Almost Irrelevant

Our history is written by the merchants and traders and the story began even before we had the Constitution. Commerce has always been a part of the psyche of Western Civilization. From before Columbus set foot on San Salvador Island in 1492, Europeans had been engaged in some form of commerce or another with North American inhabitants.

The Vikings from Scandinavia established settlements on the East Coast of modern day Canada as early as the 10th Century. Occasional forays by Northern Europeans to the East Coast as far south as present day New York followed Columbus’ voyages and resulted in contacts with local inhabitants with bartering and gifting used to establish workable relations. As time went by, these contacts expanded into seasonable encampments, then settlements, then colonization.

The colonies in early America, chartered mainly by British interests, were primarily commercial ventures or whose lifeblood became trade with the mother country. After the Revolution, the new Americans looked westward toward their new frontier. The first obstacle was the Appalachian Mountains, then the Mississippi River, the Great Plains and finally, the Rocky Mountains before they could fulfill their destiny at the Pacific Coast.

California joined the Union in mid-century, within 20 years the railroad had connected the oceans, goods could be shipped west much faster and more securely than before and pioneers filled the land between, bringing commerce with them – especially farm goods which would expand to feed the world. Foreign trade became a valuable source of income for the young nation but it also brought trouble.

The trouble would begin during our first decade as a nation with the Barbary Pirates preying on American shipping in the Mediterranean, taking goods and American citizens for the slave trade.

“Barbary corsairs and crews from the North African Ottoman provinces of Algiers, Tunis, Tripoli and the independent Sultanate of Morocco under the Alaouite dynasty – the  Barbary Coast were the scourge of the Mediterranean. Capturing merchant ships and enslaving or ransoming their crews and providing the Muslim rulers of these nations with wealth and naval power. The Roman Catholic Trinitarian Order, or order of “Mathurins”, had operated from France for centuries with the special mission of collecting and disbursing funds for the relief and ransom of prisoners of Mediterranean pirates

Barbary corsairs led attacks upon American merchant shipping in an attempt to extort ransom for the lives of captured sailors, and ultimately tribute from the United States to avoid further attacks, as they did with the various European states. Before the Treaty of Paris, which formalized the United States’ independence from Great Britain, U.S. shipping was protected by France during the revolutionary years under the Treaty of Alliance (1778–83).

Although the treaty does not mention the Barbary States in name, it refers to common enemies between both the U.S. and France. As such, piracy against U.S. shipping only began to occur after the end of the American Revolution, when the U.S. government lost its protection under the Treaty of Alliance.

This lapse of protection by a European power led to the first American merchant ship being seized after the Treaty of Paris. On October 11, 1784, Moroccan pirates seized the brigantine Betsey. The Spanish government negotiated the freedom of the captured ship and crew; however, Spain offered advice to the United States on how to deal with the Barbary States. The advice was to offer tribute to prevent further attacks against merchant ships.

The U.S. Minister to France, Thomas Jefferson, decided to send envoys to Morocco and Algeria to try to purchase treaties and the freedom of the captured sailors held by Algeria. Morocco was the first Barbary Coast State to sign a treaty with the U.S., on June 23, 1786. This treaty formally ended all Moroccan piracy against American shipping interests. Specifically, article six of the treaty states that if any Americans captured by Moroccans or other Barbary Coast States docked at a Moroccan city, they would be set free and come under the protection of the Moroccan State.

American diplomatic action with Algeria, the other major Barbary Coast State, was much less productive than with Morocco. Algeria began piracy against the U.S. on July 25, 1785 with the capture of the schooner Maria, and Dauphin a week later. All four Barbary Coast states demanded $660,000 each (that was a lot of money back then!). However, the envoys were given only an allocated budget of $40,000 to achieve peace. Diplomatic talks to reach a reasonable sum for tribute or for the ransom of the captured sailors struggled to make any headway. The crews of Maria and Dauphin remained in captivity for over a decade, and soon were joined by crews of other ships captured by the Barbary States.

