Alex Massie

The Saintly American

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Among the many idiocies stuffed into Mitt Romney's race-quitting speech at CPAC, this one, for which admittedly he cannot bear full responsibility, is a peach:

Simon Peres, in a visit to Boston, was asked what he thought about the war in Iraq. “First,” he said, “I must put something in context. America is unique in the history of the world. In the history of the world, whenever there has been conflict, the nation that wins takes land from the nation that loses. One nation in history, and this during the last century, laid down hundreds of thousands of lives and took no land. No land from Germany, no land from Japan, no land from Korea. America is unique in the sacrifice it has made for liberty, for itself and for freedom loving people around the world.” The best ally peace has ever known, and will ever know, is a strong America!

This is, of course, complete balderdash. Ask the Sioux or the Lakota or the Apache or the Navajo if you don't believe me.

Ah, but you may say, that's ancient history. Just like the Monroe Doctrine which, you might recall, warned the European powers off the western hemisphere. This was, they were told in no uncertain terms, the United States' backyard.

Still, what about the Second World War? Well, Germany and Japan have been occupied for 60 years now. That's fine. But only a fool would suppose that there's no political or military advantages - to Washington - from the presence of US troops in so many countries around the world. Heck, if one of the prerogatives of empire is demanding tribute from one's conquered enemies then one might recall that both Germany and Japan were expected to pay handsomely for the First Gulf War. So too, of course, were America's allies in the Persian Gulf.

But, no, rather too many of our American friends persist in deluding themselves that a) there's only one model for empire and b) uniquely in the history of the world the United States acts only out of altruism and concern for the well-being of mankind around the globe. Both of these fantasies, needless to say, make it more difficult fo American politicians to see the world as it really is.

And what of the modern Empire? Well, much of it is indirect isn't it? You'd have to be naive to suppose that there's no quid pro quo involved in an issue such as missile defence. It may well - and one can see why they would think it would be - in the interests of Prague and Warsaw to be protected by a US missile shield. But such protection comes at a price, even if the bill isn't sent immediately. These things don't come free.

That's all fine and dandy. But one would have more respect (OK, some) for the Mitt Romneys of the world if they occasionally stopped preening themselves to ask why their view of the Saintly America is rejected, or at least seen in a more nuanced light, by so many people around the world - including by many people who like and admire the US.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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