American Power in the Twentieth Century

American Power in the Twentieth Century

The democratic Left must help finish the creation of the world. The world—and I borrow here from Peter Worsley’s imaginative way of speaking—is scarcely begun. The globe has, of course, existed for eons, and humans project their various histories more than 4000 years into the past. But those interrelationships that transcend tribe, nation, and empire, uniting the people of the earth in a common destiny —whether they like it or not—are only a century or so old. The first day of this creation took place when economics, science, and warfare put the planet together. The second day is now, and there might not be a third.

Applying such high-flown biblical imagery to politics strikes most Americans as grandiose; they leave the world-to-come to the preachers while they pragmatically reconstruct the reality that is. Until World War II the Pacific and Atlantic oceans allowed Americans to disdain foreign entanglements on principle. And being of an anti-imperialist imperialism, a power which usually dominated other lands through the subtlety of money rather than the brutality of force, America burdened its people with an excessively good conscience. For all of these reasons, it is particularly important to insist within the United States that the day-to-day decisions of foreign policy involve the choice of a new order of things for the twenty-first century. So far, America is creating the world very badly—though this need not be.

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Wurgraft | University of California Press Lima