"The Best Defense is a Strong Offense."
That catchy phrase is so often used as a foundation for America's defense against terrorism.
To clean out the stables where violent schemes are hatched, to send American soldiers and bases abroad, to remake into peace loving American style democracies the autocratic societies where terrorism sprouts.
To transform the world into a reflection of American values.
Or, in the words of Woodrow Wilson, "to make the world safe for democracy."
FEAR of attack requires increased security and that requires increased power. Yet this growing power vigorously projected abroad increasingly makes America the target.
As the basing of US forces in Saudi Arabia following the Gulf war enraged Arab militants such as bin Laden. As American occupation of Iraq stirs the militant hunger for still more revenge against the United States.
More American FEAR completes the circle.
So a FEARFUL "war on terror" morphs into a struggle to build American supremacy in the Middle East.
Taking on fundamentalist Iran, the one potentially nuclear armed power that can present an overt challenge to a US trapped in an Iraq crater of its own making.
Shakily entrenched in Iraq to Iran's west and Afghanistan to the east, the Americans intensify their containment of Iran by building ties with Iran's northern neighbor, Azerbaijan, once a part of the Soviet Union.
FEAR. Listen to Columbia University international politics professor Robert Jervis:
"Fear is an enormous driver in international politics. Again, I go back to Thucydides, the cause of the Peloponesian Wars, the growth of Athenian power and the fear it created in others, what we call the security dilemma which is the way in which one country increases its power and makes others less secure. I think this isn't the root cause but it's one of the two or three root causes of international politics, and living in New York especially, you saw fear and what it did and what it does...
"You saw the Bush administration feel it in their gut, partly because there were all the stories about nuclear weapons planted in Washington. None of us knew this but I've heard enough now -- I don't know the sources, but they really did believe it. So, they felt the fear in their gut, and then I think they did manipulate it for their own purposes. International politics is a great home of fear."
FEAR merges with many traditions of American expansion.
The greatest period of American expansion followed the World War II defeat of Germany and Japan. "Remember Pearl Harbor" was a slogan which tranlated into into a "never again" vigilance against a possible Soviet attack. Massive armaments, global alliances and farflung bases transformed the U.S. into the world's number one power after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The political fault lines in debates on historic American expansionism go back to 1847 and 1898. The patterns are remarkably similar to today.
In the Mexican War of 1847 and the Spanish American War of 1898 American unilateralism challenged Europe's old order -- and asserted the right of American military power to shape important regions of the world.
Those two grand small wars pitted growing American power against yesterday's infidels, those seen to be barbaric remnants of Europe's Roman Catholicism.
In those great national near religious debates New England was so frequently the cradle of the anti-war camp -- and the South, including Texas, the place where religious fundamentalism and
military tradition provide the great wellspring for military expansion.
Living in the South helps to understand how deeply rooted in America is the expansionist religious, military tradition. A truly sacred part of American life, a deep, deep color in American history.
Christian based American expansionism often takes on a barbaric dictator such as Saddam the "Butcher of Baghdad," or Weyler "the Butcher of Havana," or the great Mexican tyrant once supported by the Americans -- Santa Anna of Mexico.
Human rights and the spreading of democracy is often powerful rhetoric and belief, a gateway for expansionist war.
The Mexican American war, begun to help slavery survive, proved a democracy could fight an offensive battle deep into the heart of Mexico. It brought Texas, the Southwest and California into the United States, in a grand expression of "manifest destiny." It was democracy's first expansionist war, aside from campaigns to defeat Indians.
The Spanish American war, fought in part to liberate Cuba from Spanish atrocities, brought America empire into Cuba and the Philippines. Made the US a player in the Pacific. Opened the door to World War II by beginning a growing American rivalry with Japan.
"Remember the Alamo," "Remember the Battleship Maine," "Remember Pearl Harbor," "Remember 9/11."
All were blood atrocities shrouded in murky dust, though their origins not always clear, which became the causa belli for the spreading of American power. When defense became a rationale for offense. The rallying cries for US military assaults on Mexico City, up San Juan Hill, through the streets of Baghdad.
War in Iraq: to weaken possible future sanctuaries for terrorists, strengthen an American military and oil presence in the Middle East -- and in its grandest expansionist dream to transform that area into the image of American Judeo-Christian democracy. And indirectly to strengthen the long arm of the American presence into the once forbidden underbelly of the former Soviet Union.
The War Camp and the Peace Camp. When circumstances open the gate to war, these camps reemerge, always different, but with remarkable continuity.
Take the last presidential election: John Kerry, Brahmin New England elitist flies in sullied form the hi brow, poetic internationalist peace mongering flag of Margaret Fuller during the Mexican War. George Bush, rich diapered adopted son of the Texas frontier could be speaking the language of crushing Filipino insurrection after Americans took over that Spanish colony during the Spanish American War:
"We'll hunt em down ---- and civilize em with a Krag (rifle)"
Even the rhetoric shows remarkable parallels......
Onward Christian Soldiers, marching as to war.......
Spread the light of freedom to create a better world.
Is this right or wrong?
Let's just say it's the flow of history, a familiar recurrent pattern as angry, fearful, awakened Judeo-Christian power clashes with a resurgent Islamic fundamentalism.
Different? Yes, but echoes all the same....Keep listening.