Volume 8

A Moral History of Western Society

An Historical Review of the West's Great
Political, Social, Cultural, and Intellectual Legacy
Volume 2

From the Mid-1800s to the Present


12. Glory
13. The "Great War" (World War One)
14. Attempts at Recovery (The 1920s)
15. Depression ... and More Dictatorship
16. World War – Round Two
17. The Postwar World
18. A Cold War Develops
19. The Settling in of a Bi-Polar World
20. Peace
21. The Troubled 21st Century
22. The Lessons of History


Nationalism.  But this competitive or Darwinist ethic not only set the European "property-owning class" against the European "working class," it also set European nation against European nation.  

Actually it was not Darwinism that first put the moral foundations in place for very competitive nationalism.  The spirit of nationalism was hardly new – for it dates back to ancient tribalism when societies were very protective of their particular genealogical and ethnic communities.  But the German philosopher Hegel would bring a national spirit now stirring Europe into full philosophical view and justification.  In the early 1800s he laid out clearly the workings of a social dynamic driving history progressively, one that worked along lines that Darwinism would soon take up:  historical progress by a self-aware group rising to defend itself against a prevailing social order in which that newly-aware group was finding it hard to survive.  This oppressed group would collectively take up a spirit of struggle – aided greatly by a divine Weltgeist (World-Spirit) – and throw off the prevailing social yoke in order to take its own place at the head of history ... at least for the duration of the next historical cycle.

The Germans of his day took such Hegelian thought as the very call to arms that they needed as a people to finally find their own "German" place in the sun.  Soon other groups found themselves taking up the same militant Hegelian logic on behalf of their own rising national spirit.

Of course Darwinism only gave further "scientific" validity for the rising spirit of militant nationalism that was sweeping the continent.  It supported strongly an ever-growing instinct or spirit of each European nation to prove itself historically superior to its neighbors.  

For France and England, this competition already had a long history.  But it most conveniently served in the 1800s both to soften the class lines within the French and English nations as it also hardened the diplomatic lines of one nation against the other.  

This would come to anger Marx deeply because he hated the way the nationalist spirit was used to soften the industrial class lines, ones that he was expecting to lead the world to its final historical stage.

This nationalist urge also drove the Germans and Italians – who had long been divided internally into a number of fiercely competitive smaller states – to create the new nation states of Italy (1860) and Germany (1870).  It also stirred ethnic minorities within the remaining European multi-national empires to demand the same national independence.

Thus the spirit of nationalism was allowed, and even encouraged – through the creation of a highly Romanticized national history, poetry, operas, anthems, etc. – as a means of preserving social harmony within Europe's increasingly self-aware national units.

And so it was that the nation and its quest for glory finally came to command the full, overriding loyalty of its members – even to the extent of a call to die gallantly in war for the nation's rightful place in the sun.  The nation became celebrated as the supreme instrument of God's will on earth – as well as the ultimate source of all material well-being, justice, and right-mindedness here on earth.  Indeed, Westerners were creating a new god of sorts: their beloved nation – whether England, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, America or elsewhere.

Imperialism.  For the duration of the 1800s, this hotly competitive national spirit flung itself outward into the larger world – uniting imperial armies, industrialists and traders, and Christian missionaries in the effort to extend the influence of their sending nations among the pagans and heathens of the world.  The West was on the move, impelled by zealous forces which seemed to have no limit to their ambitions for mastery or dominance in the world.  

The British pushed for global commercialism, headquartered in London. The French pushed for a global French language and culture, headquartered in Paris.  The Americans pushed for constitutional democracy and commercialism abroad, sponsored and "protected" by America itself.  The Germans and Italians, coming lately to the game, struggled to find imperial colonies for themselves to govern in a demonstration of Germanic or Italian greatness.  And the Russians and Austro-Hungarians looked to grab pieces of their Muslim neighbor, the Turkish Ottoman Empire, in their own program of imperial expansion.

