Paul Johnson on “America’s Empire for Liberty”

Paul Johnson has a piece entitled America’s Empire for Liberty. It is a good essay overall. RTWT.

I will just note two interesting Anglospheric comments:

When I was a boy in the 1930s, a quarter of the world on the map was colored red-that is, part of the British Empire and Commonwealth of Nations. It was a liberal empire and a democratic commonwealth, and its aim, as with America in the Philippines, was to prepare its components for self-government. There have been some outstanding successes: Canada, Newfoundland, New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, and, most of all, India; with a billion inhabitants it has become the world’s largest democracy. There have been tragic failures too, notably in Africa. But we have learned from the failures too. The knowledge we gained is at America’s disposal, particularly in the training of military and civilian administrators who must take on the kind of work now being done in Iraq and Afghanistan. One idea I would like to see explored-with all deliberate speed-is the creation of an Anglo-American staff college for training men and women, both from the armed forces and from government, in the skills to rescue failed or fragile nations and to take former tyrannies and dictatorships into the magic circle of justice and democracy. We have a vast project ahead of us, and we need to be educated for it.

I like the idea of such a joint staff college. There would be political pandemonium if it were actually proposed, however. Right now the British are not in a very good mood about the virtues or efficacy of any American imperial-type projects. Max Hastings is kicking our ass in the Spectator, and Bush is going to face incredible street demonstrations when he goes over there. We need to get Iraq simmered down, then we can start looking at building capacity for future endeavors. A serious effort to pool knowledge about failed and successful state-building, and creating the skilled manpower and advanced thinking and planning to intervene effectively when we do intervene strikes me as no more than sensible. It is the kind of thing the Democrats accuse Bush of not doing, i.e. not “having a plan”. Of course, if he proposed this they’d say he is getting ready to get us into a bunch of other wars. Maybe so. Maybe that will be necessary. I don’ t know. What I do know is I wish we had been better prepared for this current occupation. So, Johnson is on the right track. This type of joint project should be quietly started, and once it is a going concern, enlarge it.

Johnson has this to say about Britain in the EU.

My guess is that the United States of Europe, a ramshackle structure already, is heading for disaster: economic bankruptcy and political implosion. Looking at it from Britain’s viewpoint, we should keep well clear of the mess. In emotional and cerebral terms, the English Channel is wider than the Atlantic, and I would prefer to see the expansion of the North Atlantic free trade area rather than that of a bureaucratic, antidemocratic, and illiberal Europe.

But Johnson is wrong to say “[i]n emotional and cerebral terms”. There is common language, law, culture, business practices, overlapping investment, decades of military and security cooperation. The Anglosphere is not about sentiment, it is about concrete reality. As Jim Bennett has put it, Britain is not a European country with a special relationship with America — it is an Anglosphere country with a special relationship with Europe. They need to figure this out, and act on it.

And, oh yeah, one other thing, America is not an empire. But that is a topic for another day, I hope soon.

9 thoughts on “Paul Johnson on “America’s Empire for Liberty””

  1. You have far more faith in the Anglosphere than I do. When I look at Britian, Canada, Australia, I don’t feel politically connected to them at all. All I see is loathing for the USA. Those countries are far closer to Europe, both politically and socially, than they are to the US.

  2. The Anglosphere is not a matter of faith, it is a matter of evidence. It is empirical not aspirational.

    The British have a good train system, so they can put 200,000 leftists on the streets of London, and do so frequently. There were pacifists and leftists before WWII who protested against rearmament, there was the Committee for Nuclear Disarmament during the Cold War, and today there are people on both the Right and the Left who oppose the Iraq venture. That doesn’t change the underlying realities or make Britain overall more hostile to the USA than, say, France or Greece or Russia. We are hated more widely and strongly in those places. British anti-American protests no more fully depict reality in Britain there than the Seattle riots showed what “America” thinks about foreign trade.

    Anyway, to say there is an Anglosphere as matter of demonstrable evidence doesn’t mean that everyone who speaks Engilsh will like America, or America’s leaders, or America’s foreign policy or America’s wars. It does mean that the political divisions in the different Anglosphere countries should mirror each other, with their leftists and our leftists sounding similar (anti-US rhetoric, for example) and our rightists and their rightists sounding similar — and both groupings distinct from the political groupings in other places. This is clearly happening. Whether the British left will succeed in forcing more socialism down their country’s throat via Brussels is the big question now. I am cautiously optimistic.

  3. Lex,

    As usual, great subject and post.

