Independence Without Acrimony
- Dear All,
A small antidote to the acrimony that grips the US these days.
Happy 4th of July to all,
Musing on the rocket's red glare...
Independence Without Acrimony
By Matthew Yglesias
One of the most remarkable things about the Fourth of July is, I think, that's
it's an entirely positive, upbeat holiday about America's Founding and our own
accomplishments and aspirations for ourselves. One might think that a holiday
in commemoration of the launch of a colonial rebellion would have a subtext of
animosity toward the former colonial overloard -- Great Britain. But of course
our celebrations have no such subtext, for the UK is probably our closest ally
on the planet. Its only serious competition is Canada -- the outgrowth of those
British colonies on the North American continent that did not rebell against
the crown, to which most of the loyalist inhabitants of the USA emigrated, and
whose territory we tried to concur in our second military conflict with
The lessons embedded in this process seem to me to be at least as profound as
the ones more usually contemplated on this holiday. That we proceeded from the
conflict-strewn world of the early 19th century to the contemporary one, where
Americans recognize that even though we could concur Canada there would be no
point in doing so is quite the remarkable achievement. That even earlier the
rulers of the British Empire saw that establishing friendly relations with the
rising power of the American Republic would better serve Britain's interests
than a futile attempt to contain it is, in many ways, much more so.
The goal of peace has acquired a lot of fairly dippie associations --
meditation crystals, patchouli oil, etc. -- but the sphere of peace that began
among the English-speaking nations, expanded to include France and outlying
bits of Europe, then Germany, Italy, and Japan, and now Eastern Europe as well
is founded on the hard-headed economic fact that expanding the quantity of
resources under the physical control of your countrymen has little value in the
context of market economies. The actual historical processes through which this
peaceful zone has come to exist show, however, that though cultural and
political affinities play no formal role in the demonstration of peace's value,
they seem to be integral to its realization in process.
The allegations that Iran's new president was a participant in the 1979
hostage-taking serve, to me, above all as a reminder of how little content
there is to US-Iranian conflict. Instead, the hostage taking started us on a
cycle of bitterness, suspicious, and hostility that have simply played out for
a quarter of a century to the point where the specific locations of US-Iranian
conflict are premised on mutual antagonism between our countries rather than
serving as genuine causes of conflict. That US-British relations started off an
a somewhat similar foot shows that it need not ever be thus, though finding a
way out of the current spiral would be extremely difficult.
At the moment, the Global War on Terrorism and its consequences tend to take
center stage in our thinking. Over the longer haul, however, the most important
question for our security almost certainly has to do with our relations with
China. The cycle of hostility with Iran -- a medium-sized country at best --
has had unfortunate consequences. Similar conflict with China, even were it to
fall shot of actual warfare, would be almost infinitely worse for the world.
But there seems in the modern world to be nothing inevitable about conflict. If
both our countries' leaders choose wisely, and both reject the counsel of those
stoking the forces of paranoia, we may be looking forward to a 21st century
that is much happier than the hyper-destructive 20th.