Tragically (but perhaps mercifully for the non-European societies), by the end of the century they had run out of overseas territories to grab in this Darwinian contest.  But given the fact that this in no ways diminished the nationalist spirit running hot through Western society, it was inevitable that these different sending forces would ultimately clash with each other – right at home in Europe itself – in a most ferocious sort of way.


The "Great War" (World War One:  1914-1918).  It took only the single incident of a Serbian nationalist assassinating a visiting heir to the Austrian throne to get much of Europe to come out fighting (the Spanish and Dutch stayed out as did also Switzerland and the Scandinavian countries).  No one had actually thought about how this was all supposed to end, because none of the nations involved in the action (Britain, France, Russia and little Serbia, joined eventually by Italy – in opposition to Germany and Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and Turkey) planned to quit.  Thus the slaughter of millions of young European males resulted … with no good result or even end in sight.  The killing simply continued … draining the strength and morale of the participating nations greatly.  

This would be a loss that Europe would never recover from fully or even significantly.  It was all politically very suicidal.  But these nations would not stop themselves.

Finally Russia collapsed … tipping the decision of a reluctant America to finally get involved.  With the collapse of the "autocratic" Russian government in early 1917, Wilson (as all secularists seem to do) supposed that the inevitable result would be the natural "democratization" of Russian society … turning the European dynamic (in Wilson's eyes) now into a great moral battle between "democracy" (represented by Britain, France – and now, at least potentially so, by newly "democratic" Russia) against "autocracy" (Germany, Austria-Hungary and Turkey).  The fact that Germany was no more autocratic than Britain (both had monarchies ... and both also had popularly-elected parliaments) seemed not to have factored into this piece of Wilsonian ideology.  And the fact that "the Russian people were always at heart a democratic people" was sheer Wilsonian fantasy.  But it worked well enough for Wilson now to bring America into the war … into the pointless slaughter.

America's participation put needed strength into the British and French side of the war* and helped bring a desperate German society to collapse … thus mercifully ending the pointless slaughter.  

[*The Russians, soon under Lenin's Communist government had simply withdrawn from the war … to fight an even more ferocious civil war now going on among the Russian people themselves.]  

How surprised then Wilson became when he found the "victorious" British and French in a deeply vengeful mood against a collapsed and defenseless Germany (and Austria, Bulgaria and Turkey) and most unwilling to support what Wilson hoped would be a fair "peace."  Instead, all that Europe got from the catastrophe was a vengeful Germany, a Communist (not "democratic") Russia, a weakened Austria-Hungary and Turkey (both carved up into a number of small and relatively defenseless national units), a domineering Britain and France (who expanded the size of their empires because of the way the "peace" worked out for them) … and a cynical America determined to never get involved again in the dangerous follies of the "Old World" (Europe).  America even failed to join the new League of Nations, a global diplomatic body that Wilson had hoped would bring some degree of democratic "reason" to the mess created by the war and right the wrongs of the post-war "peace."  Wilson himself then spent the last two years of his presidency in office as a very broken man.


Recovery.  Europe was no less cynical than America in the post-war period.  And the post-war politicians of Europe were well aware of the fact … making for quite weak political leadership.  

This enabled Mussolini in the early 1920s to easily convince the Italian King to appoint him as Italy's political leader – and from there to try to put forward a new nationalist or "Fascist" dream to lure the Italian people back to action … in which he was only partially successful.  Mussolini's troops consequently would take over the last African free society, Ethiopia, in an effort to recast Italy as a revived Roman Imperium.  The Italians were not terribly impressed.  But the battle weary "world powers" (who were they really at this point?) did little to counter Mussolini.

Mostly, like America, Westerners simply lost themselves in the rising world of consumerism, from radios to automobiles, and into the seemingly happy world of the latest fashions, hairstyles, dance moves, and heavy drinking.  While all that covered over the general sense at that time of the meaninglessness of life, it did not go deeply into that life … especially with the younger "Lost Generation."  The "Roaring Twenties" was actually a very shallow period.

