“Decadence begins,” wrote the French thinker, Denis de Rougemont, “when people no longer ask, ‘What are we going to do?’ but rather ask, ‘What is going to happen to us?’ ”
Well, which is it? What is the national mood? Is America a fortress, an empire or a beacon? Or all three? Never before has one single country, not even 19th-century Britain, been seen to embody all three visions.
Whether we like it or not, the United States is a beacon to the world and will continue to be. The world’s leading immigration target is the U.S. with Europe second. The Statue of Liberty, we recall, was the literal beacon that inspired the tragedy and heroism of Tiananmen Square. Defense Secretary Robert Gates knew what he was talking about when in his earlier role as CIA director he revealed that the United States was the chief target of industrial espionage operations.
Despite the crime statistics, America has a deep-rooted stability that makes it possible for people to live together in some kind of harmony, at best, or tolerance, at worst. Elsewhere there are cries for separatism, irredentism, secession, autonomy, independence, sovereignty, rectification of borders, often to the accompaniment of car bombs.
Professor Kenneth Waltz has written that in “all of modern history the structure of international politics has changed but once.” And that was at the end of World War II when the structure went from multipolar to bipolar - namely the United States and the Soviet Union. And now there is no Soviet Union, so we must update Professor Waltz.
Technically, there is still bipolarity - the United States and the European Union but the EU allegiance have yet to be tested.
What is significant about the last 60-some years is that while since 1945 there have been some 200 wars and conflicts (depending on definitions) not a single war has been fought between two democracies. Actually no wars have ever been fought between nations with freely elected governments since 1787 when the United States was formed. As Professor R.J. Rummel has written: “When two nations are stable democracies, no wars occur between them. In all the wars from 1814 to the present, there has been no war between stable democracies. For all the large or small wars since 1945, no one has pitted democracies against one another.”
Professor Lewis F. Richardson, whose pioneering work “Statistics of Deadly Quarrels” remains a classic, has written that “similarity, equality and cooperation generally make for amity rather than enmity.”
The great Edmund Burke foresaw this in his “Letters on a Regicide Peace”: “Nothing is so strong a tie of amity between nations and nation as correspondence in law, customs, manners and habits of life. They have more than the force of treaties in themselves. They are obligations written in the heart.”
That is why President Bush should continue his support of global democratic advancement. It would enhance the presidential debates if Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama were to speak as one that a major attribute of American foreign policy is to support democracies, even fledglings, wherever they are and whenever they sprout.
Arnold Beichman, a research fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, is a columnist for The Washington Times.