A little paragraph in this morning’s paper claims that half the food consumed in the USA is produced by illegal immigrants. It’s a sort of hidden peasantry. Meanwhile the politicians and populace debate the question – feelings run high. So much for the Statue of Liberty. Was it ever different? The early prosperity of the nation was based upon slave (Black) labour.
The very success of America tends to blind it to its contradictions, At present I am reading Peter Beinart’s The Icarus Syndrome, a book about foreign policy and the hubris that follows success. In Greek mythology Icarus flew to close to the sun, the wax in his feathers melted and he plummeted to his death in the sea. Hubris is the Greek term for overwhelming pride and arrogance – a common fate for rulers – ask Kevin Rudd.
Beinart takes three case studies, Washington on the eve of the First World War, the Viet Nam war and the Iraq invasion. I’ve only read the introduction and am just up to the conclusion of World War 1. Woodrow Wilson’s idealism is clashing with Clemenceau’s realism. The Frenchman wanted an alliance and a guarantee against further German aggression, the American wanted a world order based on reason. Beinart argues that the hubris behind Wilson ignored human emotion and passion. The progressive dream had reached the stage that it over-reached.
The more I read history the more aware I become of the danger of applying a theory to events. Even more to future events. Entering a war means throwing the dice, how it falls is in the lap of the gods. Obama’s inherited two wars. He wants to tackle the immigration issue. There are Congressional elections this American fall. It’s all beyond the capabilities of one man and his chosen advisers. The world is beyond our will. .
Between them Wilson and Clemenceau sowed the seeds for Hitler and World War 11, an outcome neither man contemplated and both hoped to prevent.
Off the Shelf
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