Saturday, October 9, 2004

The biggest yet unspoken reason for the permanent anti-Americanism of West European governments and their elites is this:

Since 1776, the once 13 Colonies have traveled the road of democracy, a form of government we owe to the Greeks, to John Locke, to Montesquieu. And we have never deviated from that course, even in the worst days of the Civil War and President Lincoln’s suspension of democratic liberties.

We were not only the first new nation, we were also the first new democratic nation, which allowed in 1800 for a peaceful transfer of power from President John Adams to President-elect Thomas Jefferson as the result of a democratic election.

In fact, with the end of the Civil War we broadened that democracy by enfranchising onetime slaves. And by later granting women’s suffrage we doubled the country’s potential voters. Despite all kinds of political appeals and third party utopian efforts, we adhered to a democratic faith.

How different is the story for Europe. Tragically for world peace, especially in the 20th century — while we remained true to the democratic course — Europe experimented with all kinds of polities, political creeds as alternatives to democracy. Here’s the alphabetical list I’ve constructed :

Absolutism, anti-Semitism, Caesarism, civil war, class war, clericalism, communism, fascism, falangism, feudalism, hereditary and constitutional monarchies, militarism, Nazism, socialism, united frontism.

Otto von Bismarck once said fools learn from their mistakes, wise men from the mistakes of others. That applied to the American polity. We learned from Europe’s mistakes and in more than two centuries avoided those mistakes.

For example, we have never had a Labor Party or a significant Socialist Party. Our national labor organizations, the AFL and the CIO and the merged AFL-CIO neither preached nor practiced class warfare nor evidenced any Marxist influence. Historically, European labor movements were heavily indebted to Marxism and in some cases, as in postwar France and Italy, indebted to V.I. Lenin and Josef Stalin as well.

We never had a significant fascist or militarist movement in America, which Europe’s democracies, Britain and France, and Eastern and Central Europe, did.

We have had our failures, as witness our entry into World War I, arguably unnecessary. But despite all kinds of propaganda for revolution, American voters who listened to the soapboxers were unpersuaded. They truly exemplified the words of an early 20th-century German economist, Werner Sombart who published an article titled, “Why is there no socialism in the United States?” His answer came in a melodramatic metaphor: “On the reefs of roast beef and apple-pie, socialistic Utopias of every sort are sent to their doom.”

Since the French Revolution in 1789, the European Continent has been soaked in blood and built on the bones of millions of soldier and civilian dead, thanks to the Balkan wars, the revolutionary wars, the mindless monarchs Wilhelm and Nicholas, the Hitler and Stalin genocides, and two utterly unnecessary world wars. Since the early 19th century, America became the destination of millions of European immigrants. Few Americans ever emigrated to Europe or Asia. On a small number of American draft-dodgers migrated to Canada during the Vietnam War.

Even more significantly, American military power was responsible for overthrowing these tyrannies: Nazism, fascism, communism, Eastern Europe, Saddam Hussein, Nicaraguan Sandinistas, El Salvador communists, Grenada and Japanese militarism. American military power prevented the takeover of South Korea by Kim Il-sung and the takeover of Taiwan by mainland China. The Truman Doctrine saved Greece and Turkey from Soviet aggression.

Without American military and economic power, we would have a different world today. And we did this in the spirit of 13 precious words of Alfred T. Mahan, the great U.S. naval strategist: “The objective of military power is to allow moral ideals to take root.” That’s why we’re in Iraq.

Arnold Beichman, a Hoover Institution research fellow, is a columnist for The Washington Times. His updated biography “Herman Wouk, the Novelist as Social Historian,” has just been published.

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