[Part 2] America’s Immoral Morality: Manifest Destiny Continental Empire, 1828-1898
So if conquest and exploitation was wrong early in American history, is it right if we do it today in the Middle East? And if it’s OK for the US to occupy or build numerous bases in foreign countries, is it OK for Iran to build bases in the US?
Written over 2 days and finished at Starbucks in Los Gatos (9:47pm)) with a hot chocolate while listening to Metallica on Pandora. I did not proof read this because I am too tired and I wanna go home.
Basic universal moral principles, which become accepted as social norms, are critical to any type civilization. For instance, principles such as respect, diplomacy, and cooperation are paramount to the vitality of any group of people, whether it’s a large territory like Canada or a remote tribe in Papua New Guinea. While respect and diplomacy are a two-way street, laying the foundation for these principles is what increases the overall well-being of countries. I am contend that humanitarian ideals come to fruition when the pursuit is for the flourishing of all countries through cooperation and diplomacy dictated by the law of universality.
The law of universality, in the context I am speaking of, is an affirmation which states that if a government engages in actions which cause unjustified and illegitimate suffering and harm, then it is wrong for every government. The law of universality is applicable when looking back to the bombs US dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima, or the indiscriminate fire blasting of napalm on thousands of Vietnamese. We weren’t thinking, “what if every country took action like this?” Or, “how would we like it if Iraq set up bases around the US just we are doing with them?” Of course, the law of universality is thwarted when countries elevate self-interest and greed while pursuing personal gain to the detriment of others. What if governments functioned, universally, with the goal of elevating freedom and equality while advocating for the civil liberties of its citizens? It is here that my utopian conceptions of universality fall the wayside because history has proven that power, wealth, and control, function like a narcotic whose insatiable high gives the sense of invincibility.
America’s Second Empire
The Second Empire (1828-1898) in US history’s sociopathic policy shows a bourgeoning American empire intoxicated with making its God ordained destiny a reality. This empire expanded its reach all the way to the Pacific Ocean, annexing a good chuck of Mexico in the south and west and uniting a vast continent under one government. The strategic plan for land acquisition slowly secured a beachhead for economic expansion across the Pacific. The expansion was adorned in eloquent immoral morality, with the famous creed called Manifest Destiny, drawing on the Chosen People motif of the Romans, the White Man’s Burden code of the British, and America’s own vision of spreading democracy and civilization.
The Second Empire was led by General Andrew Jackson who symbolized the swashbuckling fighter and imperial aspirations of the age. Jackson promoted violent expansionism mainly to help the Southern plantation economy that was depleting its own land and needed more. Jackson inaugurated the pre-bellum phase of the Second Empire, which unsuccessfully sought to reconcile expansionist interests of Northern capitalism and the slave south. It was Jackson that proposed the
Indian Removal Act of 1830 which discussed how “removed Indians” would, under US guidance, advance “from barbarism to the habits and enjoyments of civilized life.” Jackson told Congress of its desires to uplift the Indians: “Toward the aborigines of the country no one can indulge a more friendly feeling than myself, or would go further in attempting to reclaim them from their wandering habits and make them a happy, prosperous people.”
The Indian Removal Act was just one policy of many that gave credence to American exceptionalism and the ideal of the US as a beacon on a hill – a light unto all of the world. In 1839, the phrase Manifest Destiny became dogma, giving a righteous justice to America’s sociopathic immoral morality. Coined by editor and journalist John O’Sullivan, Manifest Destiny was the “moral mission” taken upon the US with the goal of civilizing barbaric people. In Sullivan’s essay, “The Great Nation of Futurity,” he discusses how an exceptional America is destined to be the great nation of futurity. It thus gained legitimacy and virtue because it was cloaked in the righteous lie that it was America’s moral duty and obligation to civilize the distant lands for the sake of peace throughout the world.
Stephen F. Austin, an American General, became entranced with O’Sullivan’s concept of Manifest Destiny. Seduced by the lustful power of forcing people to genuflect before America’s feet, General Stephen F. Austin set his eyes on Mexico. Austin led colonists into Texas and seized Mexico and capitalized on this moral mission. They are, as Austin wrote, “the self-evident dictates of morality.” As in Rome, and as reinterpreted by Madison, Jefferson, and other Founders, this universality of America’s moral vision of liberty and equality – as codified in the US Constitution – gave it both the right and “duty” to expand its influence around the world.
It’s important to note that Austin was not only one who had his hand in the annexation of both Texas and Mexico. Our 11th President, James Polk (1845-1849 as President), combined Manifest Destiny and the Monroe Doctrine in order to justify relentless expansion. Abraham Lincoln was even astonished at Polk’s brazen policy and called him an “imperialist.” Polk was simply one man in the line of many who was infected with Constantine Syndrome. Polk and others in power used Manifest Destiny and the Monroe Doctrine as the sociopathic policy to view Native Americans in the US and “colored” people in surrounding countries as vile vermin in need of salvation.
The annexation of Texas and Mexico is good place to look when discussing sociopathic policy. The deceptive rhetoric informed US citizens that the US is doing Mexico and Texas a “favor” by bringing civility. But what was cloaked under this lie was that expanding into Mexico and Texas ensured vast profit from a valuable resource: cotton. A good analogy for the 21st century person is: what oil in the Middle East is today, is what cotton in Texas and Mexico was the 19th century. And just as the US had to cloak their hostile takeover in righteous language in order to manufacture consent for its citizens, nothing has changed. Then, it was “bringing salvation and civility” and now it’s “bringing democracy to the Middle East.” The reality is that the brutal takeover of both, means an economic explosion for the ones in power in the US.
This is sociopathic imperialism. It’s economic and political policy that is initiated unilaterally when we put our boots to the neck of the weak, and force them to capitulate to our demands. Cotton was the narcotic, and wealth and power was the insatiable high. I will close with a poem by Rudyard Kipling:
Take up the White Man’s burden
Send forth the best ye breed, Go bind your sons to exile
To serve your captives’ need;
To wait in heavy harness
On fluttered folk and wild,
Your new-caught sullen peoples,
Half-devil and half-child.