WHY US? WHY NOW?
A CONCISE CASE FOR MODERN AMERICAN EXCEPTIONALISM
Without the large scale military intervention of the USA, as the one viable, large, stable Western democratic republic in the world capable of fielding a major military force, the Nazis and Fascists would probably have overrun Europe in World War II. Russia may have survived, but could not have crushed the Axis powers alone, nor escaped its own internal tyrants. The post-war consequences in this hypothetical universe would have been a fatal or nearly fatal blow to the survival of Western civilization. Without the USA, the march of Soviet and Chinese Communism could well have overwhelmed the West during the Cold War period. And in this scenario, too, the forces of darkness would have made the wreckage of institutionalized freedom a settled and widespread fact of existence.
A compelling case can be made that, without the USA, Western Civilization itself would now be dying or a dead.
Naturally, many voices are heard disputing this evaluation – and expressing postwar resentment of the USA. These voices are either disingenuous or coming from deluded fools.
The very existence of the USA as a robust, viable fresh start, as the new model of Western civilization over there in in “the New World”, was an unprecedented historical development. The success of the American model has profoundly changed the history of Europe and Eurasia. In my opinion, the viability of the American experiment is the chief reason to be optimistic about the future of modern, liberal civilization, itself.
AMERICA IN THE POST-DARWINIAN CONTEXT
We are living in a post-Darwinian phase of evolution of the human condition, one in which natural selection was trumped and greatly accelerated by conscious selection. This is the meta-context that frames the ongoing war between competing models of civilization. The long-term survival prize will go to those civilizations (or nodes of civilization) that can effectively optimize their own survival, endurance and the efflorescence of creativity. These are the civilizations that honor creativity and creative freedom; that respect the life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness of their members (a formula that includes freedom to engage in creative activity) by actually building and maintaining institutions that work for their protection.
The American version of civilization has been almost uniquely creative-innovative. It is no accident that the tyrannies of the 21st century were almost uniquely anti-creative. It is telling that the latest challenge to modern civilization, symbolized by ISIS but much more widely geographically distributed, is built on atavistic ideas and prejudices that are, at core, fundamentally anti-creative in nature.
When you examine the geographical and political distribution of creativity, great, transformative inventions, wonderful new forms and creative iterations of culture, art and music, they can be plotted like islands of light on a dark background. They do not light up the places where tyrannies and repressive bureaucracies or repressive religious ideologies hold sway. They light up North America, parts of Europe, little Israel and they make islands of light everywhere in the world that repressive authoritarian power is held at bay. The areas of the world controlled by repressive Islamic fundamentalism are dark; they are places where the efflorescence of a more secular and tolerant Islamic civilization that flourished long ago are forgotten.
Tyrannies of all kind seek to control human creativity and bend it to serve a single master, but creative freedom is the very soul and essence of creativity. It is no accident that among the very earliest asylum-seekers from such repressive regimes are the creative ones in the arts and even in the sciences. Many bright minds were seduced at the beginning of each tyranny, but eventually, all are disillusioned.
What would the world be like if there were no free country like the USA, Israel, England and the other enclaves of comparative liberty? What if there were no refuge destinations? It would be a truly malignant Dark Age.
We Americans did not choose to be exceptional. Circumstances chose us.
Yet, even we are fully capable of jettisoning our heritage, betraying our promise and succumbing to the dark side, as some of our European friends have already done – a few of them more than once. We are swimming in a sea filled with toxic ideologies masquerading as moral crusades. The dead hand of bureaucracy rests heavily, even here, on the creative spirit.
For a host of reasons, philosophical, historical and situational, the USA is the last best hope of Western civilization. The USA is virtually the only creative-adaptive model of modern civilization that still has the capacity to defend itself and, in selected instances, to defend key elements of modern civilization that are at threat elsewhere.
This is the context that chose America.
Creative civilizations are characterized by adaptive creativity and the resolve to defend their members against all predators, internal and external, natural or biological, human or inhuman. Nothing less than secure self-confidence at the level of the most fundamental values is required for the world’s handful of creative civilizations to fruitfully co-exist with the rest of humanity. That confidence is the cultural firewall against the atavistic undertow. Cultural relativism and the promotion of unearned guilt by those who live in such civilizations are breaches in that firewall.
Even a mighty creative-adaptive civilization can fail. The mere capacity to defend its own civilization and that of its friends, without the will to use it amounts to an open invitation to predators. The passive, “soft power” defense of civilization is a dangerous and short-lived exercise in suicidal risk-taking. Thus, we have arrived at one of those historical hinge points. This is not a healthy era. I am reminded of lines from the prophetic poem of William Butler Yeats-
“The Second Coming”
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
— William Butler Yeats
Things are falling apart, once again. The stage is set, once again. The monsters are loose, once again. If we choose not to act, how long do we have to huddle in denial and fear before the beast is at our very doorstep? The urge to sleep while under threat is deeply rooted and deeply dangerous. The attacks of 9-11-01 were a temporarily awakening, but the enemies of creative civilization do not sleep.
MORE READING –
Gaskill on – The American Creative Surge –
Podhoretz on – WORLD WAR IV –
…and in book form –