The International Highway to Hell

Who hasn’t heard soldier after American soldier burble on about how freeing Iraqis inspires him? Or, if injured, this archetypal GI will often say how eager he is to get back to his “buddies,” those he considers his real family. (Come now, Objectivists: How do you finesse such lack of enlightened self-interest – such sacrificial lamb’s lunacy?)

Noblesse oblige and all that, but I confess to pangs of jealousy, the kind felt by the kid whose mother is always away making ugly things for the poor. How selfish and parochial of me, I know. One can’t cage citizens of the world. And our soldiers certainly are that. (Although, in their role as conquistadors, they ought to work on better accommodating the different cultures of the world.) We might be paying their wages, but their hearts belong in faraway exotic places with which Main Street U.S.A can hardly hope to compete.

I can see why the Commander-in-Chief and his army’s universalist creed are garnering plaudits aplenty from liberal worthies and global social democrats at home and abroad. Mark my words, they’ll eventually win over the ossified opposition at the United Nations too. After all, with every passing day our men and women in uniform increasingly replicate the tone of that “beloved” socialist leveler, albeit more aggressively.

Little wonder too that many members of the military arm of the New American Empire reacted with overblown moral indignation when tsunami-stricken Indonesia expressed alarm at the sight of the USS Abraham Lincoln at its shores. If you recall, Indonesia had demanded the Americans and other foreign soldiers leave by the end of March – or sooner if possible. Maybe those Indonesians need a taste of the “liberty” we’ve been doling out so liberally in the Middle East. (Or at least some gunboat diplomacy.)

Befitting this brave new world order was the sight of Iraqi Americans – our neighbors and fellow citizens – voting in the Iraqi election. Despite our generosity in granting them asylum, they are evidently confused as to whether they are more Iraqi or American. Had they been Israeli-Americans, of course, the dual loyalty accusation would have long since surfaced.

As an expatriate of Israel, South Africa, and Canada, and now a U.S. patriot, I would never be so audacious as to vote in the elections of any of the countries I once called home. I have tremendous sympathy for the plight of those – family and friends included – living in the places I left. But who am I, from the calm and comfort of my American abode, to decide which “son of 60 dogs” (an Egyptian expression for political master) they ought to vote for?

Am I threatened with systematic extermination, like the Boer Afrikaner? Have I, like so many in “Canuckistan,” been stricken with the Nordic morbidity that cannot fathom life without the Nanny State? (The Swedes who inspired filmmaker Ingmar Bergman’s long-suffering zombies could fit easily in Canadian shoes.) I might be able to claim an affinity with Israelis, if Mexicans began crossing into Texas, California, Arizona, New Mexico, and beyond, not merely to work illegally, but to blow up Americans to avenge the occupation of the American Southwest. But this, thankfully, is not part of my daily reality. So why would I dare vote for the past after I have already voted with my feet?

The most bizarre, misplaced loyalties came from elderly Iraqi-Israelis who also wanted to partake in the “historic” election. (No disrespect intended: I’ve lived among members of this community in Israel, and they are as charming as the Iraqis I’ve encountered in North America. The latter were also the only lively people I met during those long, lean years in Canada.) Some forms of multinational neurosis are more baffling than others. The absurdity of an Israeli, born in Baghdad or Basra over 70 years ago, voting for Iraqi candidates in 2005 is one. This reminded me of an incident in a previous life. A black South African once called me after attending a lecture given by my father (here on the right). So inspired was the young man that he wanted to convert to Judaism. I couldn’t help myself, and burst out laughing: “Let me get this straight. Being a black man in apartheid South Africa is not enough, you now want to become a black, orthodox Jew, living in apartheid South Africa.” Talk about a sucker for punishment!

Nevertheless, it seems patently obvious to me that patriotic Americans should be perturbed by the sight of compatriots who remain vested in a foreign polity. I’m convinced that healthy patriotism is associated with robust particularism – petty provincialism, if you like – and certainly not with the deracinated globalism exhibited by our GI Joes and Janes.

It’s a question of self-confidence. If you’re sufficiently secure in who you are, if you possess a distinct sense of yourself as separate from The Other, you’ll be less likely to become enmeshed in his affairs, and interfere with – or rescue – him. The last is a rotten impulse that enables and compounds helplessness in others.

Perhaps the admixture in so many American men of maniacal, missionary militarism and humbug humanitarianism follows decades of emasculation – legal and cultural – at home.

Does suppressed manhood in America result in rampant militarism abroad?

Who knows? But the arid, abstract, creepy, and self-destructive sentiments too many American soldiers express – their willingness to give their lives for Iraqis; their wish to rejoin their battalions as soon as they heal from being carved up in combat – indicate a profound alienation from all that’s important.