    I agree with the concept of a school or college of the sort Johnson imagines in principle, but am suspicious and dubious about the true intentions and virtue of those who actually have the political authority and power to build such an institution. Likewise I have an extraordinary amount of contempt for Britons like Johnson who are either dishonest or ignorant about Britains Imperial history, one which runs parallel in course to America’s history, something Britains establishment has always been loathe to teach to its membership, citizenry, or even grasp in detail itself. When the British establishment teaches it’s own electorate comprehensively about Hitler and Stalin, yet fails to teach Britons even the most basic American political tracts (like the Dec. of Ind., or US Constitution) we should not be surprised that the UK public sees the world through a prism of Fascism and Stalinism and National Socialism rather than through a more accurate and open window of Democracy and Republic, or that we should see them behave as the British establishment’s folly should have made apparent…

    Here’s a great text that all students of political history should be aware of….


    “When I consider how much honor is attributed to antiquity, and how many times, not to mention many other examples, a fragment of an antique statue has been bought at a great price in order to have it near to one, honoring his house, being able to have it imitated by those who delight in those arts, and how they then strive with all industry to present them in all their work: and when I see, on the other hand, the works of greatest virtu which Historians indicate have been accomplished by ancient Kingdoms and Republics, by Kings, Captains, Citizens, Lawgivers, and others who have worked themselves hard for their country, to be more readily admired than imitated, or rather so much neglected by everyone in every respect that no sign of that ancient virtu remains, I cannot otherwise than wonder and at the same time be sad: and so much more when I see in the civil differences that arise between Citizens, or in the maladies which men incur, they always have recourses to those judgments or to those remedies that have been judged or instituted by the ancients. For the civil laws are nothing else but the decisions given by the ancient Jurisconsults, which reduced to a system presently teach our Jurisconsults to judge and also what is medicine if not the experience had by the ancient Doctors, (and) on which the present Doctors base their judgments? None the less in the instituting of Republics, in maintaining of States, in the governing of Kingdoms, in organizing an army and conducting a war, in (giving) judgment for Subjects, in expanding the Empire, there will not be found either Prince, or Republic, or Captain, or Citizen, who has recourse to the examples of the ancients. Which I am persuaded arises not so much from the weakness to which the present education has brought the world, or from that evil which an ambitious indolence has created in many Christian Provinces and Cities, than from not having a real understanding of history, and from not drawing that (real) sense from its reading, or benefiting from the spirit which is contained in it. whence it arises that they who read take infinitely more pleasure in knowing the variety of incidents that are contained in them, without ever thinking of imitating them, believing the imitation not only difficult, but impossible: as if heaven, the sun, the elements, and men should have changed the order of their motions and power, from what they were anciently….”

  4. With respect to Mr Crawford, whose general sentiments I agree with, it is unfair to accuse the author of “A History of the American People” of failing to teach Britons about American beliefs.

    Moreover, the present establishment in the UK not only prefers teaching children about Hitler and Stalin to teaching them about American history, it also prefers that to teaching its own history. British children are ignorant of the Magna Carta, the Provisions of Oxford, the establishment of the Church, the Civil War, the Declaration of Right, the Glorious Revolution, the Whig Supremacy, the life and works of Burke, the Chartists, and all the myriad other influences that have led to Britain being a proud, strong polity. While I should love British children to learn about the American experience, I think they have a right to learn about their own first…

  5. Iain is of course right. I wish that all children in both countries would learn about our shared heritage of liberty. The Magna Carta and the common law belong to us all. The American founders believed they were fighting to preserve their liberties as “free-born Englishmen”.

    This problem exists in both countries because the “commanding heights” of educational establishment have been captured by leftists who hate the liberal heritage of the English speaking peoples.

    You will recall the recent article in City Journal about how the liberal establishment is crumbling in the news media due to new technology. All to the good. But the next big fortified zone in the enemy position is the teaching colleges and universities, which churn out befuddled, ignorant or malign teachers. Capturing those positions will be a multi-decade undertaking. Advances in technology will help. Privatizing education will also help. But the battle surely goes on, and there is much, much yet to do.

    Orwell has his thought-policeman say whoever controls the present controls the past, whoever controls the past controls the future. There is a grim truth in this hard saying. We have for too long allowed the past to be controlled by ideological enemies and liars and corrupters of youth. If that makes me sound like Ann Coulter, all to the good.

    Forward the Anglosphere.

  6. Iain,

    I stand corrected. I reacted to a couple of Johnson’s points from the essay, and rushed to judgement on his background. My bad. Although I can’t say that I agree with his assessments of US neo-imperial history in the phillipines and Spanish possessions, or with his misread of the general distrust felt after Wilson failed to secure his policy goals, I’d again agree with him in principle about a Anglo-American institution.

    Here’s some convient links to some of the documents you mentioned relating to British history….

  7. I figure that we should not care what Canda, Australia, and otehr Anglospheric countries think about us. As long as we serve the model for prosperity and wealth, and they help their allies and CLOSE friends along, I will be happy. All Americans should be happy about that.

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