American history repeats itself
I just finished reading Stephen Kinzer’s, “The True Flag“, and I suggest you do, too. It’s very timely given what’s happening with the Trump administration.
Essentially, the book is about the dawn of American imperialism when it decided at the end of the 19th century to get into the empire-building business and forcefully annexed the Phillipines, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Hawaii and Guam. At the time, the country was deeply divided in a debate over imperialism and anti-imperialism, which has now evolved into an identical debate of expansionism versus isolationism.
All of the current arguments are rehashes of the same ones that took place at the turn of the century, so nothing new there, although I must say that politicians were far more eloquent on both sides in the days when we didn’t have social media and Twitter!
An interesting parallel to now is the temperament of Teddy Roosevelt (an early Trump protege) and his puppet master Henry Cabot Lodge (who in today’s terms could be Bannon or Sessions). Roosevelt was keen to get into war and conquest by any means necessary and he was extremely successful at it, although he mellowed later, which is interesting, and tried to slow down what he’d already put in process years earlier.
If there’s anything more applicable to today, I would say the following. The public is easily manipulated by feelings and stirred by their personal media. In the interim hundred years, cool-headedness has not transpired. Politicians use coded language to pull the levers of these feelings on both sides. However, the Republicans at the time were particularly adept at doing so, while unabashedly showing their true hand in Washington. What they told the public was sanctimonious and pious, appealing to patriotism and national pride, while in smaller meetings they were extremely forthcoming in expressing the ulterior motive of creating new markets for their corporations and promoting an Anglo Saxon dominance over racially inferior peoples. The same thing happens today in regards to making America safe and great again. This is smoke and mirrors for ultra conservative policies that have a different agenda.
Interestingly, the current administration is behaving as if their are isolationist, while planning to expand the military.
Another insight given by Kinzer at the end is that none of the interventions promulgated by the US have ended well when you consider a longer timeline. Whatever looked good in the short-term has inevitably resulted in long term resentment and frequently come back to haunt the nation. WWII was an exception but it wasn’t a US war but an international one that it joined late in the game. Perhaps, it was the only really ‘just’ cause that the US ever engaged in. So many of the latter interventions resulted in creating the very problems that the US sought to prevent.
Food for thought.
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