November 25, 2005

Charles Krauthammer, chain-yanker

Charles Krauthammer, chain-yanker: Most of our pundits enjoy the moral advantage of not being smart enough to realize when they are misleading the public. They actually believe the talking points they are passing on. The disadvantage of being a smart pundit, like Charles Krauthammer, is that there must be a little voice inside his head that complains, "C'mon, Chuck, you know you're yanking the public's chain on this one." But, Krauthammer soldiers on. Today, he composes a novel argument in favor of the Bush Doctrine:

But Washington has a second distinction, more subtle and even more telling about the nature of America: its many public statues to foreign liberators. I'm not talking about the statues of Churchill and Lafayette, great allies and participants in America's own epic struggles against tyranny. Everybody celebrates friends. I'm talking about the liberators who had nothing to do with us. Walk a couple of blocks from Dupont Circle at the heart of commercial Washington, and you come upon a tiny plaza graced by Gandhi, with walking stick. And perhaps 100 yards from him, within shouting distance, stands Tomas Masaryk, the great Czech patriot and statesman...

Masaryk, in formal dress and aristocratic demeanor, has nothing in common with the robed, slightly bent Gandhi with whom he shares the street, except that they were both great liberators and except that they are honored by Americans precisely for their devotion to freedom.

Farther up the avenue stands Robert Emmet, the Irish revolutionary, while one block to the west of Masaryk looms a massive monument to a Ukrainian poet and patriot, Taras Shevchenko....

Discount if you will (as fashionable anti-Americanism does) the Statue of Liberty as ostentatious self-advertising or perhaps a relic of an earlier, more pure America. But as you walk the streets of Washington, it is harder to discount America's quiet homage to foreign liberators -- statues built decades apart without self-consciousness and without any larger architectural (let alone political) plan. They have but one thing in common: They share America's devotion to liberty. Liberty not just here but everywhere. Indeed, liberty for its own sake.

America has long proclaimed this principle, but in the post-Sept. 11 era, it has pursued it with unusual zeal and determination. Much of the world hears America declare the spread of freedom the centerpiece of its foreign policy and insists nonetheless that America's costly sacrifices in Iraq and even Afghanistan are nothing more than classic imperialism in search of dominion, oil, pipelines or whatever such commodity most devalues America's exertions. The overwhelming majority of Americans refuse to believe that. Whatever their misgivings about the cost and wisdom of these wars, they know how deep and authentic is the American devotion to liberty.

But of course, as Krauthammer knows perfectly well, the men honored in the statues, and others he mentions, such as Garibaldi and Mazzini, were nationalists, typically struggling to resist foreign invaders. And of course, the United States did nothing to help them, other than to furnish them with an example of a nation throwing off foreign rule. Putting up statues of foreign patriots for whom we did nothing militarily is not the embodiment of the George W. Bush Doctrine, but of its diametrical opposite, the John Quincy Adams Doctrine:

"America does not go abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own."

Similarly, Krauthammer must know that he's blowing smoke in this sentence:

Discount if you will (as fashionable anti-Americanism does) the Statue of Liberty as ostentatious self-advertising or perhaps a relic of an earlier, more pure America.

Uh, Chuck, the Statue of Liberty can't be "ostentatious self-advertising" or "a relic of an earlier, more pure America" because, as he knows perfectly well, we didn't build it. It was a gift from (horror of horrors!) the French to thanks us for the example we set for France and the world by our American Revolution -- the Quincy Adams Doctrine transposed to France.

You'll note that French gratitude toward us was highest back after they had intervened militarily at Yorktown to help liberate us. As Ben Franklin observed, "He that has once done you a kindness will be more ready to do you another than he whom you yourself have obliged." That's why the French gave us the Statue of Liberty, when, really, we should have given them something for saving us.

Thus, after we'd intervened militarily to save France in WWI ("Lafayette, we are here!" proclaimed General Pershing's aide in Paris on July 4, 1917) and WWII, French feelings of thankfulness toward us shriveled.

Similarly, liberating Iraq from Saddam Hussein has not made Iraqis like us, because it just shows them how much more powerful we are than them.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

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