Big title, but when history repeats itself– shouts at us — we better listen.
It’s always tricky to discuss providence and the course of history in detail. If Washington providentially dodged bullets in his time fighting with the British, then one can ask why providence didn’t smile on Lincoln.
So I propose, instead, not to get lost in the weeds of history, but to take a look at it from thirty thousand feet.
Let’s do a quick review of how the world works internationally, but with the initial focus on the Greater Middle East, and then turning westward.
It’s been like this since recorded history.
Can the left—and even the isolationist right—see it?
Here is the flow of history in a nutshell:
Sumerians – Akkadians – Egyptians (the Old, Middle, New Kingdoms and Late Period) – Amorites – Hammurabi, first king of Babylon – Hittites – Hurrians – Assyrians – Babylonians – Persians – Greeks and Alexander and Hellenistic Period – and Romans.
Now let’s turn to more recent times and closer to home.
Byzantines – Islamic armies that conquered huge territories – Crusades respond to Islamic threat, but only modestly successful – Rise of Western European nation states – Balance of Powers (Great Britain, Holland, France, Spain, Portugal, Holy Roman Empire, Russia) – Great Britain emerging dominant while our nation is founded – Napoleon – More Balance of Powers – WWI – America rising – WWII – New Balance of Power: China, Soviet Union, and America – Communism implodes or declines – America is only remaining super power.
We omitted a lot from the string of power struggles, and many of the ones listed here overlap.
But in each of those struggles, kingdoms and nations weakened and vacuums were left or forced open, and the next nation filled them.
Then each nation-state imposed its own version of world order, differing in quality.
One thing is certain: no individual (except One) has achieved moral perfection. A collection of individuals forms a society and then a nation. This collection of flawed humans – now a nation – needs to be kept in check by law, while allowing maximum liberty. Tough to do, but our Constitution helps
So it is our turn now to be the leader – or the policeman – of the world. But what kind of world order do we impose? I suggest life and liberty under the rule of law. These are the best social virtues for all nations in the world, if they would only recognize it.
These are the questions and challenges I get from students or I read online or hear in the media.
Let’s answer them.
- But isn’t this historical “flow” Nietzsche’s Will to Power or the evolutionary impulse to dominate?
Probably. I’m confident that a glance at India and China throughout their long history would confirm it too. This just seems to be how the world works, like it or not.
Now, however, we got beta males in power in the West, so the alpha males around the globe sniff out the weakness and exercise their Will to Power or evolutionary impulses and attack us.
If we buck the flow by not realizing that it’s now America’s turn to be the super-power, then we misread the world through the left’s utopian lenses and loathing of their own country. And this opens the door to bad things—like the needless capitulations in the Iran deal and the growing ISIS terrorist attacks.
- But what about slavery a hundred and sixty-five years ago? Doesn’t that diminish our moral standing around the globe today?
Name me a major nation back then (e.g. the UK, France, Spain, Portugal and even African peoples) that wasn’t involved in the abominable human trade.
And a little perspective: Between 1526 and 1810, the New World imported 12 million slaves. But British North America took in 427,000 of them in those years, less than five percent.
We fought a Civil War and passed the Thirteenth Amendment abolishing slavery. Progress. I’m glad I live today, for some of my ancestors owned slaves.
No, I’m not in any way dismissing slavery in our nation, but my point is that America was not uniquely and completely bad at that time in history.
- But in our rise to power, what about a massacre in the Philippines, at the turn of the last century?
If there is any criminal atrocity, the soldiers and their commanders should be prosecuted. But going with the flow of history doesn’t always have lead to atrocities by individual soldiers.
- But what about all the innocent people who die in war?
No one likes that. And we develop technology and more refined rules of warfare that nations throughout time had overlooked, but today we can only hope we limit the number of civilian casualties.
- But the Vietnam War was needless and fruitless—imperialism!
For who? The Vietnamese who were about to be engulfed in communist oppression? We had some success in Korea, stopping Chinese and Soviet aggression and expansion. We still send our soldiers there to hold back the forces of darkness along the Demilitarized Zone. This nighttime satellite photo of the peninsula shows how we benefit that part of the world.
We were trying to do the same in Vietnam. Then the left got their hands on foreign affairs, we withdrew, and the communists swamped the zone and slaughtered a million innocents. They were at the end engulfed by communism.
- But isn’t imperialism itself just plain bad–like paying poverty wages?
What if we reject the leftist label “imperialism” and call it “peace and progress and prosperity to the planet”?
The fact is that since 1980, world poverty has declined and prosperity has gone up. But if a nation sees a problem with the wages, it needs to pass a law giving workers a livable wage.
If we withdraw, we leave a vacuum. Who will fill it? ISIS? Hardly. They’re a paper tiger.
China will fill the vacuum, as we see a new balance of powers between us and them emerging. They don’t share our value of liberty
- But if the left misreads the world, why is President Hollande attacking ISIS?
A conservative was once a liberal who got mugged by reality. France got mugged by the Paris attacks, and he woke up from his dream world.
How many more ISIS attacks before Obama wakes up from his?
- But isn’t peace and love better than war and hate?
Virtues are always better than vices—not that war is always a vice, when one needs to be fought.
This historical survey teaches me that the world is a rough place. I don’t think we should put our head in the sand and ignore the world as it is.
- But we shouldn’t have been in Iraq in the first place.
Maybe, maybe not. But please don’t believe the lie that Iraq before 2003 was a paradise. The graves of hundreds of thousands have been uncovered, the casualties of Saddam’s brutal regime. Lots of Democrats believed he had WMDs and favored regime change.
Misreading the world, as leftists typically do, Obama withdrew our military from Iraq and left a vacuum, against the advice of generals and other experts; so bad people filled it.
Though it is counterintuitive to the leftist, knee-jerk impulse against “imperialism” (i.e. bringing peace and prosperity to the world), we should have planted a military base for the next hundred years in Iraq, to keep the peace—much like we still have them in Korea, Japan, and Germany.
- But … but I wish the world wasn’t like this!
Wishing doesn’t make it so. The fact is the world is like this.
Whatever you do, don’t run for high political office. Or you’ll behave like leftists, misread the world, and worse, misread America’s place in it, and increase international danger—all while feeling good about yourself because you believe in peace and love.
Time to wrap this up.
The left blames America for the world’s trouble; if only she would lead from behind, then the world would be a better place.
It’s our turn now.
The world needs us—as long as we fight for life and liberty, two social virtues that the world is hungry for, more than ever, whether it realizes this or not.
To deny this is to deny how the world works.