01 March 2003

American Idealism and the World

The United States was founded on certain principles 226 years ago. These principles form the basis of our country’s identity, and to a certain extent our own individual outlook on life. While we continue to live our lives without thinking about these principles, it is important from time to time to consider how they impact us today.

This country was founded on the ideals found in the Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these, are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” As we know, these ideals were not able to be realized by some portions of the American population, and over time we have been able to correct our failings by using these ideals as a framework for these corrections. An example of this was the African-American Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. Using the rhetoric of “all men are created equal” and that all people have “inalienable rights”, Dr. Martin Luther King was able to attach the Civil Rights Movement to the Greater Good to which America’s ideals are a foundation. Today we see other corrections being made to on our path by using these same ideals as a foundation to the cause at hand.

America began as a haven for those who wanted religious freedoms, and has continued until today as a haven for those fleeing from political and religious persecution, as well as a place to build a financial future. We have yet to see a group of American citizens on a raft to Haiti seeking a better life.

While all this is true, we now see Americans looking to the rest of the World to determine our path. Recently this has taken the form of looking to the United Nations to be our guide.

Why is this? Is the United States unable to decide what our own best interests are that we are required to ask the rest of the World to check? We live in a new World that has never been seen before. The United States is the only superpower in the World today. We are unrivaled by any other country. According to Charles Krauthammer, a journalist for the Washington Post, “Today the American military exceeds in spending the next twenty countries combined...Its dominance extends as well to every other aspect of international life - not only military, but economic, technological, diplomatic, cultural, even linguistic...”

So here we are. The only Superpower of the World, and asking for directions. The United States has been told that in order to carry on the war on terrorism, we need World public opinion behind us. This is a thought based on a moral vision of how the world works. A nice thought but irrelevant. Krauthammer explains that “...it is impossible to understand the moral logic by which the approval of the Security Council confers moral legitimacy on this or any other enterprise. How does the blessing of the butchers of Tiananmen Square, who hold the Chinese seat on the Council, lend moral authority to anything...? On what basis is moral legitimacy lent by the support of the Kremlin, whose central interest in Iraq...is oil and the $8 billion that Iraq owes Russia in debt? Or to the French, who did everything they could to weaken the resolution, then came on board at the last minute because they saw that an Anglo-American train was leaving for Baghdad, and they didn’t want to left at the station?”

Since the end of World War II, the United States has taken the lead in World Affairs, in showing what a government should be. A government limited by the laws that formed it. A government of the people, by the people, and for the people. This is a government and country where citizen efforts can and do make a difference.

We will not be dictated to by governments looking after their own self interests at the expense of our own. We will not be dictated to by those countries that trade in human bondage and treat their women worse than animals. We will not be dictated to by those countries that run telethons to raise money for terrorist organizations. We will not be dictated to by those countries who have no moral compass. We will be the ones to decide what path to take by using the ideals upon which our country was created. We will not be asking for directions along the way.

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