Sunday, August 4, 2013

Ian Morris, Niall Ferguson, and Victor Davis Hanson

For me Morris is a perfect example of how a reader "brings something to the text." My past reading doesn't support the conclusions Morris implies that he will draw. I took early offense at him for entering into the Political Science realm without acknowledging the two Political Scientists who have been the most innovative and provocative. On the other hand, I've read Niall Ferguson and not taken offense at him for what sounds a bit like part of Morris' argument. Ferguson may be closer to Morris than to the political scientists, and perhaps Morris's beginning with a counterfactual is homage to Ferguson.

Ferguson is an Imperialist who thinks there needs to be a world ruler on the order of what the British were during the 19th century. Morris may be attempting to mine his archeological background with the intention of relating it to the British-sort of imperialism. I recall being unhappy with Ferguson for assuming that the U.S. ought to seek to be imperialistic in the 19th-century-British sense. That he thought the U.S. might be persuaded by his arguments indicated to me that he never entered into the American way(s) of life as much as he claimed to. One of those ways is Isolationism and I referenced Krauthammer referring to its resurgence. I'm not a Ron Paul Isolationist, but I don't agree with Krauthammer that the world will descend into chaos if we have four or eight years of an Isolationist-president's administration. After all, both Wilson and F.D. Roosevelt won their elections by accommodating Isolationist positions.

Perhaps, if I am getting closer to Morris's position in my speculation I need to add Victor Davis Hanson to the mix. He might embrace many of the arguments of Morris and Ferguson but argue that there is no non-Western military force that is ever going to defeat the military forces of the West. He qualifies that position with a lot of caveats. He doesn't mean the defeat at Little Big Horn or Pearl Harbor except in the sense that they were milestones causing the U.S. to take these enemies more seriously. Once that happened Western victory was assured -- if not immediate. I haven't read Hanson recently but I doubt that he sees any Eastern force being able to "rule" over the West in the sense he has argued the West has ruled over the world.

I was once in a debate of long duration with an expert on the Red Army who described it as unconquerable and the best army in the world. I think this guy was correct in a sense, the same sense that the Chinese army is unconquerable. No foreign nation is going to be able to invade and conquer either of these nations in the foreseeable future. However, this isn't what Morris, Ferguson or Hanson had in mind by "rule." Britain and now the U.S. have been able to project their military might long distances in order to conquer or intimidate nations in order to accomplish political goals. Neither Russia nor China presently have that capability. They can exert influence against or in support of bordering nations but they can't move a huge military force half way around the world. And we apparently have political forces rising up in the U.S. saying we don't want to do that anymore; which might result in a benign interpretation of Morris's title "Why the West Rules -- for now."

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