he needed 'a third option,' a way to get beyond either a nuclear Iran or an American military action." The term "beyond" is eloquently appropriate; it suggests an excursion into fantasyland in search of a Star Trekian "Prime Directive." Bush has explicitly rejected an "either/or" in favor of an evasive, non-confrontational middle course.
One must wonder about the psychology of men who are so afraid of absolutes that they are willing to acknowledge a threat but never the rational course of action to take to remove one. According to the AP report, when Rice was asked about the possibility of the U.S. reestablishing diplomatic relations with Iran, Rice "ruled out a 'grand bargain.' However, she said a negotiated solution to the nuclear dispute could 'begin to change the relationship.'"
"Nobody is confused about the nature of this regime," said Rice at a news conference held to announce the alleged shift in policy. "We are not negotiating the terms of terrorism."
Were she and Bush genuinely confused about the nature of Iran's regime, it might be forgivable. But she names what she and Bush both know, and that makes the action an unforgivable betrayal. In effect, their willingness to "come to the table" to talk is, in effect, a willingness to negotiate the terms of terrorism.
Is it any wonder that Ahmadinejad is so contemptuously confident that Islam will triumph? Even psychopaths like him can sense cowardice and smell blood. Ahmadinejad has mastered Hitler's playbook of the 1930's.
The overture to the U.S.'s creeping, inevitable capitulation on Iran was reported in the Los Angeles Times of May 26th under the appropriate headline, "The Tyranny Doctrine."
"Last week, Secretary of State...Rice announced resumption of full U.S. diplomatic relations with Libya, citing Tripoli's renunciation of terrorism and intelligence cooperation." The article asserts that this move "marks an effective end to the Bush doctrine."
Rather, it highlights a continuation of the Bush doctrine of non-judgmental pragmatism, which has been to take the path of least resistance and greatest expediency, to avoid confronting major threats and to expend lives and treasure on incidentals, such as Iraq and Afghanistan. Not to mention, in this instance, a forgiving of Libyan dictator Qadhaffi for the murder of hundreds of Westerners by his own army of jihadists. There is "realpolitik" for you.
The Los Angeles Times article goes on to list Bush's record of non-achievements in his pursuit of global "democracy":
"The Bush administration has watched Egypt abrogate elections, ignored the collapse of the so-called Cedar Revolution in Lebanon and abandoned Chinese dissidents; now Washington is mulling a peace treaty with Stalinist North Korea."
The mare's nest of pragmatism and its consequences grows nastier, thicker and more perilous. When will Bush have his own "reality check" and grasp the true nature of our enemies? When we experience another September 11th?
Bush, at his second inauguration, stated: "The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world." The first half of this statement is not strictly true; liberty in America can succeed without it succeeding elsewhere in the world. But what if the rest of the world rejects the peace that freedom can bring, and chooses the "peace" of submission, tyranny or conquest?
The world, indeed, is being made safe, but not for freedom.
Edward Cline is the author the Sparrowhawk series of novels set in England and Virginia during the Revolutionary period, the detective novel First Prize, the suspense novel Whisper the Guns and of numerous other published articles, book reviews and essays.
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