The Nossiter Net
The net that shall enmesh them all
Edited, Written, and Published by Josh Nossiter
Out With the Old
Thursday, September 7th, 2006
The Nossiter Net is cast  to snare some of  the riper rascalities of the day.  Comments?  editor@nossiter.net
In recent speeches, George W. Bush and his top cabinet members have outlined a radical vision of twenty-first century America.  The state Mr. Bush is intent on creating is not your father’s U.S.A.

In its foreign relations, the old U.S. revered, even if it did not always follow, the doctrine first articulated by George Washington in his farewell address:  “Observe good faith and justice towards all Nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all. Religion and Morality enjoin this conduct; and can it be, that good policy does not equally enjoin it? It will be worthy of a free, enlightened, and, at no distant period, a great Nation, to give to mankind the magnanimous and too novel example of a people always guided by an exalted justice and benevolence. Who can doubt, that, in the course of time and things, the fruits of such a plan would richly repay any temporary advantages, which might be lost by a steady adherence to it ?”*

A people always guided by an exalted justice and benevolence.  That’s how old U.S.A. saw itself, however often we failed in our “steady adherence” over the two and a tenth centuries after Washington’s address.  But exalted justice and benevolence are the philosophical parents of the UN, the post war
pax Europeana, a peaceful Japan, the World Bank, among other boons.  The doctrine of exalted justice and benevolence made the U.S. the destination of choice for generations of immigrants fleeing poverty, injustice, and war.  It made us treat fairly such deadly enemies as the Nazis, once we had them vanquished.  It led us to think that by acting better than the rest of the world, we would in fact be better, as well as better off.  And in general,  Washington’s forecast was accurate.  Exalted justice and benevolence have repaid the U.S, the wealthiest and most powerful nation on earth, richly indeed.

Better off we may be, but any claim we had to being better than others has been repudiated by the Bush administration.  In the same way that Rumsfeld dismissed the post-WWII consensus as “Old Europe,”  the old U.S.A. of the founders is being consigned to the scrap heap of history.  In bellicose speeches to carefully chosen audiences, Rice, Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld himself have expressed a view of the world, and of our place in it, that is the antithesis of Washington’s vision.

The Bush doctrine maintains that we are engaged in a perpetual war against unseen foes who will fight to the death and whose goal is our annihilation.  Far from benevolence, our posture must be one of unremitting hostility not only to those unseen foes, nor only to the states that support them, but hostility to every nation that does not agree with us.  In order to win battles (not the war, for it is endless), we not only reject “exalted justice,” the higher standard Washington declared would richly repay us, we will instead adopt the very standards of our foes.  We will deny due process to those we capture and abuse them at will.  We will be heedless of civilian casualties in pursuit of our goals.  We will treat our own forces as expendable resources to be consumed without restraint.  We will spy on our own people and restrict their freedoms as we deem necessary.  All dissenters are appeasers (Rumsfeld), would-be slave holders (Rice), anti-American, unpatriotic, weak, and wish our country, not our enemies, ill (Bush and Cheney.)

Washington’s sagacity is proven by the fact that our greatest stumbles have occurred when we abandoned benevolence and exalted justice.  By not “observing good faith and justice towards nations,” Korea, Vietnam, Iran, and Chile, to name but a few, we damaged ourselves as well as others.  Sometimes the damage has been catastrophic and lingering, as with Vietnam, which left three countries in ruins while slaughtering tens of thousands of our own young to no purpose.  Many survivors of that fiasco, whom we left to fend for themselves, haunt our doorways and sidewalks today, the shameful reminders of our failure to be true to our own principles.

In other cases ignorance, recklessness, delusional objectives and imaginary fears, what Washington described as policy that “adopts through passion what reason would reject,” led us to sow winds whose whirlwind we reaped only years later.  The CIA sponsored overthrow of Mossadegh in Teheran in 1953, and Iran’s present deadly animus, is a topical example.

Iraq is only the latest consequence of straying from George Washington’s benevolence and exalted justice.  But Iraq differs from former missteps in one crucial regard.  This time we were led astray by a president who views the consequent bloody morass not as a misstep at all.  Instead Iraq is the exemplar of a new doctrine to replace Washington’s, the Bush doctrine.  Malevolence and debased justice about sums it up.

* http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/washing.htm


©Joshua C. Nossiter, 2006
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