Daniel N. White
The best ever analysis of the United States’ strategic position comes from a speech Abraham Lincoln made in Springfield, Illinois, in 1858 if my memory serves me rightly, at the annual Springfield Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner. Lincoln got to talking about the United States and its position in the world, and said:
“All the armies of Europe, each led by a Napoleon, could not, if we chose to dispute the issue, take a drink of water from the Ohio River.”
Absolutely true then, when the population of the US was roughly 32 million and the US ended for all practical purposes at the Mississippi River. And it is equally true today.
Alone among the world’s powers, we are secure from invasion by our continental position, shielded by two oceans. Nobody of course sees that nowadays; we are drinking the foul waters of militarism from a poisoned chalice, and we seem to be doing so enthusiastically and willingly. I don’t myself hold out much hope; we must be taught a hard lesson and perhaps then we will learn. But there is no certainty that we will learn, and that will make the future all that much harder for everyone.
In this country we remain fixated still on the Second World War, and that fixation is doing us grave wrong in our world today. The Second World War was the rarest of events in history, one where one side was clearly and grossly in the wrong. Winston Churchill’s description of Nazism, from one of his speeches during the Blitz, said that the victory of Nazism would bring forth a new dark ages made worse by the application of perverted modern science. Churchill was absolutely right–the Nazi experiments on the Jews in the camps with sterilization–the Poles and the Russians were the targets there, as the Jews were already targeted for immediate extirpation–and they would in all their tens of millions have been wiped from the face of the earth within a generation by a Nazi victory. The Japanese killed, according to some current estimates, 50 million Chinese during their wars there from the 1930s to 1945, and would have continued to kill however many tens of millions more to fulfill their goal of enslaving China, had they not been stopped.
The Nazis and Imperial Japan had to be stopped. But since then America’s numerous wars have been ones of choice, fought in the farthest and most distant corners of the globe, fought for puerile and shallow reasons that often enough our own leadership do not privately themselves believe. Increasingly they are mismanaged wars at that, criminally so in our present ones.
Whatever our crimes are now, we aren’t as bad as the Nazis. That being said, that doesn’t make us inherently good. The key question is whether or not we, and not the Nazis, by our embrace of militarism and perpetual war, are in fact bringing forth a new dark ages–paved with our allegedly good intentions–a new dark ages made worse by the application of perverted modern science–the so-called information technology revolution.
That is my fear, one we should all think about this Memorial Day 2014.
Daniel N. White has lived in Austin, Texas, for a lot longer than he originally planned to. He reads a lot more than we are supposed to, particularly about topics that we really aren’t supposed to worry about. He works blue-collar for a living–you can be honest doing that–but is somewhat fed up with it right now. He will gladly respond to all comments that aren’t too insulting or dumb. He can be reached at Louis_14_le_roi_soleil@hotmail.com.