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The Liberal Man’s Burden

For over a hundred years, the United States has gone on trying to feed and cure the world, sacrificing for others and seeing nothing in return.
Rudyard Kipling, 1865–1936

Rudyard Kipling, 1865–1936

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The Pax Americana has not cured world hunger or disease, it has not brought peace and freedom to the world. What it has done is applied band aids, thrown off a dictator here or there, fed a few children and brought the occasional glimpse of light. But the light has never endured. Sooner or later it breaks down again, if not in the same ways, then in new and more troubling ways.

A people cannot be uplifted, they can only uplift themselves. That is the fallacy of the burden with all its weary futility. Americans cannot teach Pakistanis to be Americans. They cannot even teach them to be better Pakistanis. Only the Pakistanis stand any chance of teaching themselves that. America cannot fix Africa. Only Africa can fix Africa. And only America can fix America.

Every nation has its own journey to make and its own path to walk and no other nation can make the journey for it. Some will not make it and others will. But no nation can make another nation moral and no nation can make another civilized.

America has a duty to behave morally, but it does not have a duty to make other nations moral. The virtue of helping others only extends insofar as they can be helped. Only when that help is extended beyond the point where they can be helped or where they wish to be helped, does it become a burden. And a burden is carrying that which ought to be able to carry itself.

The difference between aid and empire, is that when aid is unending then it becomes empire, when there is no foreseeable point at which it ends and when extending it ensures dependency rather than the alleviation of a temporary condition, then it is not aid but empire. And that which can carry itself but chooses not to becomes a permanent burden and a corrupt power relationship is born built on revulsion and dependency, the familiar one of the welfare state where the master is the slave and the slave is the master, becomes a stain on two pairs of souls.

Exceptionalism is the core of nationalism. There are no shortage of nations that believe that they are fated to save the world. And to its credit the United States has saved the world, but saving the world is not the same thing as changing it. Resources and determination extended and expended in the right place and at the right time can save the world. But changing the world requires more than that, it requires even more than the big ideas that people imagine change the world, it requires that people take responsibility for their own actions and their own consequences.

The liberal man’s burden acts in direct opposition to this, lifting away actions and consequences, and retarding the development of entire nations. Instead of making the world a better place, it makes it worse and instead of bringing progress, it turns the clock back, because moral colonialism is in its own way no different from any other kind of colonialism.

The most devastating aspect of colonialism is that it destroys a people’s faith in itself, in its own power, its own judgement and its own industry. And it is doubly devastating when it had little of these things to begin with. The moral empire undermines the character of a people almost as well as its more brawny cousin does. It takes away any reason for progress and then wonders why that progress never seems to materialize.

The liberal man’s burden is based on an unspoken superiority, the superiority which attends all liberal humanitarian impulses, the superiority of the sensitive man or woman who is ethically aware over the ethically unaware. But this superiority is a fleeting thing when the savage wars of peace begin and the price to be paid for trying to teach ethics to the unethical itself comes to seem highly unethical.

War is not made for either the preservation of the moral high ground or for its export to foreign parts. It is not fought to bring about a global state of peace, but so that those who fight it shall have peace, anything else is foolishly futile and a self-nullifying act that ends up shedding more blood than it saves.

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About the Author: Daniel Greenfield is an Israeli born blogger and columnist, and a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. His work covers American, European and Israeli politics as well as the War on Terror. His writing can be found at http://sultanknish.blogspot.com/. The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not represent the views of The Jewish Press.


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28 Responses to “The Liberal Man’s Burden”

  1. He was sick rotten antisemite, Kipling I mean. It's a fact.

  2. Debbie Flavin Ewing says:

    PRETTY PROFOUND

  3. Lindy Abbott says:

    Thank you, Daniel Greenfield! I have struggled for many years to understand in a concise way what has taken place in America's last 100 years. I knew what was right and wrong but didn't understand colonialism/ empir-ism. I see it clearly know from your writings. God has given you a gift of precise insight and clarity. I look forward to reading much more of your work.

  4. Cephus Nziramasanga says:

    I have always thought the same of US foreign policy. Thank you for stating it so well.

  5. Sheridan King says:

    Incredible article. But it can also apply to redistribution through welfare here in the US.

  6. Troy Bishop says:

    Thank you. This is one of the best articles I have read in a

  7. Troy Bishop says:

    long time. Wish there had been even more to read.

  8. Edwin Nelson says:

    The problem is, when America does not lead…..when it succumbs to its instinct for isolationism, the world turns a blind eye to atrocity. The thing about America is that we follow a policy of "enlightened self interest". This is unlike any other nation that has ever been on the earth. When the French or Russians or Chinese bring the fight to their enemies, they take land or tribute of some sort. Only America tries to make the enemy lands a better place. Only America tries to feed the hungry or heal the ill without asking anything in return. Would you like the Russians or the Chinese or the French or the Germans to lead the world? Have we not seen enough of the costs to the people they "help"? Only America allows those lands liberated from the enemy to decide their own fates by way of a peaceful and fair vote. And only America protects those that have so very little to offer in return. 231 years ago we began a great experiment to "form a more perfect union"…….not a perfect union, but a damn sight better than anything else I have seen in this world.

  9. Christopher Allen Ross says:

    ok how do we go about it?

  10. Freedom Seeker says:

    In summary, mind your own business and allow others to mind theirs. Fight for your own country against those who seek to destroy it.

  11. Freedom Seeker says:

    Get rid of the bleeding heart "liberal' Marxist who are delusional enough to believe that they can save the world while getting rid of the true savior, Jesus.

  12. Christopher Allen Ross says:

    isolationism is not possible in this world.

  13. Maybe we should return to the Monroe Doctrine. Let Europe, China and Russia fight over the rest of the world.

  14. Edwin Nelson says:

    Again isolationism lead to both World Wars. In a world where you can be anyplace in 40hrs, do you think you can hide?

  15. KC Ted says:

    Ironically, Russia and China are now mostly non-interventionist (militarily). While they may peddle arms here and there (usually used against us) they keep their actions in other nations on a business and trade level. While we are sending in troops, China is sending in negotiators for business and trade agreements. There is an enormous difference between non-interventionism and isolationism.

  16. Edwin Nelson says:

    Peddling arms here and there could be the understatement of the year. Russia is sending a marine force to shore up Syria and threatening over Iran. Remember its intervention in Georgia? How about Russia's involvement in the Tazik civil war? Russia is also pushing a new interventionist law for use of force in Central Asia. Have you forgotten its threats to make a nuclear target of Poland if it puts a defensive missile radar on its soil? And How about China…..from the South China Sea to threats against Japan to incursions in Indian airspace. How about incursions into Vietnam recently? To open threats from their military against Taiwan and the US. And their continued occupation of Tibet. Both are using increased state sponsored cyber attacks on both government and industrial targets.

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