Revolutionary America

2007-05-22

This post by Victor Davis Hanson seems right on to me, especially his observations about the radical nature of American society:

Globalization is mostly driven by the United States, whether defined by the spread of the English language, crass advertising, the Internet, American pop culture of rap, jeans and I-pods or worldwide businesses like Starbucks and MacDonald's. A global sameness seems to trample traditional cultures and appeal to the masses worldwide despite lectures from their elites about the dangers of such American-induced contamination.

This influence of the United States is not attributable to strategic location like that enjoyed by a Germany or Iran. We don't have vast oil reserves like a Saudi Arabia, or an enormous population such as India or China.

Instead, it's what we do rather than what we have that attracts others. Our radical Democratic culture of informality and inclusiveness results in an unusually tolerant and secure society, in which participation is open to all. Being an American can be like playing at a cut-throat, madcap poker table, but it invites any to play who are willing to ante up and risk their all.

We can see this dynamism not just by the flood of immigrants -- America takes more of them than all industrialized countries combined -- but by the nature of some of them. Those who are sometimes most publicly critical of the United States, privately seem to like us a great deal. Why else would the dictator of Pakistan, an Amal militia leader in Lebanon, or a Turkish Islamist Prime Minister entrust their families either to live in the United States or to go to school here? Only in America can a Palestinian criticize the Hamas leadership, a Turkish woman wear a scarf, or a female Saudi student date.

In terms of foreign policy, many of our troubles result not, as charged, from imperialism, but from this very democratic fervor. Of all the critiques of our experience in Iraq, few have pinpointed our chief challenge: we extended one-man, one-vote and thereby empowered the traditionally downtrodden, and denigrated Shiite population, to the chagrin of Sunni elites in and outside of Iraq. It mattered little that few of the Shiia were educated, or had any experience in governance: in the naïve American sense, as free people born into the world as equal as any others, they had a right to run or ruin their own country.

By the same token, radical American egalitarianism is what terrifies our Islamist enemies. Bin Laden -- many of the terrorist's family were living in the United States on September 11 -- knows the insidious dangers of Americanization, both from his own wealthy youth spent enjoying the high life, and the failure of his Sharia law to compete with Spiderman for the attention of most of his flock.

Other superpowers like India and China pose as third-world revolutionary powers. But both are plagued by caste and rigid political or class obstacles to full participation in their societies. A Chinese can become a fully-accepted American citizen. A non-Chinese American black, white, or Hispanic would never fully be accepted as Chinese -- even with mastery of the language and the formal acquisition of Chinese citizenship.

Abroad China does not care from whom it buys or to whom it sells, and hardly cares about promoting democracy abroad. In short, it is still America that is the most radical, revolutionary, and destabilizing nation of all -- and thereby disliked for precisely the opposite reasons that the Left proclaims.


Peter Saint-Andre > Journal