European Christianity did not fare well either … with churches empty except for weddings, funerals and key celebrations.*

[*Footnote: Tragically, European Christianity had identified itself closely with the nationalist impulse in country after country during the war (for instance, the "Gott mit uns" or German "God with us" phrase having been played constantly before the German population during the war) … and thus Christianity would experience the same post-war disillusionment among the people that nationalism itself experienced.]  

And even the Christianity that survived the war seemed to exist mostly as just social ritual … and not as a deep part of the spirit of the times (whatever that spirit happened to be).  

Indeed, very popular at the time was the psychologist Freud, who mocked all religion as mere neurotic fantasy held by people unable to cope with reality.  But atheistic Secularists were not doing much to help the world cope with that reality either.  

There was some interest in global spiritualism – sort of a synthesis of mostly Eastern religions mixed in with some Christian attitudes.  But this did not reach widely into Western society either.   In short, the West was having a very difficult time spiritually coming out of the nightmare of the Great War.


Then at the end of the 1920s the Great Depression hit, first in America and then, by economic extension, the deeply American-dependent economies of Europe … especially Germany, completely mortgaged to America in order to be able to pay off very unfair war-compensation it supposedly owed to France.  Thus the economic lights went out across the entire West.

And into the darkness of those early 1930s stepped Hitler, who took Mussolini's Fascist style even further, flattering his German people with ideological garbage about what a powerful people they were, a superior race designed to rule the world.  He also promised them that he was personally, as their Führer (Leader), going to lead the Germans in building a grand German Empire (the Third Reich), one that would last a thousand years (it lasted only a dozen!).

Elsewhere in the world, the once Europe-dependent societies, such as India and China, were struggling in the face of an obvious weakening of the European hand to find their own way to national glory.  Most notably in those troubled 1930s, Gandhi in India and Chiang in China were doing what they could to free themselves from Western dependency … in Gandhi's case even Western culture itself.  However, China had already freed itself from the unofficial grip of the greatly distracted Western powers during the Great War … but was at this point still struggling simply to put in operation politically and economically its own successful Republic. And the global economic crash did not help matters much.  Meanwhile Gandhi kept himself busy organizing Indian protests designed to get the wearied British to "quit India."

And then there was Japan, not sure exactly how it wanted to move into the future … whether as a proto-Western democratic republic or as some kind of Japanese version of the German and Italian Fascist model glorifying the greatness of some mythical path and gearing the people up for a grand war that would restore that greatness to Japan … and build a Japanese Empire reaching across the whole of East (and possibly Central) Asia.

In the face of such Fascist aggression, the response of the "democratic" West was very, very weak … merely encouraging the boldness of these fast-rising Fascist powers.  The war-weary French were unable to get their political act together, so deeply divided among themselves over whether Germany was a friend or enemy in the face of a rising Communist Russia or whether Russia, though Communist, was the best bet as an ally in checking growing German power.  The French could never come to a decision on that matter.  And the British were led by politicians deeply committed to the idea of "peace at any cost" … failing to understand that offering pacifism ("appeasement" was the term actually used at the time) in the face of a rising bully in the neighborhood (Hitler) was not likely to have any effect on the bully except to encourage it in its bullying ways.

And Russia's ruthless and highly paranoid dictator, Stalin, interpreted British and French appeasement of Germany as actually Britain and France's way of turning an ambitious Hitler in Russia's direction.  Therefore, Stalin decided to reverse the program and engage in a peace agreement with Hitler, one that would clear the way for Hitler's ambitions to head in a Westerly direction – against France and Britain.  And Hitler was more than happy to accept the deal.  A week later, World War Two got underway.


Poland was quickly split up between Germany and Russia, Italy (and eventually Japan) joined the battle on the Fascist side, France – not able to act quickly in the face of German Blitzkrieg (lightning war) – was quickly overrun … and Britain found itself under constant aerial bombardment for what was presumably the prelude to a German military invasion of the British Isles.  Meanwhile, a stunned America stood by and watched … attempting to stay out of this new European political game.

