This article first appeared in the September 12, 1959, issue of NATIONAL REVIEW.
From National Review Online, By J. D. Futch
“This damned morality is going to ruin everything!” — Lord Melbourne, ca. 1840
To tell the truth, it doesn’t matter very much to us what “the world” thanks of America and of the West — how Nehru and Sukarno felt about the Hiss hassle, “McCarthyism,” “germ warfare,” and Suez. The oracles of the Establishment set up such criteria as these for our guidance in foreign affairs, but we might do better to begin turning things around and asking what the West thinks of the world, for this question, and not its reverse, will lead us to one of the gravest of all the contradictions in Western attitudes which, taken together, have left us semi-paralyzed and at times scarcely able to prosecute the Cold War at all. What has happened is that since the “victory” of 1945 we have somehow grown afraid of Africa and Asia (this is the Western, not the editorial we). And why the people whom the fathers commanded now inspire fear in the sons is explained by circumstances we should examine.
The one-time colonial powers have worn one another into a state of comparative debility vis-à-vis the world’s underdeveloped nations. The two wars which wrecked the Continent and washed away the foundations of its social order have made it impossible to launch anew, for the time being, imperialism in the grand manner of the nineteenth or sixteenth centuries, and likewise made it very difficult to maintain existing dependencies in the face of organized minority agitation masquerading as popular revolution.
This granted, we should also take account of a further and more deeply rooted psychological factor to which historians may end by assigning decisive responsibility for the collapse of the Western position in the world and for throwing the way open to Soviet penetration of the greater part of the globe. Little enough has been said or written about the basis, or the very existence, of “the dogma of revolution,” a liberal and above all an Anglo-Saxon conviction that underdogs everywhere will and ought to rise soon or late against their oppressors.
Such a doctrine has animated, or in some cases simply excused, US foreign policy since the opening of the nineteenth century when our attitude towards the revolt of the Spanish American colonies foreshadowed darkly the part we would play in the breakup and “liberation” of the British, French, and Dutch possessions after World War II.
Conscious of our position at the head of a coalition that includes the greatest of the old colonizing powers, and, conscious, too, of an imagined moral duty to “atone” somehow for their imperialism of other times, we have been rampaging through the world sowing revolution among people little able to grasp the Spirit of ’76 — as Arnold J. Toynbee rhapsodized, “beckoning them to the pursuit of the American revolutionary objectives: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Behind us lie the wrecks of empires, whose fragments are patiently gathered up by the Soviet Union, the only long-run beneficiary of an American policy based upon misunderstanding and misapplication of the principles which inspired our Revolutionary statesmen.
When our leaders welcomed the uprising in Spain’s colonies, they did so in order to transform the hemisphere into Fortress America and surely not to realize the vagaries of socio-political witch-doctors. The United States drew political profit from the development, and the ideological fanfare accompanying our policy was principally eyewash. But we who have misread our own history are now committed to encouragement of virtually all “independence” movements everywhere, even (or particularly) in the case of countries so little ready for self-government as to become the certain prey of native dictators or Communist regimes or both. Innumerable of these let’s-pretend states have been thrown up in the wake of the retreating West, and whatever their ultimate fate may be, they are now undermining whatever usefulness the UN might have had.
There should be no confusion among us at least as to the single raison d’être creditable to the UN at the time of its inception: that from 1945 onwards it serve as a Western instrument for maintaining the peace won through war. This would have been analogous to the French view of the League of Nations in 1919. It was owing to Western unwillingness to utilize the League effectively to this end that it evaporated. However, we had the opportunity in the mid-1940’s to profit from the lesson and to weld the United Nations into a massive anti-Soviet alliance, which, after all, would have been the historically logical second stage of development for the organization which began its career during the war as a worldwide combination against the Axis.
As it is, the UN bids fair to take its place one day among the hostile forces confronting the West. For it is rapidly filling up with new member states, admitted with absurd haste and indiscrimination, most of them under the leadership — if not the iron hand — of Western-educated ideologues oriented towards autocracy and Marxism at home and neutralism or outright Russophilia abroad. The UN is being transformed into a standing convention of the Anti-West. Winston Churchill, the tragic prophet, witness, and commentator of so many disasters in our time, has remarked that the flood of newly independent (Afro-Asian) countries into the world organization is threatening to alter the balance within it in a manner very disadvantageous to the free world and in no way foreseen (by the West?) at the time of the San Francisco Conference. If, under these circumstances, the long-called-for “teeth” should ever be written into the Charter, then we might prepare for the bad dreams banished in the West during the twelve hundred years since Charles Martel turned back the Moors at Tour.