"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Cowboys And Indians - The Wild West, White Conquest, And The Perils Of Diversity

Indians are no longer called 'Indians' but Native Americans; and with the change has come an air-brushing of culture and history.  Manifest Destiny, that optimistic, fundamentally patriotic, ambitious program to expand the borders of the new republic from coast to coast, and which meant an American Empire - military conquest, settlements, fortresses, and absolute rule, has been erased.


The American Indians, however, were not as complaisant as were the Franks, the Gauls, the Britons, and the Berbers who agreed to mutually beneficial compromises as Roman armies moved to the east, west, and south.  The conquerors established far-flung administrative provinces, and in years of peaceful accord, infrastructure was built, cultural influence was assured, and in short measure ruled the world. 


The conquest of the American West was more like that of Genghis Khan and his Mongol/Turkic armies that marched and rode out of the Central Asian steppes in a brutal, bloody imperial campaign never before seen and witnessed rarely after.  

The Mongols were not after peaceful arrangements.  They were on an imperial mission, one of conquest and absolute domination.  It was a natural, human imperative - savage by Roman standards, but native to human history.  Tribes, clans, sects, and nations have fought with the same brutality and indifference to those conquered since the Paleolithic and long before. 

When Jefferson commissioned Lewis and Clark to explore, claim, and map the heretofore little known regions west of the Mississippi, he had empire in mind; and nothing but bad weather and Indians stood in his way.  There was nothing genocidal in the expulsion of native tribes.  They were, in the mind of 19th century intellectuals, a backward, less developed, primitive race, no different than that African slaves brought to America. ‘Manifest Destiny' was exactly what the name implied - the God-given, anointed mission of the white, newly democratic republic. 

While Genghis Khan might have encountered some resistance, he would have been surprised to have met the likes of White Wolf, the Comanche chieftain who used Genghis' very savagery to send a message to the white man.  The Mongol hordes impaled severed heads on spikes on the roads into conquered towns to let it be known that they were not to be denied; and White Wolf raped, dismembered, and disemboweled pregnant woman and their babies.  No white man would ever take over his land. 

The Indians encountered by the Union armies that pacified the lands to be cultivated by white settlers were just as determined, and only because of their lack of modern weaponry were they defeated.  It was a fair fight given the courage, bravery, and defiance on the part of the Indians and the anointed Westward expansion on the part of the army and its Washington supporters. 

There was nothing untoward or unusual about Jefferson's desire to create a vast American empire.  On the contrary, it was exactly what kings, emperors, shoguns, and tribal chieftains have always wanted.  'Wars are for winning' and lands are for taking have been the memes of all imperial regimes. The fiery destruction of Dresden and the nuclear annihilation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are only the most recent example of human imperialism and the wars to deny it. 

Something happened to the United States after World War II.  It lost its absolute commitment to victory at all costs and replaced it with codicils, caveats, and conditions.  Wars were still for winning but not at any price. Civilian lives were important figures in the algorithm.  Humanity had to be served.  And so wars were lost - an ignominious retreat from Vietnam, the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan, the radical militias in Iraq, and the persistence of al-Shabab, al-Qaeda, and ISIS in the Middle East in Africa. 


The expansion of Islam to create a caliphate is the pedestrian version of Genghis Khan's imperial designs.  It will happen little by little, by erosion, fatigue, and persistence; but an expansionist enterprise it still is. 

All these imperial enterprises, whether the tribal loyalties of Turks and Mongols, the religious radicalism of ISIS, the territorial righteousness and defiance of the advancing Israeli army in Gaza, the Russian neo-czarist expansionism in Ukraine, have one thing in common - unity.  Whether religious or ethnic, these nationalists have always had a well-defined cultural center. 

Fighting for the expansion of Islam or the survival of the Jewish state is no different; or to ensure a Christian Jerusalem; or an Aryan subcontinent; or a universal Han-controlled China.  The historical and contemporary examples are endless.  The desire for conquest, expansionism, and territorial integrity are innately human. 

The United States, in its rush to embrace 'diversity' has split itself along racial, ethnic, and gender lines and created fissures. There is no longer one America, but a hundred enclaves, tribes, clans, of black supremacists, white colonialists, transgender absolutists, Latino and indigenous political cabals, reactionaries, and political Utopians. 

Ah, democracy at work say diversity apologists, a potpourri of difference, a tasty soup of ethnic variety, a tying of historical roots into one cultural fabric. 

To the contrary say those for whom history is their guide.  The breaking apart of the American polity is done at one’s peril.  Divided we fall, said Lincoln who had no inkling of the ways the country would disassemble but who was as right as rain.  We are a country of parochial interests, self-serving identity, and venal needs.

Patriotism, pride in a common ethos, is not possible. Any international conflict must be seen only through the lens of race, gender, and ethnicity.  There is no geopolitical, Machiavellian right or wrong; only what parses correctly given prevailing sentiments of harmony, inclusivity, and Utopian communitarianism. 


America is a political ship becalmed in irons - at least as far as its international ambitions are concerned - which means it has none.  A defensive posture at best, keeping Ukraine afloat for vague issues of 'democracy', on the fence with Israel and Hamas, and a few political, surgical strikes on terrorist basis in the Middle East, but no coherent plan.  It cannot have a coherent plan while the country is all about splitting itself into political parishes; so its opponents and enemies will take due advantage, especially in an election year with a very unstable, unsure President. 

The lesson of Manifest Destiny, westward expansion and political universality should not be forgotten and perhaps will be recalled during the second Trump presidency; but the damage done to the commonwealth has been serious enough to require a major overhaul.  

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