Immediately prior to Thomas Jefferson’s inauguration as America’s third President in March 1801, Congress passed naval legislation that, among other things, provided for six frigates that ‘…shall be officered and manned as the President of the United States may direct…’ In the event of a declaration of war on the United States by the Barbary powers, these ships were to ‘protect our commerce and chastise their insolence – by sinking, burning or destroying their ships and vessels wherever you shall find them.'” There was no “proportionality” intended. Good advice.

Upon Jefferson’s inauguration, Yusuf Karamanli, the Pasha (or Bashaw) of Tripoli, demanded $225,000 from the new administration. (In 1800, federal revenues totaled a little over $10 million). Putting his long-held beliefs into practice, Jefferson refused the demand. Consequently, on May 10, 1801, the Pasha declared war on the U.S., not through any formal written documents but in the customary Barbary manner of cutting down the flagstaff in front of the U.S. consulate. Wisely, Algiers and Tunis did not follow their ally in Tripoli.

Before learning that Tripoli had declared war on the United States, Jefferson sent a small squadron, consisting of three frigates and one schooner, under the command of Commodore Richard Dale with gifts and letters to attempt to maintain peace with the Barbary powers. However, in the event that war had been declared, Dale was instructed “to protect American ships and citizens against potential aggression,” but Jefferson “insisted that he was ‘unauthorized by the Constitution, without the sanction of Congress, to go beyond the line of defense.'”

“He told Congress: “I communicate [to you] all material information on this subject, that in the exercise of this important function (the power to declare war) confided by the Constitution to the legislature exclusively, their judgment may form itself on a knowledge and consideration of every circumstance of weight.” 

Although Congress never voted on a formal declaration of war, they did authorize the President to instruct the commanders of armed American vessels to seize all vessels and goods of the Pasha of Tripoli “and to cause to be done all such other acts of precaution or hostility as the state of war will justify.” There would be no proportionality for Jefferson. The American squadron joined a Swedish flotilla under Rudolf Cederstrom in blockading Tripoli, the Swedes having been at war with the Tripolitans since 1800.

On May 31, 1801, Commodore Edward Preble traveled to Messina, Sicily, to the court of King Ferdinand IV of the Kingdom of Naples. He sought help and found a good ally. The kingdom was at war with Napoleon, but Ferdinand supplied the Americans with manpower, craftsmen, supplies, gunboats, mortar boats, and the ports of Messina, Syracuse and Palermo to be used as a naval base to launch operations against Tripoli, a port walled fortress city protected by 150 pieces of heavy artillery manned by 25,000 soldiers, assisted by a fleet of 10 ten-gunned brigs, 2 eight-gun schooners, two large galleys, and 19 gunboats.

In 1802, in response to Jefferson’s request for authority to deal with the pirates, Congress passed “An act for the protection of commerce and seamen of the United States against the Tripolitan cruisers”, authorizing the President to “…employ such of the armed vessels of the United States as may be judged requisite… for protecting effectually the commerce and seamen thereof on the Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterranean and adjoining seas.” “The statute authorized American ships to seize vessels belonging to the Bey of Tripoli with the captured property (the prize) distributed to those who brought the vessels into port.”

The U.S Navy went unchallenged on the sea, but still the question remained undecided. Jefferson pressed the issue the following year, with an increase in military force and deployment of many of the navy’s best ships to the region throughout 1802. Argus,  Chesapeake, Constellation,  Constitution, Enterprise, Intrepid, Philadelphia and Syren  saw service during the war under the overall command of Preble. Throughout 1803, Preble set up and maintained a blockade of the Barbary ports and executed a campaign of raids and attacks against the cities’ fleets.

In October 1803, Tripoli’s fleet was able to capture the U.S.S. Philadelphia intact after the frigate ran aground on a reef while patrolling Tripoli harbor. Efforts by the Americans to float the ship while under fire from shore batteries and Tripolitan Naval units failed. The ship, its captain, William Bainbridge, and all officers and crew were taken ashore and held as hostages. Philadelphia was turned against the Americans and anchored in the harbor as a gun battery.

