– November 2, 2001
“The lamps are going out all over Europe. They will not be lit again in our lifetimes,” said Sir Edward Grey, as he watched the lamps being lit in St. James Park, the evening of August 3, 1914. At noon, the foreign minister had persuaded Parliament that the German violation of Belgian neutrality meant they must go to war.
Grey sensed it was the end of an era. Tears in his eyes, he said to U.S. Ambassador Walter Hines Page: “Thus, the efforts of a lifetime go for nothing. I feel that I have wasted my life.”
British “Tommies” and German soldiers might have sung Christmas carols across “no man’s land” that December. But, by 1917, the Christmas spirit was dead, along with millions of Christian soldiers.
Sept. 11 may prove such a day for this generation. For that day, the post-Cold War era came to a crashing close. All the assumptions by which our elites have guided us for a decade were suddenly, violently, called into question.
“Isn’t diversity wonderful!” they exulted, as they threw open America’s doors to mass immigration from cultures and countries vastly different from our own. A majority of Americans objected. They were called “xenophobes.” But today, we read interviews of strangers in our midst who tell reporters, “The Americans had it coming!” Can we still say it was wise to remove all the locks and doors to our lovely home, so strangers could enter at will?
Two months ago, President Bush floated the idea of an amnesty for illegal aliens and opening America to all the trucks from Mexico. Today, Bush ruefully admits, “Never did we realize that people would take advantage of our generosity to the extent they have.”
Intending no disrespect, Mr. President, some people did.
In the 1990s, we intervened in Somalia, smashed Iraq and bombed Serbia for 78 days to rescue Muslim people from starvation, invasion and massacre. But as America responds to a savage attack on herself, Islamic crowds from Palestine to Pakistan to Indonesia cheer for Osama bin Laden. No crowds cheer Uncle Sam. But were we not warned by our founding fathers – from Washington to Adams to Jefferson – to stay out of these damnable foreign wars?
That all the interventions – from Panama to Haiti to Somalia to Bosnia to Kosovo to Kuwait – made for exciting careers for our elites is undeniable. But as we bury our 5,000 dead and check our mail for anthrax, how have the interventions profited the American people?
Economic independence is critical to political freedom. So, Washington, Hamilton and Madison taught us. At Philadelphia, they wrote a constitution to end our reliance on British merchants for the needs of our national life. For two centuries, we would follow the Hamiltonian model to become the most self-sufficient nation in history. No so long ago, America was dependent on no one.
Lately, however, we threw aside all that as “protectionism,” to embrace “free trade” and the global economy as preached by 19th century utopians like Ricardo, Mill, Bastiat, Cobden and all the other idiot-savants – none of whom ever built a great nation, and whose ideas brought the British nation to ruin.
Now, after three decades and trillions in U.S. trade deficits, we depend on foreign farms for a growing share of our food, on foreign factories for 40 percent of our manufactures, on foreign regimes for 55 percent of our oil. And we live in fear of a “dirty atomic bomb” being smuggled into our beloved country by a foreign truck or merchant ship.
Meanwhile, U.S. taxpayers are forced to fund endless bailouts of bankrupt regimes like Argentina, for fear their defaults will drag down the world financial system. Isn’t interdependence wonderful? Like Esau, this generation traded its birthright for a mess of potage.
After our Cold War triumph, the course for America was clear to anyone who had read history: Strengthen U.S. defenses and cut U.S. commitments. We did the opposite, expanding war commitments to Eastern Europe, the Balkans, the Gulf, the Taiwan Strait and Central Asia, while cutting our armed forces in half. Now, in the Afghan war, America seems like an aging heavyweight champion, whose reflexes and punch are not what they used to be. And, indeed, they are not. Still, we must win this war. As MacArthur said, there is no substitute for victory. We were barbarically attacked. Those who did it have been given sanctuary. Congress has authorized war. The president has taken us to war. We cannot lose, and we cannot let Ramadan impede an early victory.
But, then let us dismiss the overeducated, arrogant fools who made America as dependent and naked to her enemies as she has not been since 1812.