Tuesday, September 2, 2008

American Power

(First Published on 04/06/07)

Today I began reading Edmund Morris's "Theodore Rex", the second in Morris's exhaustive three part biography of Theodore Roosevelt. The first volume, "The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt", won the Pulitzer Prize in 1980. This volume covers Roosevelts's presidency (1901-1909). Morris touches upon T.R.'s views of American Power in the preface. This leads me to discuss the greatness of T.R.'s vision of the future, how America and the world has benefitted from it, and America's status today as the lone "Superpower."
There are some who are uncomfortable with America's power as compared to other nations. Some believe we are not to be trusted with such power; some lament the fact that we are a superpower at all. There are those within the Church who think that America's current military and economic strength is in violation of God's Word. Others within the Church, such as myself, believe that America's current position was thrust upon her. The combination of geography, natural resources, and the ambitions of other nations gave America no choice but to seek to become a World power. This fact was recognized by our Founding Fathers as well as succeeding generations. By 1900, T.R. and others realized that being a world power meant we had strategic interests all over the world. And as the Empires such as Britian, Russia and Germany had no more room to expand, it was foreseen by T.R. that these empires would wage war on each other to gain world supremecy. The U.S. and its southern neighbors would be targets; there was no way America could avoid the fight if it did not want to come under the domination of European powers. Roosevelt foresaw that Germany would be the major threat. That was why he was so intent on building the Panama Canal. To do so, the American government under his leadership took advantage of a revolution in Columbia; America used its power to carve a new nation, Panama, out of Columbian territory and then American companies went into the new nation to build the Canal. Roosevelt has been roundly criticized to this very day for his conduct. A decade later, Congress voted to apologize to Columbia. Yet in terms of military strategy, Roosevelt showed himself to have saved his country and the world by building the canal. Without it, we might be speaking German today. While T.R. could not have forseen the rise of the type of Empire as Nazi Germany, he still saw that Germany would be the main threat and that the Canal would be of supreme importance in terms of survival. Not only the nation, but the world owes him gratitude for his actions. No American political leader can pretend that we do not have interests overseas, nor can they completely forbid the use of American power except for the defense of our shores. Those who pretend otherwise will be overwhelmed by historical forces beyond their control and be forced to act. Morris quotes Roosevelt on the fate of "great nations": "The weak and stationary have vanished as surely as, and more rapidly than, those whose citizens felt within them the lift that impels generous souls to great and noble effort. This is only another way of stating the universal law of death, which is itself part of the universal law of life...While the nation that has dared to be great, that has the will and the power to change the destiny of the ages, in the end must die,...[it] really continues, though in changed form, to live forever more." T.R's vision of American interests abroad involved more than the aquisition of territory, according to Morris. Liberation and democratization was his goal for the entire western hemisphere. While America's conduct in other nations is not free from condemnation(the Mexican War comes to mind), it is hard to see how these nations could be enjoying the freedom they enjoy now without the presence of the United States. And to maintain this presence requires the U.S. to maintain its strategic interests all over the world. (Again, I am not using this as an excuse for abuses of power). This is not chest-thumping "America is always right" militaristic jingoism. This is just simple reality.

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