On the night of February 16, 1804, Lieutenant Stephen Decatur led a small detachment of U.S. Marines aboard the captured Tripolitan ketch (secretly rechristened USS Intrepid), thus deceiving the guards on Philadelphia to float close enough to board her. Decatur’s men stormed the ship and overpowered the Tripolitan sailors. With fire support from the American warships, the Marines set fire to Philadelphia, denying her use by the enemy. Legendary British admiral, Horatio Nelson, himself known as a man of action and courage, reportedly called this “the most bold and daring act of the age.”

Preble attacked Tripoli on July 14, 1804, in a series of inconclusive battles, including a courageous but unsuccessful attack attempting to use Intrepid under Captain Richard Somers as a fire ship, packed with explosives and sent to enter Tripoli harbor, where she would destroy herself and the enemy fleet. However, Intrepid was destroyed, possibly by enemy gunfire, before she achieved her goal, killing Somers and his entire crew.

The turning point in the war was the Battle of Derna (April–May 1805). Ex-consul  William Eaton, a former army captain who used the title of “general”, and US Marine Corps first lieutenant, Presley O’Bannon, led a force of eight (8) U.S. Marines and five hundred mercenaries – Greeks from Crete, Arabs, and Berbers – on a march across the desert from  Alexandria, Egypt, to assault and to capture the Tripolitan city of Derna. This was the first time the United States flag was raised in victory on foreign soil. The action is memorialized in a line of the Marines’ Hymn as “…the shores of Tripoli”.

Wearied of the blockade and raids, and now under threat of a continued advance on Tripoli proper and a scheme to restore his deposed older brother Hamet Karamanli as ruler, Yusuf Karamanli signed a treaty ending hostilities on June 10, 1805.

In agreeing to pay a ransom of $60,000 for the American prisoners, the Jefferson administration drew a distinction between payingtribute and paying ransom. At the time, some argued that buying sailors out of slavery was a fair exchange to end the war. William Eaton, however, remained bitter for the rest of his life about the treaty, feeling that his efforts had been squandered by the State Department diplomat Tobias Lear. Even back then, Defense couldn’t get along with State.

The First Barbary War was beneficial to the reputation of the United States’ military command and war mechanism, which had been up to that time, relatively untested. The First Barbary War showed that America could execute a war far from home, and that American forces had the cohesion to fight together as Americans rather than separately as Georgians or New Yorkers. The United States Navy and Marines became a permanent part of the American government and American history, and Decatur returned to the U.S. as its first post-revolutionary war hero.

However, the more immediate problem of Barbary piracy was not fully settled. By 1807, Algiers had gone back to taking American ships and seamen hostage. Distracted by the preludes to the War of 1812, the U.S. was unable to respond to the provocation until 1815, with the Second Barbary War, in which naval victories by Commodores William Bainbridge and Stephen Decatur led to treaties ending all tribute payments by the U.S.

Incidently, the frigate U.S.S. Constitution, commissioned in 1798, is still in commission as the Navy’s oldest warship and can be visited to this day in Boston harbor.

Other areas of diplomatic influence, cultural engagement and international trade through the years include cotton from Egypt which played a role in the Civil War, fruits and spices from the Middle East, the clipper ship trade with China and other Far Eastern ports in the 19th Century.

“In 1851, President Millard Fillmore authorized a formal naval expedition to Japan to return shipwrecked Japanese sailors and request that Americans stranded in Japan be returned to the United States. He sent Commodore John Aulick to accomplish these tasks, but before Aulick left Guangzhou, China for Japan, he was relieved of his post and replaced by Commodore Matthew Perry. A lifetime naval officer, Perry had distinguished himself in the Mexican-American War and was instrumental in promoting the United States Navy’s conversion to steam power.

