Thursday, October 21, 2004

We Are the World

John Kerry's defense policy is the subject of a Washington Post article which may have been intended as hagiographic but whose effect will probably vary with the eye of the beholder. It portrays the candidate as a complex man; in that he sometimes agreed with Richard Nixon; in that he believed in military persistence on occasion; in that he believed in cutting military budgets at other times. But the one simple belief which Senator Kerry consistently carried throughout the course of his long public life was the conviction that America should never, if possible, go it alone.

NATO and the United Nations appear to be touchstones for the Democratic nominee, not just the troublesome hurdles that they appear to be to President Bush. In speeches over the years, Kerry repeatedly has denounced unilateral action.

Kerry's belief in working with allies runs so deep that he has maintained that the loss of American life can be better justified if it occurs in the course of a mission with international support. In 1994, discussing the possibility of U.S. troops being killed in Bosnia, he said, "If you mean dying in the course of the United Nations effort, yes, it is worth that. If you mean dying American troops unilaterally going in with some false presumption that we can affect the outcome, the answer is unequivocally no."

This will be cause for joy among those who feel that on principle, America should subsume its national interest to a wider set of imperatives. 'America joins the world', 'No longer alone' is the ticket. The argument is based on a rejection of American "exceptionalism", and indeed the exceptionalism of any individual country or culture. If all cultures are equally valid then the US Constitution is nothing special; simply one arrangement among many and in fact perforce subordinate to a Universal Charter, in the way that a subset is necessarily contained in the superset. Any distaste is written off as sentimental attachment; a false ethnocentrism that will eventually join anthrocentrism and geocentrism in the wastebasket of old ideas. To necessity is added the force of inevitability. Iraq becomes a modern day Scopes Trial, the last hurrah of an insupportable conceit.

Nor is there anything to be alarmed at, we are assured. 'One World' may be a goal, but a distant goal, comfortably arrived at in stages. Nothing will be missed. Nothing essential really. It will all happen so gradually as to be imperceptible, except to bigots, who are always noticing something. The process will consist of a slow expansion of international understandings and a gradual diminution of individual action. Nations will habituate themselves to deferring to a Higher Good until it becomes unthinkable to do otherwise. We can take our time -- provided, and this is essential -- provided there are no questions about the eventual destination. It is breathtaking as a concept, and might be described as a second American Revolution; one we are witnessing now.

Imagine there's no countries,
It isn't hard to do,
Nothing to kill or die for,
No religion too,
Imagine all the people
living life in peace...

You may say I'm a dreamer,
but I'm not the only one,
I hope some day you'll join us,
And the world will live as one.
-- John Lennon