What struck us as interesting this week was not money, but politics. One thought led to another. On Monday, we noticed that the war in Iraq seemed to be disappearing from America’s newspapers! We don’t know, but we guess that Americans are getting tired of it.
Then on Tuesday, the day after George W. Bush spoke on the war and asked for a hundred million more to keep it going, apparently the International Herald Tribune found the event unworthy of coverage. We have been checking lately, and often on the front page of the paper, there is no mention of the war at all. What kind of strange war is this… that it doesn’t make the papers?
This morning, we have a new Theory of Modern Politics… but we will back up a bit to show you how we came up with it.
First, the Financial Times and other British papers carried the story – including a large, front-page photo of George W. Bush at the lectern. But what was that behind him? Why, it was a painting of Theodore Roosevelt… on a horse, as though he was leading a cavalry charge.
How appropriate, we thought. Poor George is caught in the same trap as Teddy. The buffoonish Rough Rider helped ride the United States of America into a number of pointless military adventures – mostly in malaria-ridden Latino banana republics that nobody cared about. American casualties were few and the bananas were plentiful. The public loved it, proclaiming T.R. a national hero.
But then came WWI. Roosevelt goaded, prodded, and pushed Professor Wilson to get into the war. Wilson hesitated, but then his vanity took over. He saw that the war could make him a hero too – not only of the war… but of all Western Civilization. He would save democracy from the Huns!
This war ultimately cost Wilson his health; he had a stroke after the Europeans and the Americans all turned on him. The French and British exploited him ruthlessly… the Americans simply had enough of him. But the war cost Teddy his own son, Quentin, who died fighting in it.
Both Wilson and Roosevelt were fools… but at least Roosevelt was the kind of fool Americans seemed to like – bullheaded, blustery, bellicose. As has been pointed out before, he had more in common with the Kaiser and the great colonialists such as Cecil Rhodes than with the ideals of the American nation. His philosophy of government was remarkably anti-American; he believed in the military values of Bismarck, and probably spent time reading Nietzsche, at least in balderdash version, when he was relaxing after a battle.
George Bush II, meanwhile, is a kind of thinner version of Roosevelt – both in physical and intellectual stature. Similarly descended from a patrician New England family… similarly educated among the wealthy elite… he has similarly taken up a vision of America as a Nation at Arms – with noble warriors ready to kick any butts that get in its way.
This would be a perfectly good attitude for a Kaiser, but for a man who aspires to lead the United States of America, it is awkwardly anti-America. Except for the fact that the voting public has fallen into a collective amnesia with regards to what the country is supposed to be, it would otherwise be cause for disqualification…and scorn.
“There are two currents in western thought that give rise to our modern conception of political philosophy,” writes our friend Michel, referring to the work of Michael Oakeshott. “There is the Individualist Theory and the Collectivist Theory.”
America was founded by people who believed the Individualist Theory – that a man ought to be free to do as he likes, more or less, so long as it doesn’t harm anyone else. In our founding documents, it even says that the individual – not the state – is sovereign. And for many years – about a century and a half – it was true. Americans were expected to look out for themselves, to find their own way in life, to do the best they could with what they had…and to leave their neighbors alone.
“Justice” was a term used to define the individual’s relation to the state. If he were accused of a crime, he should get justice. He shouldn’t be locked up without charges filed… and without a chance to defend himself (as are those poor bastards in Guantanamo). The U.S. Constitution came with a whole package of “Rights” that were intended to describe the just treatment of the individual by the state. He could worship whatever God he chose; he could say whatever he wanted, and so on…
But now we have a new kind of justice. George W. Bush went to Latin America and spoke about America’s commitment to ‘social justice.’
What kind of justice is this? We will find out… more on Monday…
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