On July 8, 1853, Perry led his four ships into the harbor at Tokyo Bay, seeking to re-establish for the first time in over 200 years, regular trade and discourse between Japan and the western world. There were several reasons why the United States became interested in revitalizing contact between Japan and the West in the mid-19th century. First and foremost, the combination of the opening of Chinese ports to regular trade and the acquisition of California, creating American ports on the Pacific coast, ensured that there would be a steady stream of maritime traffic between North America and Asia.

Then, as American traders in the Pacific replaced sailing ships (the famous “China Clippers”) with steam ships, they needed to secure coaling stations, on the Great Circle routes, where they could stop to take on provisions and fuel while making the long trip from the United States to China. The combination of its advantageous geographic position and rumors that Japan held vast deposits of coal increased the appeal of establishing commercial and diplomatic contacts with the Japanese.

Additionally, the American whaling industry had pushed into the North Pacific by the mid-18th century, and sought safe harbors, assistance in case of shipwrecks, and reliable supply stations. In the years leading up to the Perry mission, many American sailors found themselves shipwrecked and stranded on Japanese shores, and tales of their mistreatment at the hands of the unwelcoming Japanese spread through the merchant community and across the United States.

The same combination of economic considerations and belief in Manifest Destiny that motivated U.S. expansion across the North American continent also drove American merchants and missionaries to journey across the Pacific. At the time, many Americans believed that they had a special responsibility to modernize and civilize the Chinese and Japanese. In the case of Japan, missionaries felt that Protestant Christianity would be accepted where Catholicism had generally been [brutally, if not gruesomely] rejected. Other Americans argued that, even if the Japanese were unreceptive to Western ideals, forcing them to interact and trade with the world was a necessity that would ultimately benefit both nations.

Perry first sailed to the Ryukyus and the Bonin Islands southwest and southeast of the main Japanese islands, claiming territory for the United States, and demanding that the people in both places assist him. He then sailed north to Edo (Tokyo) Bay, carrying a letter from the U.S. President addressed to the Emperor of Japan. By addressing the letter to the Emperor, the United States demonstrated its lack of knowledge about the Japanese government and society. At that time, the Japanese emperor was little more than a figurehead, and the true leadership of Japan was in the hands of the Tokugawa Shogunate – legendary Japanese warlords.

Perry arrived in Japanese waters with a small squadron of U.S. Navy ships, because he and others believed the only way to convince the Japanese to accept western trade was to display a willingness to use its advanced firepower. At the same time, Perry brought along a variety of gifts for the Japanese Emperor, including a working model of a steam locomotive, a telescope, a telegraph, and a variety of wines and liquors from the West, all intended to impress upon the Japanese the superiority of Western culture.

His mission was to complete an agreement with the Japanese Government for the protection of shipwrecked or stranded Americans and to open one or more ports for supplies and refueling. Displaying his audacity and readiness to use force, Perry’s approach into the forbidden waters around Tokyo convinced the Japanese authorities to accept the letter.

The following spring, Perry returned with an even larger squadron to receive Japan’s answer. The Japanese grudgingly agreed to Perry’s demands, and the two sides signed the Treaty of Kanagawa on March 31, 1854. According to the terms of the treaty, Japan would protect stranded seamen and open two ports for refueling and provisioning American ships: Shimoda and Hakodate. Japan also gave the United States the right to appoint consuls to live in these port cities, a privilege not previously granted to foreign nations.

This treaty was not a commercial treaty, and it did not guarantee the right to trade with Japan. Still, in addition to providing for distressed American ships in Japanese waters, it contained a most-favored-nation clause, so that all future concessions Japan granted to other foreign powers would also be granted to the United States. As a result, Perry’s treaty provided an opening that would allow future American contact and trade with Japan.

Although Japan opened its ports to modern trade only reluctantly, once it did, it took advantage of the new access to modern technological developments. Japan’s opening to the West enabled it to modernize its military, and to rise quickly to the position of the most formidable Asian power in the Pacific. At the same time, the process by which the United States and the Western powers forced Japan into modern commercial intercourse, along with other internal factors, weakened the position of the inflexible Tokugawa Shogunate to the point that the shogun fell from power.