But under Churchill, Britain would not cave in to German intimidation … and Hitler realized that he was most unready to truly follow through with an invasion of England.  So foolishly, not wanting to appear to have lost a political round in the game, Hitler decided to break his treaty with Stalin, and invade Russia instead … expecting this to be an easy match – one that would also gain Germany some much-needed material resources (oil for instance) in the process.

At the same time the Japanese supposed that an equally weak "democratic" America could be brought to submission (they were furious about America's refusal to sell Japan any more strategic materials, especially the oil and scrap iron needed by Japan in order to continue its imperial game, in China and elsewhere).  Thus the Japanese attacked and largely destroyed the American fleet anchored in Hawaii ... in order to cut off the American path to Asia – a continent that Japan now intended to bring under full Japanese control – especially its all-important material resources.  Thus America found itself at war – at least with just Japan … until foolishly a few days after the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor, Hitler decided that it would be a glorious thing to bring America into the war as a German as well as Japanese enemy.

However, America surprised both Germany and Japan with its ability to build unimaginable magnitudes of war goods in America's vast industrial network – and use these goods skillfully against its Japanese and German enemies.  Also, Russia proved to be an unmovable military obstacle for the Germans at the city of Stalingrad.  And Britain proved that it still had a lot of fight left in it.  Mussolini's Italy soon dropped out of the war, Germany was overrun from the West by the British and Americans and from the East by the Russians … and Japan finally called it quits when not one but two horrible nuclear bombs were dropped on its cities by American bombers.  By September of 1945 the war was over.


Recovery – Round Two.  But Europe at this point found itself in a state of complete ruin (Spain, Switzerland and Sweden excepted, as they had stayed "neutral" during the war).  It was not only that once again Europe had lost multitudes of young men, but that Europe's cities were in ruin, its factories were demolished, inexperienced politicians were called on to take command (the British had replaced Churchill with the Labourite or Socialist Atlee even before the final victory), and the whole Eastern half of Europe was under occupation by Russia's Red Army … an army which seemed determined to place itself in a position so as to be able to direct and control the post-war political development of that half of Europe.  At the same time, the Americans seemed just as determined to "go home" to America immediately … leaving the post-war power structure of a greatly weakened Western Europe in deep question.  Indeed, it looked even as if the huge Communist Parties of France and Italy, obviously taking orders from Stalin, were planning to start up enough mischief to possibly bring their countries under the same Stalinist dominion that had overtaken Eastern Europe.

Truman.  Thankfully, the shocking death of American President Roosevelt during the last year of the war had brought forth Vice President Truman to presidential office.  Outwardly Truman looked most unexceptional ... just another "Middle American."  True, he was himself very conscious and very supportive of Middle American culture.  But Truman was also an individual with amazingly high political instincts … and recognized immediately the challenge that Stalin now posed to the Western World.*

[*Footnote: Roosevelt had tragically been taken in by Stalin's "friendliness" … thus finding himself rather unsuspecting of Stalin's very calculating and totally ruthless character.]

Truman got Congress to back him in sending vital support to Turkey to fend of an expansion-minded Stalin next door ... and to block a similar interest by Yugoslavia's Communist President Tito in overrunning a greatly weakened Greece … saving both Turkey and Greece from falling to Communist control.  Then to counter the influence of the huge Communist Parties making mischief in Western Europe (especially in France and Italy) Truman sent billions of dollars freely to Europe to help get the Western economies back on their feet (the Marshall Plan) – including even America's recent enemies Germany and Italy – to help rebuild Europe's industries … and get its workers back to profitable work, thus stealing the political thunder of the Communists.


