Tuesday, March 18, 2014

National regeneration, the cult of manhood, and military adventurism: A quick historical note

[Update: Broken link fixed!]

The American right's somewhat embarrassing mancrush on Vladimir Putin is certainly fueled in large measure by their kneejerk disdain for their bete noire (if you know what I mean) Barack Obama:

Still, the love of oily muscle parading as patriotism wasn't invented this month. Oh no.
Bryan was leading the anti-imperialist opposition to acquiring the Philippines—and anti-imperialists were, in Roosevelt’s words, “little better than traitors.” Questioning the patriotism of one’s opponents in foreign-policy debate became an established practice that has survived to our own time. So have two other Rooseveltian rhetorical tics: conflating the nation and the individual, and confusing physical courage with moral courage. By 1900, he had become a regular on the banquet circuit, warning that “if we shrink from the hard contests where men must win at hazard of their lives and at risk of all they hold dear, then the bolder and stronger peoples will pass us by, and win for themselves the domination of the world.” This sort of talk elevated Roosevelt to the vice-presidency; it also had calamitous longer-term consequences for public discourse in America. National regeneration, often defined in crude physical terms, became a staple of imperial rhetoric. Ever since Roosevelt, advocates of military intervention abroad have embraced his demented dualism, telling Americans they could either “stand tall” or “cut and run.”
Oh yeah – and what Pierce said.

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