The Emperor gained formal control of the country in the Meiji Restoration of 1868 with Emperor Meiji (Mutsuhito) – the first ruler of the Empire of Japan – with long-term effects for the rule and modernization of Japan – especially the military modernization of Japan. Japan went on to defeat the Russian Empire in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05.”

When famed and influential historian Fredrick Jackson Turner, near the end of the 19th Century, proclaimed the American frontier closed, he meant the terrestrial frontier – the one that ended at the Pacific Coast. America’s “Manifest Destiny” had been fulfilled and he feared that Americans would now be in a quandary. There was nothing to fear since Americans had never stopped looking westward and already set their sights on new frontiers and a new manifest destiny – the commercial frontiers of Asia (or, as it was known back then – the Orient).

Jackson was referring to the political frontier that interested America’s “ruling” class – not the commercial frontier that interested America’s business class – and it was here that the great dichotomy between political and commercial interests became a chasm.

With the approach of the new century, the political class – with the notable exception of Teddy Roosevelt – began to look inward for its success and found a willing ally in the industrial and labor union movement while the business class became the corporate class that looked outward into the world at large and found willing allies – trading partners – overseas. The former was framed by government rules and regulations with which to favor ones’ political allies and punish ones’ political enemies, while the latter had few rules except the (economic) law of supply and demand and the (accounting) rules of profit and loss.

The battle between the two camps broke into open warfare near the end of the century with the Constitution being the weapon of choice for the political class – an unfortunate use for the Great Document which was written by people of honor and dignity for people of good will (who would work together for the common good) – while the corporate class countered with profit and the power of money as its chief weapons in what turned into a battle for its very survival with the most unexpected opponent – Teddy Roosevelt – the “trust buster” – trusts being the popular word for commercial cabals.

Just as the political revolution in the last third of the 18th Century changed American society and culture, the industrial and financial revolution in the last third of the 19th Century changed the world. America went from a backwater agricultural country to an industrial, economic and financial titan capable of influencing governments and markets around the world.

It did not however, enter the imperial sweepstakes being played by the great European powers (and, eventually by Japan) by building a large military with which to project power – despite such exaggerations expressed by numerous “blame-America-first” acolytes over the years who point to the “accidental” Spanish-American War of 1898-99 as proof of “American imperialism”.

Although stoked by competitive newspaper publishers Hearst and Pulitzer and endorsed by Teddy Roosevelt – who was always ready for a new adventure – this was as close to an “accidental” war as one can get. The government of William McKinley had no desire for expansion, no capability to project power and no strategic plan in place. Events spiraled out of control in an area little known or cared about by most Americans.

With little opposition, America ended up acquiring the Spanish possessions of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines. Cuba gained independence in 1902 and the Philippines in 1947 after all threats of colonization from the European powers and Japan had been extinguished. Guam and Puerto Rico happily remain US territories with the latter having gained approval to apply for statehood in 2012.

With the corporate class (industrialists and financiers – known in PLDC circles as the “robber-barons” – although one financier, J.P. Morgan, actually bailed out the US Treasury during the economic “Panic of 1893” and again in the “Panic of 1907” with a pledge of $30 million of his own money) now clamoring for the federal government to assist them in their foreign endeavors with security and access to foreign markets using the “new” Navy of steam-powered dreadnaughts, negotiating trade agreements with foreign countries or trading blocs and imposing tariffs to protect their profits – at the same time as the progressives and their allies in the federal government were carrying the water for the militant unions – the stage was set for a monumental struggle as the new century dawned.

With commercial markets – particularly foreign markets for industrial and agricultural surpluses – which often provided the margin for success for corporations – creating demand for jobs for citizens who also were voters, and the government still a generation away from mistakenly believing that it could create enough jobs to influence the economy, political isolation behind our oceans and commercial viability were strategically incompatible. Disarmament creates instability in foreign markets which eventually leads to the loss of those commercial markets to political opportunists. Invariably – as we have seen throughout the 20th Century – their quest for power at the expense of commerce leads to war.