Then Truman proved that he would not be bullied out of the American position in Germany's strategic Berlin, by daring to fly vital material support to that city under Russian blockade … embarrassing Stalin in the process – who finally backed down.  And he got America to agree to be the part of a "peacetime" military alliance, whose formal organization NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) would involve America deeply in the ongoing defense of the "Free World" (the West).  And even more amazingly, he then offered Marshall aid to his former opponent Tito when Tito and Stalin had a split in their Communist ranks … thus in supporting Tito's independence, keeping Stalin's reach from extending all the way to the Adriatic Sea in the Mediterranean region.  To Truman, this was not about doing ideological battle with Communism.  This was about diplomatic, economic and military strategy, designed to counter expansive Soviet Russian power, power that needed to be blocked lest the world find the dictatorial powers of Germany and Japan simply replaced by those of Stalin's Russia.

Thus Truman wisely refused to get caught up militarily in the civil war raging in China between Chiang's Nationalists and Mao's Communists … although he did provide American naval protection for the Chinese Nationalists when they took refuge on the island of Taiwan.  But he did take military action when North Korea invaded South Korea … because a North Korean victory would have put Russia in a strategic position at the top of the China Sea (North Korea was simply a client state of Stalin's Russia).  To Truman, American diplomacy was about employing very strategically the power needed to block Soviet expansion … lest the world find the dictatorial powers of Germany and Japan simply replaced by those of Stalin's Russia.

However, at one point he had to refuse support to the Communist leader Ho Chi Minh in his group's effort to achieve independence from French imperialism – because by this time America itself was now caught up in a huge Red Scare.  Unfortunately, this caused Ho Chi Minh to turn to Stalin for help … a typical diplomatic loss that America would face … when political ideology and diplomatic strategy contradicted each other.

Undoubtedly America's defense was needed vitally in the face of what had become a bitter Cold War.  American involvement in the Korean War had to be done.  But Americans were not very enthusiastic about this responsibility.  But there was no other country in the West in a position to do anything about the matter.  The Europeans would help.  But they would no longer take the lead.  Leadership in the defense of the West and its values seemed to be almost completely an American responsibility.

Indeed, at this point the world understood that there were only two superpowers directing the world's strategic affairs … and neither of them was part of the original European superpower camp.  Instead, they were outlying powers located at the Eastern and Western edges of the once great Christian West.

America and its European allies differ deeply on this matter of "empire."  The situation facing the former powers of Europe would be made even more difficult, given the almost sacred belief among Americans that the control of any society by another is most evil – and needs to be stopped regardless of the consequences in doing so.

Thus the Dutch, once they got out from under Nazi Germany's control and began to put their society back together again, would also look to restoring their 300-year old empire in Southeast Asia, one that the Japanese had taken over when the Dutch were under German occupation.  But the Japanese, even as they realized that their government had accepted defeat at the hands of the Americans, did everything possible to make the post-war Dutch return to the area impossible, supporting strongly an Indonesian independence movement led by a local Indonesian, Sukarno.  Thousands of Dutch living in the colony were butchered in the process and local Indonesian Christians suffered the same fate (Indonesia is heavily Muslim).  The Dutch gathered forces to fight back … only to find themselves opposed by the new United Nations Organization – with America taking the lead in that very opposition.  What were the Dutch to do … especially when Truman announced that America would suspend Marshall Plan aid to the Dutch if they did not simply abandon their colony to the locals?  Finally, the very discouraged Dutch did so.  And with that, the Netherlands, as a once powerful society, came to an end as such.  It was now simply a small but cute European society.

The French faced the same problem when they tried to reinstate themselves in their former position as an imperial power in Southeast Asia (Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos).  Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh even informed Truman that he would appreciate American help in freeing his country from the French effort to retake control of his country.  But as a Communist, he had come too late in making that appeal.  Truman could not help him because by this time America was bitter about any Communist advance (a huge Red Scare was on at the time).  Actually, America would eventually come to support the French in their effort.  But the effort was losing support at home in France itself … and by 1954 the French were ready to sign out on the effort (America played no role in the ultimate negotiations).   And so too, this involved a great reduction in French stature.

