Monday, September 17, 2007

American Power Revisited.

Earlier this year I posted an article entitled "American Power." ( )The opinions expressed were inspired by my reading of the introduction to "Theodore Rex" by Edmund Morris. ( )The gist of the article was that Americans, even those who are Christians, need not be ashamed of America's super-power status. In fact, that power was thrust upon us by circumstances beyond the control of this nation, and that for the most part, that power has benefited the entire world. This is not jingoism, not a confusion between love of the flag and the love of the Cross. One must acknowledge the reality of this nation's power and pray that this power is exercised wisely for American interests while at the same time pray and work for the good of other nations and the extension of God's kingdom around the world. While proud of much of what the United States has done all over the world, I also pray that God's purposes be accomplished, no matter what befalls this nation as those purposes are realized. I am confident that one day this nation will be harshly judged for its abandonment of God in so many spheres. Even if abortion be outlawed again, this nation will have to pay the price for the blood of all unborn children whose lives have been snuffed out before birth. I will soon discuss these issues again in the context of the war against radical Islam in general and the Iraq war in particular.

In considering Roosevelt, he was obviously the right man to introduce American power on the world stage. His vision of the world was one in which the great empires had occupied almost every square inch of ground. They had no where else to expand, but into each other's territories. This made conflict among the powers inevitable. Neither side would allow the United States to remain neutral; each would try to manipulate America to its advantage with the hope of dominating the young country. Even at that time, Germany had designs upon America's Atlantic coast. The Japanese coveted portions of the western United States. The United States could not survive without naval bases on the coasts of other nations; nor could it last long without overseas markets for its goods. This necessitated a strong American naval presence around the world, which made the old empires want to impede, if not destroy the United States. Roosevelt understood the need to exercise power not only for the good of his own country, but for the benefit of the entire Western Hemisphere. He was not afraid of exercising power (unlike his predecessor, William McKinley). Also, among the world leaders of the time, he was the superior strategic thinker and tactician.

Today, many criticize Roosevelt for his conduct regarding Panama and the building of the canal. He had encouraged a revolution in Columbia that created the new nation of Panama so the U.S. could build the canal. While this seems unfair to Columbia, Columbia was trying to extort more and more money from the United States in exchange for the land to build the canal. This could have done severe damage to the U.S. economically because of the military and economic necessity in building the canal. The money would have gone to a corrupt government and would not have benefited ordinary Colombians. Those living in the region of Columbia where the canal was to be built would have suffered economically if the canal was not built; they were facing near starvation if the canal project fell through. The canal would not only benefit the commerce of the United States, it would also prove to be an economic boon to the entire region of Central and South America, allowing for higher standards of living. Of even greater importance, the canal had to be built from a military standpoint. Without the canal, America could not deploy forces around the world in a timely matter to defend itself against the old empires which were increasing their own military capacities. If the Panama Canal was not built, it is probable that the entire Western Hemisphere would have been dominated by brutal European powers and the democracy currently benefiting Central and South America would not have come into being. It is not idle speculation to wonder if the canal had not been built whether or not the United States could have effectively fought Nazi Germany.

Some historians have taken Roosevelt to task for meddling in the internal affairs of other countries in the Western Hemisphere. In particular, they criticize Roosevelt for forcing these nations to pay their debts that they owed to European countries. On the surface, it looked like a bigger nation unjustly interfering in weaker nations' affairs. Yet those European powers, particularly Germany, were using the non-payment of debts as justification for invading these countries. Had Germany or England been allowed to invade, they would have made these nations permanent satellites. The inhabitants of these debtor nations would have suffered as much cruelty as the inhabitants of European empires elsewhere. If one thinks thinks that this region has suffered much bloodshed in the twentieth century, had they become European colonies, the suffering among the people would have been even greater. By forcing countries to pay their debts, Roosevelt spared the United States from a war in which it could have lost parts of its own territory, which Germany in particular coveted. By pursuing such a policy toward the nations in this hemisphere, Roosevelt prevented the region from being dominated by colonial powers, reduced the misery many of these nations would experience during the twentieth century and helped pave the way for democracy to take route at the century's end.

One of my favorite Roosevelt actions was his sending the entire U.S. naval fleet around the world. The navy circled the globe in record time. Congress considered this just a publicity stunt and refused to allocate the funds for such an endeavor. Roosevelt sent the fleet anyway, forcing Congress to pay for the venture. This mission was the product of a superior tactician. The opinion of European governments was that the United States could not deploy naval forces quickly or keep large military formations intact over great distances. By proving them wrong, Roosevelt showed the world that the United States was a power to be reckoned with; that the United states would be capable of resisting European imperialism in the New World. This mission could not have been accomplished without the building of the Panama Canal.

There are some who characterize Theodore Roosevelt as an out of control President bent on exercising power just for the sake of it. The truth indicates otherwise. As Morris points out, Roosevelt was a skilled diplomat who more often diffused dangerous situations than deployed military forces. His skill in negotiating an end to the Russo-Japanese War won him a Nobel Peace Prize. The United States was fortunate to have a leader at that time who understood that power was not to be shunned, but exercised for the good. In fact, he realized that the nation could not avoid becoming a world power. Some of his successors were not so wise and almost made the U.S. and the world subject to the likes of Nazi Germany. While the record of the United States is in no way unblemished, it can be argued from history that its power has been used mostly for the good of all nations. And while being a world power makes some, including some Christians, queasy, the nation could not have survived without exercising its power. And the world would be a much more brutal place as a consequence. The United States had no choice but to be a super power. To acknowledge that God has a purpose in America assuming such a status is not equating America with God's kingdom. God has his purposes for the U.S., yet He has not revealed them to me or anyone I know. Yet I can sense from my reading of God's Word that there will be a day when this nation will be brought to an account for its culture and its actions. To understand God's judgement is coming is not to preclude celebrating the nation's achievements; in fact, such times allow us to acknowledge God's goodness to us. Nor are we precluded from using our power to ensure national survival and promote stability and safety world-wide.

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