History – and common sense – tell us that commerce will always win out in a democracy because voters in an industrial economy need jobs in order to feed their families and only commerce can create enough jobs to meet that demand. Government cannot create enough jobs because no government job creates wealth – the engine of capitalism – and government will eventually collapse the economy if it tries to compete with commercial interests for job creation that takes money out of the economy. Of course, government can always just buy voters. (That is what the Obama years have been about.)

However, it didn’t help the corporate class in their battle with government when Russia suffered numerous naval defeats by Japan in their 1904 conflicts over ambitions in Korea and Manchuria, but Tsar Nicholas II was convinced that Russia would win and chose to remain engaged in the war; at first, to await the outcomes of certain naval battles, the most famous of which was the “Battle of Tsushima Strait”.

This was naval history’s only decisive sea battle fought by modern, steel-hulled  battleship fleets, and the first naval battle in which wireless telegraphy(radio) played a critically important role. It has been characterized as the “dying echo of the old era – for the last time in the history of naval warfare, ships of the line of a beaten fleet surrendered on the high seas.”

It was fought on May 27–28, 1905 in the Tsushima Strait between Korea and southern Japan. The Japanese  fleet under Admiral Togo Heihachirodestroyed two-thirds of the Russian fleet (including 6 of 8 battleships), under Admiral Zinovy Rozhestvensky, which had traveled over 18,000 nautical miles to reach the Far East. The destruction of the Russian navy caused a bitter reaction from the Russian public, which induced a peace treaty in September 1905 without any further battles. The Japanese battleship Mikasa, Admiral Togo’s flagship at the battle, is preserved as a memorial in Yokosuka, Japan

The war concluded with the Treaty of Portsmouth, mediated by US President Theodore Roosevelt – for which he was awarded the Nobel peace Prize (what a concept – recognition for actually doing something that promoted peace). The complete victory of the Japanese military surprised world observers. The consequences transformed the balance of power in East Asia, resulting in a reassessment of Japan’s recent entry onto the world stage. Meiji’s grandson, Emperor Shōwa (Hirohito) took Japan to war in 1931 by invading Manchuria, then Korea and, finally, China.

The understanding of the relationship between the federal government and international commerce matured under Republican President Theodore Roosevelt. As an under- graduate student at Harvard, Roosevelt started a serious study of the naval aspects of the War of 1812. He tirelessly pursued primary sources, including official papers and other original documents. He completed two chapters of what became The Naval War of 1812 while still at Harvard and finished the book in 1882 at age 24 – in time for the 70th anniversary of the then-obscure war’s start.

Prior to Roosevelt’s work, serious studies had pegged the cause of the conflict as the failed U.S. foreign policy designed to avoid war, particularly war with Great Britain. President Thomas Jefferson’s isolationist foreign policy had been lauded, and historians tended to ignore the naval operations and focus on the land war. Roosevelt started to articulate a theory that America’s greatness depended on the robust deployment of sea power. This vision caught the attention of Rear Admiral Stephen B. Luce and Captain Alfred T. Mahan, two important naval leaders and strategists whose own efforts would influence generations of diplomatic and military leaders to come only ending with the election of Barack Obama in 2008.

Alfred Thayer Mahan (1840 –1914) was a Navy Admiral, geostrategist and historian, who has been called “the most important American strategist of the nineteenth century.” His concept of “sea power” was based on the idea that countries with greater naval power will have greater worldwide impact; it was most famously presented in The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, 1660-1783 (1890)).

Stephen B. Luce (1827 –1917) was a Navy Admiral. He was the founder of the Naval War College, between 1884 and 1886.Based on Luce’s urgings and exhaustive reports, the Naval War College at Newport , RI, was established October 6, 1884 with Luce as its first president. In 1885 he was promoted to rear admiral and in 1886 he was succeeded as president by (then) Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan, whose writings had greatly influenced the Navy’s decision to establish the War College.