And Britain under Atlee was actually in a hurry to divest itself of its Indian holdings … negotiating a turnover to Gandhi's nationalists of all of India – minus (to Gandhi's grand irritation) a huge portion of the subcontinent that was basically Muslim and not Hindu in character ... the future Pakistan, both West and East (the latter eventually becoming Bangladesh).  And then when at independence all hell broke loose in India as Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus squared off against each other, the British did nothing.  India's cultural animosities were now strictly a problem for the Indians themselves to work out.  And thus Britain too stepped out of the imperialism business … and became simply a small island nation lying off the coast of the European continent.

And the drift of the former European "greats" into nothingness was confirmed in 1957 when Egypt seized the vital Suez Canal linking Europe with Asia … and the French and British (joined by the new Israelis) grabbed it back.  To the shock of the Americans, this came across in the world's (and America's) opinion as merely another imperialist act on the part of the former European powers.*

[*Footnote: Actually, the French had built the canal and the British had also come to own it in part because of its importance in Europe's economic and cultural ties with Asia.   France and Britain did not see this as imperialism … but instead simply as a matter of practical necessity.]

Worse, the event came at a bad time … when the Russians were forced to send a huge Russian military force into Hungary in response to an independence movement in Hungary that was underway at the same time.  America's President Eisenhower was furious over his French and British allies' behavior … seeing that their own "imperialist" effort to hang onto this canal undercut the propaganda advantage that Eisenhower was trying to gain against Russia, depicting Russia as a deceptively authoritarian regime that the world would be unwise to follow.  

All Eisenhower could see in this Suez Crisis was how this played out negatively in America's ongoing ideological contest with Russia … not where it figured into the political status of its European allies.  Consequently, the British and French were forced to back off.  

Britain took the humiliation quietly.  But the French were a bit more resentful … as they were also having a hard time hanging onto a valuable piece of North African real estate just opposite France across the Mediterranean.  Being forced to back down in the face of the Arab opposition offered by Egyptian President Nasser did not help France's battle with the Arabs of French Algeria.  The French were bitter.

Then the following year (1958), French General de Gaulle seized power in France and tried to restore some of France's lost grandeur.  First he simply abandoned Algeria (and the millions of Frenchmen living there to their own fate), as he saw no value in continuing the contest with the Arabs in Algeria.  More importantly, he then turned on the English-speaking "Anglo-Saxons" (Britain and America) … actually carrying much of French society with him in his anti-Anglo revolt.  He blocked British entry into the European Common Market* … simply as a way of humiliating Britain.  And then he turned on NATO, even though it was headquartered in his country, in an attempt to undercut American leadership in Europe.  He pulled his troops and fleets out of NATO and then forced NATO troops out of his country – in the hopes of making a European power (namely France) able to take the lead in Europe's own affairs.  In the end, none of the other European members of NATO chose to follow his lead.  Most Europeans understood how deeply they needed the American connection.

[*Footnote: The Common Market was a West European effort to get past its history of nationalist animosities … by uniting European social dynamics by way of some post-nationalist or all-European programming, starting in the all-important field of economics.  NATO was also part of that programming.]


The problem of "power."  Being an effective major power involves some wisdom, usually acquired through tough experience.  As America became the head of the West – and given the responsibility of seeing to the West's very survival in the face of highly expansive Soviet efforts to "revolutionize" the world – it became apparent that America had some way to go before it had such deep wisdom.  Sadly, such power seemed way too often to bring out rather naive thoughts by Idealistic rather than Realistic leaders, thoughts that it was now America's duty not just to deal with the world and its many challenges … but to actually change that world – make it into a better social order, even a perfect social order.

We saw that tendency in Wilson – US President (1913-1920), but also former professor and former Princeton University president.  His was the classic mindset of the academic intellectual, loving to work from his desk in designing a better world, a world that he actually knew very little about in real terms.  But his ideas were so wonderful that, according to his own logic, they had to be real, to be exactly what the world needed.  And thus Wilson designed – and presented that design to the American people as reality – the idea that the Russian people had always been a democratic people at heart, and that only the small Russian ruling class was what put that country in the category of "autocracy."  Thus according to Wilson's logic, now that the autocracy had been overthrown (early 1917), Americans could expect to see Russia quickly joining the democratic world.  Of course, he was shocked when in fact that was not the direction Russia took once it got rid of its governing Russian aristocracy.  And his shock only deepened when he also realized that his "democratic" allies Britain and France shared none of his political Idealism – unless it somehow served some selfish purpose for these two European powers.

