« Kerry Promises to Sign Form 180 On Meet The Press | Main | Your Daily Crossword Challenge »

February 01, 2005

Fundamentally Dangerous Radicalism Of The Monrovian Kind?

Amid myriad characterizations of George Bush's inaugural speech as "Wilsonian" (Woodrow or Ronald, take your pick) Tom Wolfe argues in Sunday's NY Times that it was, in reality, the latest extension of the Monroe Doctrine:

SURELY some bright bulb from the Council on Foreign Relations in New York or the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton has already remarked that President Bush's inaugural address 10 days ago is the fourth corollary to the Monroe Doctrine. No? So many savants and not one peep out of the lot of them? Really?

He refers, of course, to the Roosevelt Corollary, which Wolfe summarizes thusly:

Theodore Roosevelt's corollary to President James Monroe's famous doctrine of 1823 proclaimed that not only did America have the right, à la Monroe, to block European attempts to re-colonize any of the Western Hemisphere, it also had the right to take over and shape up any nation in the hemisphere guilty of "chronic wrongdoing" or uncivilized behavior that left it "impotent," powerless to defend itself against aggressors from the Other Hemisphere, meaning mainly England, France, Spain, Germany and Italy.

The Roosevelt Corollary was later modified (but never cancelled out) by FDR's Good Neighbor policy and by the Lodge and Cabot Corollaries, which decreed that we would tolerate no control by foreign governments over territory in this half of the world and that, Communism being merely an extension of Soviet power, we would oppose it anywhere in Latin America.

All of these corollaries would be viewed as muscular assertions of American influence by modern standards: the sort of "reckless unilateralism" of which John Kerry would not approve.

True, the common thread in the preceding corollaries to James Monroe's famous Doctrine was that we would brook no interference on our side of the world. But our world is shrinking fast.

In Monroe's world, it took weeks to travel from Persia to Washington, D.C. Now, it takes hours. The idea that nineteen men with small knives could seize control of metal machines that soar through the clouds and aim them at buildings that touch the sky, turning them into fireballs and clouds of dust, was unimaginable to him. That they could kill 3,000 people in a matter of minutes would have boggled his mind.

Ruthless and evil men are nothing new. They existed in Monroe's time.

It is technology that has changed our lives - and the way we think - in dramatic ways. These men have means at their disposal that could not have been anticipated two hundred years ago.

And we, too, have changed. Our lives are so much easier than they were then. Technology insulates us from the harsh costs of inaction and complacency. Two hundred years of freedom have made us soft. We do not appreciate the rights our forebears bled for. On Sunday the Iraqis braved bombs, RPGs, and gunfire to go to the polls. Americans cannot, too often, be bothered to brave a traffic jam. We complain about the Patriot Act, yet how many of us have even read it?

Last week I was struck once again by the jarring contrast between the language the Left uses to portray our leaders and our military - "aggressive, ruthless, militaristic, reckless, imperialistic" - and the reality I am confronted with: a President who speaks of spreading freedom and of the right of all people, even those whose skin is a different color, who worship a different God, to live free from fear. A military who take grievous casualties because they are not willing to shell a mosque, or wound a child.

These are values one would think the Left would embrace.

Driving back from a recent event, I reflected on the contrast between the popular conception of Marines: tough, cigar-chewing, macho, arrogant... and the reality I had just seen in a variety of combat-hardened Generals. Men who teared up freely when they spoke of those who died, and their debt to those who had followed them into battle. Men who were, quite often, not physically imposing, even bookish in appearance. Who spoke of poets. Of Pindar. Of the need to balance ferocity with chivalry. Of how they love children. Of their wives.

But they are monsters. They are ugly.

There is tremendous ugliness in the world. And you don't fight ugliness with flowers and candy. You meet it with strength and resolve. And you try with all your might not to become that which you oppose.

In a world where cynical and lawless men strap bombs to women and teenaged boys, in a universe where the battlefield is no longer confined to the deserts of Iraq and Afghanistan, but shifts with dizzying speed to the Manhattan offices of Cantor-Fitzgerald, the question becomes not, "Will you fight?" but, "What are you willing to fight for?"

For the Left, the answer to that question seems to be, "Nothing".

Not our way of life, not freedom, not our ideals. Nothing, apparently, is worth the candle anymore.

On Sunday, half a world away, a devasting riposte was issued to the Left. Millions of Iraqis held up their ink-stained fingers and, grinning like fools, said, "This is worth fighting for". Millions of Iraqis who walked to the polls, defying not only the threats of cowards who want to control them, but the effete sneers of Western journalists, said, in effect, "this is worth dying for", quite literally.

The Iraqis have passed the first great test.

I'd say they're "ready for democracy".

Also commenting:

A Certain Slant Of Light

Southern Appeal

Always Right

Posted by Cassandra at February 1, 2005 06:50 AM

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry:


Great job (and I'm not just sucking up because you thrashed me over Andrew Sullivan:)).

On the matter of diplomatic history and whether Bush is more Wilsonian than Adamsian (John Adams being the true architect of the American idea that we should have this hemisphere to ourselves), the critical book to read is John Lewis Gaddis, Surprise, Security and the American Experience. Gaddis' thesis is that Bush has fused the Adamsian and Wilsonian traditions in American strategy, and in this has become the first real innovator in American strategy since FDR. It is a very short and crisp collection of essays, really, but it is far more charitable to Bush than one might expect from a Yale historian.

Posted by: Jack at February 1, 2005 08:08 AM

I noted you'd read Gaddis' book and was extremely jealous - I have been dying to read him since last February when I started blogging. He was flogging his theory that Bush was the first architect of a grand new American strategy, and that fascinated me (not enough to make me actually get off my tuckus and buy his book, mind you...) I still have a biography of Hamilton I haven't read, and I haven't finished my neo-con book by Strauss either.

I keep falling asleep or getting distracted by Marines at night.

Posted by: Cassandra at February 1, 2005 08:23 AM

"Why did you use the plural of Marine?""Look at this inkblot and tell me what you see"

signed, Sigmund Fraud

Posted by: Greg at February 1, 2005 11:47 AM

No marmoset for you, either!

Sometimes he just has so many hands it seems like there's more than one of them :)

Posted by: The Marmoset Nazi at February 1, 2005 12:04 PM

LMAO, good comeback.


Posted by: Greg at February 1, 2005 12:11 PM

Based upon Cass's essay above, the answer is simple. We must destroy all technology.

Posted by: KJ at February 1, 2005 01:59 PM

No KJ, the answer is "If you stand for nothing, you'll fall for anything".


Posted by: Greg at February 1, 2005 07:39 PM


Oh, good. I was dreading giving up my MP3.

Posted by: KJ at February 2, 2005 10:33 AM

Post a comment

Remember Me?

(you may use HTML tags for style)