Luce was also instrumental in starting the U.S. Naval Institute and its publication,  Proceedings. He served as the Institute’s president from 1887 to 1898. Roosevelt quickly recognized their common cause and cooperated to promote a navalist ideology that saw America’s great power destiny in the establishment and use of a blue-water fleet capable of operating in deep ocean waters.

As Assistant Secretary of the Navy in the feverish days following the sinking of the USS Maine in Havana harbor in 1898, Roosevelt found opportunities to apply his theories. As acting secretary for only a few hours, he mobilized the Navy for war with Spain. He ordered supplies and ammunition, sought support from Congress to recruit more sailors and ordered the North Atlantic and Asiatic Squadrons to prepare for war. Roosevelt’s aggressive actions set in motion the machinery that soon would lead to the acquisition of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines. By that time, Roosevelt himself had assembled the “Rough Riders” and joined the land war in Cuba.

As president for nearly eight years after McKinley’s assassination in 1901, Roosevelt strove tirelessly to develop the Navy as the “big stick” of an increasingly ambitious U.S. foreign policy. Working with Congress and the service itself, he increased the size, armament, amour, speed, efficiency, and overall capacity of the Navy and its vessels. The squadron system gave way to modern fleets, with coaling stations around the world.

Roosevelt deployed naval assets to cultivate American power, including in 1903, when he sent American naval vessels to ensure that the newly created Panama would secede from Colombia – paving the way for the Panama Canal, which enabled the US Navy to concentrate its battle fleets quickly. Roosevelt’s deployments culminated in the cruise of the Great White Fleet, 16 battleships of the Atlantic Fleet that sailed around the world between December 1907 and February 1909 – sending a clear signal that the US had global reach and ambitions.

Yet, despite sound, strategic thinking by Jefferson – somehow a Democrat hero even though he advocated for a small federal government – in building the first American fleet of warships at the beginning of the 19th Century, Lincoln – a Republican hero – in using the Navy’s tactical advantage during the Civil War and Teddy Roosevelt – a hero to both Democrats and Republicans – in using naval power to establish the United States as a world  power at the end, liberal/progressive 20th Century American presidents have been continually surprised by how impotent American power was when forced to engage in world conflict – during World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnamese War and America’s war with radical Islamic terrorism – because none of them understood the relationship between world commerce and world stability – the interdependence between military strength and economic strength.

One would expect that the insanity of always selecting a national security strategy that featured eviscerating the armed forces after succeeding in conflict – for economic as well as political reasons – to feature defenselessness as a deterrent to war – war that always came – should have been apparent to all. Apparently, it wasn’t.

Nature abhors a vacuum and after every 20th Century war in which American power proved decisive, the United States has created a geopolitical power vacuum by purposely engineering the demise of our own military power – as described above.

Nature also fills every vacuum with some other force. In the 20th Century, those forces would include Hitler’s Nazis, Japan’s warlords, the Soviet Union and Communist China (with her protectorate, North Korea) and Radical Islamist Terrorism centered in Khomeini’s Iran.

It would seem that new strategic thinking is in order if the national goal is to prevent war – which is a worthy goal and seems to be a central theme in virtually all PLDC campaigns. Since disarming has proven disastrous, perhaps looking to enhance our military power instead might be a better approach – especially since by the end of Democrat President Barrack Obama’s term in office, America’s influence in world affairs had literally evaporated as Russia, reduced to strategic impotence only 25 years ago, once again has (along with Communist China and Iran) become the dominant player in world political affairs.

In a mere seventy years since  the end of World War II and the pinnacle of power and prestige, the United States has gone from invincible to virtual irrelevance in world affairs because a progressive/liberal ideology has placed the acquisition of personal political power above the good of the nation. A paraphrased quote is particularly appropriate in describing the progressive/liberal presidents since the end of World War II – because they wanted to be President bad enough – they became Presidents – bad enough.

Next time: Intellectualism to Intelligentsia

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