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A thought experiment

By Bruce Walker
web posted December 16, 2002

I have written several articles since September 11, 2001 on the subject of why so many people hate America. Why is this particular pathology so common around the world? And why does it even infect so many wealthy, powerful Americans?

Envy is a common excuse, but envy is an obviously bogus reason. Osama bin Ladin was rich, not poor, and it is the rich nations, not the poor nations, that manifest the greatest visceral hatred of America. Those who hate America are the same sort of elitists who thought the pampered Crown Princess of England was a wonderful role model, and who loath genuine success stories, like Vice President Cheney, who came from rugged Rocky Mountains to become Vice President.

Is America hated because it is an "imperialist" nation? If so, then this must be the oddest complaint among the many odd complaints about America. Russia, Turkey, Germany, Britain, France, Japan and China are among the many nations who were true imperialist nations, and they are not hated like America. Nations like Denmark, Holland and Portugal have had overseas empires much larger than any territories possessed by the United States. Almost every nation and every people have actually been imperialist powers at one time or another except America.

Even Mexico, the most logical nation to complain of American "imperialism" can do so only by ignoring history. The Mexican-American War was as much the product of the Mexican war party, led by Santa Anna, as it was by a war party in the United States. Mexico had a "right" to California, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona only based upon its possession of those lands as effective colonies.

Texans (or "Texicans") rebelled against an imperial power when they won independence from Mexico. When the Mexican-American War began, the Mexican Army was larger and stronger than the American Army and the war could not have been won if the people in those lands "lost" to Mexico had not viewed America, and not Mexico, as the better governor of their lands.

These people were right - those lucky enough to have been in Texas or California had much better lives than those in the adjacent states of Mexico. This is not because Mexico was a bad imperial power, but because the United States had uniquely rejected imperialism.

The fledgling nation of the United States possessed huge territories around the Great Lakes and it could have treated these as "colonies." Instead, the Articles of Confederation passed the Northwest Ordinances, laws which required that those territories be admitted as equal and sovereign states. These laws were reenacted under the new Constitution. The flow of American history which led to each territorial possession becoming a full and equal political partner in the whole seems undistinguished to us today because it happened with so little fuss.

If America is not envied and is not resented for its imaginary "imperialism" then it must be hated for its racism and bigotry, right? Wrong. Nigerians, Ceylonese, Iraqi, Indonesians, Ugandans, Sudanese and countless other peoples failed utterly in solving the problems of internal ethnic, religious and racial minorities. Even in modern Europe, Spain, Belgium, Yugoslavia, and Ireland are simmering pots of aggrieved peoples. Have any two great powers in modern history been as utterly racist as Nazi Germany or contemporary Japan? Sadly, bigotry exists everywhere. America has done far more to end bigotry than any major nation in the world.

Perhaps the best indicator of the true tolerance of America is its attitude toward that other group of human beings most viscerally despised: Jews. If there is a nation hated as much as America, it is surely Israel. If there is a group of people more hated than Americans, it must be Jews. Why?

Those Zionists who founded the modern state of Israel did not dream of building a huge empire; they simply wanted a place to live in peace. Israel could have really "won" the wars in 1956 and 1967 - that is to say, it could have overrun Egypt and Syria and established a really safe perimeter zone. It chose not to do so.

America has also consciously chosen not to exploit its military and economic superiority to create global hegemony. In 1945, the United States of America had a navy and an air force much larger than all the other navies and air forces on Earth - and behind two vast oceans, it could strike at will against any nation with no possibility of suffering any harm to itself at all.

The American economy produced twice as much as all of the rest of the world combined. The other two other major powers - Britain and Russia - were dependent upon America for food, oil, manufactured goods and much of their military equipment. British dependence is pretty well known, but the Soviets also required American transport and warplanes to defeat the Nazis - the Soviets, by contrast, supplied no weapons or equipment at all to America.

America also possessed a complete monopoly on fission weapons and it could have, if it had wished, incinerated Moscow, Leningrad, Kiev, Minsk and Kharkov in a single afternoon. The Soviet Union was vastly weaker than the United States then, and the other major military forces were either English-speaking democracies or the gallant Poles, who loathed the Russians.

But America in 1945 wanted no more than what Israel wanted after its military victories: genuine peace. But like Israel, the world will not let America live in peace. What do these two nations have in common? What separates America and Israel from the rest of the world? People who transformed these places traveled at great hardship for the right to live there. Often those who immigrated to America or to Israel did so with only hope as their star.

In this respect, America and Israel are what could be called the world's only two "consensual nations." Political geography is arbitrary and there is no marketplace of nations, except in the case of these two extraordinary polities. What do the American and the Israeli people want? They want simply to be left alone in peace. That is the very reason these two nations exist.

Persecution is an integral and tragic part of Jewish history. Persecution was the also the motivation for Catholics and Quakers and Amish and Puritans and countless other of the original colonizers of America to found a new nation. What if there had been no America? What if Israel, as an historical homeland, did not exist?

What if the only escape for all the persecuted peoples who have made up America was quite literally to leave this world and travel to another world? Albert Einstein was famous for his "thought experiments" and here is a thought experiment for Americans and Jews: suppose that instead of ocean vessels that space vessels carried millions of desperate Irish, Poles, Jews, Italians, Greeks, Russians and the other peoples who forged America into a great nation from Earth to a tiny colony of Englishmen on Mars, and that these people took their flight because only from the safe distance of millions of miles of cold, dark space could these peoples live as they wished.

Now suppose that space travel was so difficult that almost no traffic, other than Earth purging itself of these "undesirables" was possible. And suppose that the Republic of Mars was transformed by these peoples into a nation that dwarfed in its prosperity, peacefulness and social mobility the squabbling nations of Earth. What would be the only concept that could unite these angry peoples of Earth? Hatred of the Republic of Mars. Even if America was on Mars, it would be hated.

Bruce Walker is a senior writer with Enter Stage Right. He is also a frequent contributor to The Pragmatist and The Common Conservative.

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