Even more tragically, America really did not improve in the political wisdom category after this example of Wilson's Idealistic thinking blew up in the face of Reality.  Americans would find it easy to continue to dream the dream of a more perfect world … brought into being through the work and direction of "enlightened" leaders.

Actually, Truman himself did not suffer from this Idealistic illusion … thankfully so because he wisely and most skillfully put American power to work where it would bring the greatest benefit to the West … and to America itself.  Perhaps that was because he did not come to the American presidency by way of fancy schooling, but instead by taking on tough challenges: an outstanding artillery officer in World War One, a failed men's clothing store owner after the war, self-taught in the law, working with the powers-that-be which ran Missouri politics … but doing so without losing his sense of integrity, serving in the US Senate as an investigator into corporate spending during World War Two (saving the US billions of dollars in the process).  Truman was a hard-nosed Realist ... most of the time.

And Eisenhower also tended more to the Realist rather than the Idealist side in his thinking, although his handling of the Suez Crisis was not exactly an example of political Realism at work.  And the results of Eisenhower's lack of Realism in handling this delicate matter – for the West and even for America itself – consequently were not good.

But with the coming of the 1960s, America would see political Idealism emerging more and more, most notably in the form of a "Liberal" political philosophy which took control of Washington at that time.  And it was found widely in the capital city:  the Supreme Court, which began to "reshape" the fundamentals of the American Constitution along more "Liberal" or "Progressive" (that is, Secular) lines; Kennedy's Idealism which merely increased Soviet boldness in its foreign policy;  and finally Johnson, who was going to redesign America very fundamentally as the Great Society … and at the same time save Southeast Asia from Communism by taking direct military control of the South Vietnamese political dynamic.

Not surprisingly, Johnson's Idealistic presidency ended up in 1968 as a rather grand disaster … with Johnson simply abandoning his catastrophic political legacy for someone else to deal with.  He was so preoccupied with the ever-deepening military American involvement in Vietnam (over a half-million American troops in Vietnam … and nothing to show for the effort), that he ignored America's responsibilities elsewhere during his presidency.  He played no role in shaping a favorable political outcome when in 1968 Czechoslovakia attempted – and failed – to break free from the Soviet Russian grip.  And he offered no serious response to de Gaulle's anti-American and anti-NATO challenges.

The "Great Society" disaster.  In part this was because he was also so preoccupied with building his highly Idealistic Great Society in America … which unsurprisingly simply weakened the bonds of social tradition within America itself, long-lasting social bonds that are needed to continue to hold any society together in good health.

For instance, the Rev. Dr. King was asking only that America honor its promise to let all people, regardless of their racial character or background, participate as equals in the process of Republican government (elections of public officials mostly).  But Johnson and his vastly expansive bureaucracy presented the Idea to the American public that the government's role was not that as political referee in a democratic political game … but needed itself to be the key player in the game … a player that undertook the responsibility of making sure that everyone came away from the game a winner.  Why?  Because public life was now about entitlements delivered to the people by their government … not citizen duties or civil responsibilities encouraged and monitored by their government.  

And so very easily Americans began to expect grand entitlements to come their way … and angry when these did not come at the pace expected – causing such "entitled" groups to riot, plunder, burn and kill.  And thus the resulting disaster of vital sections of America becoming the scene of rioting and burning during the last years of the Johnson presidency, especially during the annus horribilis (horrible year) of 1968.

