Thursday, November 02, 2006
Dangerous Nation?: Dear Dr. Kagan: Although your talk on CSPAN was on fairly late for me in my area I forced myself to stay up to watch its entirety. I loved it. It was so interesting and you were completely well informed about the subject matter. I will eventually purchase your book "Dangerous Nation." I longed to have been at your discussion because I had so many questions to ask.
I have been interested in US foreign policy since the turbulent anti-Vietnam years in the late 60's at Boston Univ. Professors there, including Howard Zinn and others, were among those who had the most profound effect on me.
As years passed, however, I became more moderate and have spent many hours trying to figure out which side really owns the truth. Your discussion was on point with respect to many of the most perplexing questions I have about the why of US foreign policy entanglements.
Still, though, I vacillate. Prof. Zinn in his People's History indicts US academia and government nearly entirely for perpetrating on the American public fantasy history. He says American policy has occurred BECAUSE Americans do not know the truth of their history. He uses Columbus in the beginning and, of course, the slave trade as extraordinary examples of this. Columbus to us, as children, was an idealized historical figure but in reality, of course, if one reads further more in-depth and obscure accounts, he brought disease, famine, humiliation and a cruel death to those natives he encountered and whom he eventually subjugated and/or eliminated. In Gore Vidal's book Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace he too is consistently critical of American policy and characterizes America as an Empire which stops at nothing to attain great wealth and great power, running rough shod over the countries or peoples it invades. Prof. Zinn says there are PEOPLE on the other side of our bombs. When the bombs hit and kill people get angry. We, after all, are the only nation to have exploded the bomb. He says our government simply does not tell the truth. No wonder people hate us.
Literally we have probably killed hundreds of thousands since our country's inception. That is a far cry from all men are created equal and all the other platitudes we were given as children and young adults which gave a rationale for our military involvements. As you say, and I know, we have had a lot of military actions.
I realize things are not black and white. There are, indeed, shades of gray. I once wrote Prof. Zinn explaining my quandary about his positions. I said that the world is a dangerous place. It always has been a dangerous place. If we are not on top there are others certainly significantly more heinous that would gladly usurp our power and perhaps even our nation if they could. I call my theory the dinosaur dilemma. In the Jurassic Age of Dinosaurs in our evolutionary chain of life it is a survival of the fittest world. There, indeed, are those who wanted to destroy us from the Middle East before our Iraq invasion and, I believe, even if Israel did not exist they would still want to if it were possible. I think Prof. Zinn sometimes is naive.
In your opinion, where does this country sit among the other nations of history given the realities of our world? What SHOULD our policies have been through the last two and one half centuries and what should it be now? Is is possible to have had a more humane foreign policy? Could we do better to ingratiate ourselves in the eyes of the world? Where have we gone wrong IF in fact we HAVE gone wrong? Could another president smart and sagacious change things? In my opinion Iraq is a catastrophe and is lost. From your perspective in 100 years will what we have done there even matter? It seems to me since WWII something has gone wrong. We have not been on the side of the angels but rather have propped up incredibly vicious regimes in many countries of the globe including, and most, especially Iran but in many other countries as well. People have memories.
I fear now an angry Middle East and with the help of fundamentalist Iran terrorists will have access to Iraq. I think ultimately we will leave and Iraq will be under religious fundamentalist control giving them the opportunity work their mischief. I am more afraid now of nuclear devices getting into the hands of brutal people often religious fanatics because of our disastrous policies in history vis a vie the Middle East and elsewhere. How do you assess our foreign policy and is your assessment different from what an academic like a Howard Zinn and others on the left charge?
Thank you so very much for an enjoyable discussion on CSPAN. I look forward to buying your book.