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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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One-hundred and thirteen years ago, Rudyard Kipling wrote a poem about the American enterprise in the Philippines. The title of that poem has since become a byword for racist colonialism and yet its text is a sardonic recitation of the dim virtues of the “Savage wars of peace.”

“Go bind your sons to exile, To serve your captives’ need;” Kipling wrote. “To seek another’s profit, And work another’s gain. Fill full the mouth of Famine, And bid the sickness cease.”

This moral imperialism has never gone away, though it is no longer thought of in racial terms. 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.

The burden has been internalized, its concept not racial, but moral. The lack of empire has not lessened it. That absence of a physical empire, of conquered provinces and colonies administered with the whip has only strengthened the might of the moral empire. And the savage wars of peace go on in places like Afghanistan and Iraq where we fight desperately to save the natives from themselves.

The liberal man’s burden is the United Nations. It is the obligation to universalize national greatness by extending it around the world through a moral empire. An empire of the progressive spirit that sweeps aside the old for the new, that makes the world over in a liberal image and a liberal template. The moral empire with the world as its consensual subjects whose conquests are achieved through the transcendent superiority of its modernity and humanity.

The Pax Americana is grounded in this notion of a moral empire. Russia or China may rule territories by force, but America expands its influence by exporting the virtues of its culture. Democracy and human rights are shipped overseas, wrapped in ribbons of international law, and soon enough the world is full of Pakistani Americans, Libyan Americans, Sudanese Americans and a horde of others who are happy to rule themselves under the systems of our moral colonialism. And once this is done then we will all be living in a truly Post-American world in which there will be no need for America because we will all be Americans.

American policymakers ask themselves why the people of another nation are still not Americans and then they set out to remove those obstacles, sending food, curing disease and gifting money to take care of physical needs, and removing dictators, enabling elections and instituting free market reforms to set aside any political repression. And if their theory were correct, then once that was done the people would be Americans. Instead they remain what they are and the policymakers remain baffled.

Introducing democracy to the Muslim world has not made it American, has not made it respectful of human rights or tolerant of dissent. It is possible to be a democracy and own slaves. It is certainly possible to be a democracy and treat non-Muslims as subhuman creatures to be beaten whenever the economy turns bad. Democracy is no defense against that sort of behavior. Character is and that cannot be exported along with election monitors and purple fingers.

Systems can be exported, but not assumptions and that is where the liberal man’s burden always goes wrong, because he believes that he is exporting his virtues, when he is only exporting his systems. And his systems are only expressions of his virtues, they are not his virtues. It is possible to export a CD full of Mozart symphonies, but not the ability to compose those symphonies. Similarly we can send out copies of the Constitution, but not the minds that created and maintained such a document.

The moral empire proves even more fragile than the physical empire, for it depends on the export of virtues. And for those virtues which cannot be exported, American soldiers go to the cities and deserts of other lands and mark them with their living and dead. And for those virtues, teachers, aid workers, diplomats and a thousand others go to export the unexportable, they try to bring Mozart to Pakistan and rather than learning to compose symphonies, the natives kill Mozart and leave his body in a ditch.

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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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