Political Idealism in the 1970s.  Then the 1970s saw America in a state of ongoing and ever-deepening ideological civil war … a war, for instance, that led an anti-Nixon, "Liberal" or Idealist Congress (part of Johnson's legacy that did continue) to block President Nixon's efforts to conduct a Realist foreign policy.   For instance, Congress acted boldly to undo Nixon's Realism by "freeing" Vietnam from "American imperialism" … by terminating all of America's financial support for that country (Nixon had already himself removed the American military that Johnson had sent there).  Congress's economic undercutting of the pro-American Saigon government unsurprisingly (at least unsurprising to a Realist) caused first Vietnam and then neighboring Cambodia to fall into full social breakdown, resulting in the slaughter of millions of Southeast Asians.

Sadly, this Idealist Congress had no serious understanding of power and its responsibilities.  Even worse, Congress simply looked away from the mess it had created in Vietnam and Cambodia, refusing to acknowledge the role it had played in producing this huge tragedy.  Consequently, American Idealism learned nothing from this event … and would continue forward unchanged.


Carter rode to office on an ongoing tide of American Idealism … but thankfully learned something about political Realism while in office – for instance, being able to negotiate a much-needed diplomatic agreement between Israel and its neighbor Egypt.  Tragically however, his developing Realism came too late for America's long-standing ally, the Shah's Iran ... when an early back-and-forth in Carter's support for the Shah, in the face of some serious opposition the Shah was facing in his country, led to the weakening – and ultimately the collapse – of the Shah's regime.  And not only did this huge political loss step back American influence in the area, even worse, it produced a deeply hostile pro-Muslim Iran dedicated to the destruction of the Great Satan America.


Twenty great years of American political Realism.  Thankfully, America and the West (and the world) would find itself over the next 20 years – and three American presidencies in a row – come under the leadership of individuals with a strong sense of political Realism directing them.

Standing behind the outrageous level of violence of 20th century wars was the power of modern materialist science.  Man had learned to control, even unleash, enormous powers – both to create and to destroy.  Long range artillery could reduce towns and cities to rubble; air power could do the same.  With the discovery of the nuclear bomb – and the missile that could send these bombs from one side of the earth to the other – cities could potentially even be disappeared in a single flash.  Gone were the days of the heroic warrior.  In the warrior's place stood the anonymous engineer who from the safety of his or her headquarters could conduct terrible war without the enemy having any idea of who or what was coming their way.

Mass society.   The 20th century saw the very rapid growth of the world's population from approximately 1.65 billion at the beginning of the century to 6 billion at the close of the century.  Accompanying this was the shrinking of the globe in terms of the social distance of one part of the earth from another:  an explosion in transportation and communications technology brought the "outside" world to everyone's doorstep (even inside the home complements of the internet and the wireless phone).

The result of this technological revolution was a tremendous loss of personal privacy, once easily afforded by the rather local nature of how we used to live socially.  In so many subtle ways we found ourselves drawn into an ever-expanding world which was increasingly intrusive, complex, and impersonal.  We became ever busier in our labors – yet less able to control the outcomes of our efforts.  Our fates seemed more and more dependent on the actions of large social organizations run by social managers possessing tremendous powers to oversee human life.   A supposed efficiency and production of "plenty" was what this ever larger social system claimed to offer – in exchange for our personal liberties.


But this kind of impersonal and lofty power offered by these mega systems and their managers often proved to be very dangerous to human life.  Stalin's Russia, Hitler's Germany, Tojo's Japan and Mao's China demonstrated clearly the terrifying downside of "totalitarian" societies which easily resulted from this trend.

The quest for identity and purpose.  But man is ultimately made to find meaning in life personally and spiritually – not mechanically.  Humanity or the quality of being truly human is a value which is developed through risk, struggle, even sacrifice – that is, personal heroics.  Man does not need impersonal institutions to take care of him.  Instead man needs to live on his own strength, tested and developed as he goes through life.

Man needs heroes, those who through the example of their own struggles and victories inspire others.  Man himself needs to be a hero – in order to live truly.  And that brings us back full circle to the origins of the West in the ancient world of the Greeks.