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Manifest Arrogance

Bud HillBreckenridge

In the middle of the 18th century, America implemented an idea that had long-range effects on present day Hispanic-Anglo relations. It was called Manifest Destiny. With the cry of “Remember the Alamo,” America both increased its territory and justified its expansion of the American frontier, not only in the American West, but in the world of the next century.With the cry of “Remember 9/11,” America launched itself into a worldwide war on terrorism. While war against terrorism is justified in terms of life, liberty and freedom, it is not in terms of the imposition of Western democracy upon the cultures of the East that precede democracy in their civilizations by 4,000 years. To impose cultural changes of such magnitude suddenly and by predominate political-military means rather than diplomatic and humanitarian means can be “justified” only by the overlay of some grandiose Manifest idea.”Mr. Bush’s war” in Iraq is coming to be akin to “Mr. Polk’s Mexican War” of the 1840s. And no matter how hard the spin to focus the reasoning for the present conflict around terrorism, it seems more akin to rallying around the flag of a Manifest Arrogance. What right does the West have to parlay a war on terrorism into the next great frontier of extending Western democratic freedom upon the 6,000-year-old culture of the Middle East?The buzzword justifying the coming surge into Iraq is to “maintain security” and “control” and to give the political process what it needs to make a difference against the terrorists and sectarians there. “Remember the Alamo” and Manifest Destiny had little effect in determining who won the American Civil War. Iraq is in civil war. The point is, at present we can’t do for Iraq what it won’t do for itself.What will they do for themselves? I guarantee you, given the chance, they won’t become a Western democracy. Rather, they will draw on the 6,000 years of culture that got them this far – if they are going to make it. The question for us at this time, better four years preceding, is “How can we help them energize the best of their 6,000 years of culture to bring the humanity and healing needed to their peoples and their lands, which will enable them to contribute to the peace of the world in the post-oil world?”May we sober our Manifest Arrogance with words penned by Ruyard Kipling: “East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet.” And may we find the humility to accept what the East has offered to us over the centuries, for example, the works of Aristotle found in the Middle Ages, which spread to the universities of Europe, and led to the Enlightenment.


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