June 04, 2006

Um, no, following Washington's advice would be a disaster

As the article states, Washington advocated armed neutrality. But using the Swiss as an example is rather unfortunate. The Swiss stayed out of the world wars, but that wasn't because Germany was afraid of their army. It was because they collaborated, both economically and politically, by doing such "neutral" things as turning back Jews at their border.

Would Washington have sat idly by while Germany and the USSR battled for Europe? The US would be at peace, perhaps, but it wouldn't be prosperous. The US prospers because the world economy is currently working in its favour. That is not a coincidence, but a result of its military and political preeminence since WWII. For instance, if the world starts trading in another currency than the dollar, the US will suffer. Not quickly, not drastically, but systematically, and forever. It will start the long process of leveling the playing field between the US economy and the rest of the world's.

While neutrality might have at least achieved peace at the expense of prosperity (and peace of mind), Washington's prescription of trading with everyone, no matter what, is simply horrible. Would Washington really have been selling tanks and supplies to both Britain, Germany and the USSR in WWII? Would he at least have let private US firms do it? Reagan did something similar in the Iran-Iraq war, supplying both sides, incidentally one of the great reasons that the US will never be trusted in either of these countries. Contrary to what the article states, Washington would not only send tankers and tourists to the Middle East, but also nuclear reactors, land mines, tanks, missiles, planes and cluster bombs. Delivered to anyone with money - Saddam as much as Sharon, Ahmedinedjad as much as Musharraf.

It is true that it would be unlikely that international terrorists would target the US if the US followed Washington's advice. After all, there would be no reason to, and why kill the goose that lays the golden eggs? Of course the US would sell weapons to terrorists, right? One man's terrorists are another mans freedom fighters, and - as Washington knew very well - todays ragtag rebel army can be tomorrow's government. Why pick sides? That would be interfering.

And of course, Washington would have been strongly in favor of encouraging religion in the US. With public money, if needed, since he believed that the Republic couldn't exist without virtuous people, and virtuous people are most easily created by supporting religion. Faith-based initiatives? Try witch hunts.

No, Washington would be an isolationist, unscrupulously commercial, religious-right republican if he were alive today. The fact that even he would probably not have agreed with much of Bush's actions does not mean that anti-Bush forces should promote his ideology.


Blogger Worried said...

One would expect the exercise of a little common sense regarding trade, humanitarianism, etc.. I do not imagine that Washington ever imaged such scenarios, but I do think he could imagine State leaders acting with intelligence. Are Bushco policies intelligent?

12:51 AM  
Blogger Endorendil said...

Hi worried, thanks for commenting.

Intelligent is a rather loaded word. Bushco is intelligent enough to get things done his way, to a frighteningly large degree. The administration certainly was better at judging what it could get away with than I. So yes, I do think they're an intelligent bunch. One can argue that they are immoral, that they are misguided, but it's hard to argue that they are dumb.

I'm not sure that their actions on trade have been without common sense either. Yes, current policies favour the upper class, but that is consistent with their general approach, and with the eminently practical observation that the lower classes in the US aren't prepared to revolt. Not sure that Washington would have done anything differently either, since he was a big free trade proponent.

On the humanitarian side, one can argue that the big mistake was to leave Saddam in power in '91, and throughout the Clinton years, with those (very unhumanitarian) sanctions in place. War isn't inhumanitarian per se.

11:01 AM  

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