The age-old question for our species, perhaps the defining query of humans is: what happens at and after death? Or, in other words, do we survive (bodily) death? Let’s consider these questions and a book that addresses them in this essay.
The age-old question for our species, perhaps the defining query of humans is: what happens at and after death? Or, in other words, do we survive (bodily) death? Let’s consider these questions and a book that addresses them in this essay.
If one frequents used bookstores, and browses the many shelves at their leisure, he/she can turn up more than a few gems that are long out of print. And, these can often be had for a very modest price. We have found many such gems over the years.
Who among us stateside was even aware that there were science fiction writers in the old USSR?
We now let the quotations from the book, Death and Eastern Thought, speak for themselves.
This picture, taken by our photographer, is from southern China about six months ago.
The quotes below are from a used paperback found in a used bookstore many years ago. The Hindu View of Life, by Radhakrishnan, The MacMillan Company, New York, second printing 1968, 92 pages. This book is based on lectures the author gave at Oxford in 1926. It can be quite surprising what one may find in a used bookstore.
Our featured image, previously posted, is from early January, 2013. My wife took this from the car while I was driving. A winter scene in the high elevation desert.
Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (1888 -1975) was educated in India during the time that his native India was a colony of the British Empire. He lectured on eastern religions in England before World War II. He wrote much on philosophy and religion. (Indeed, one might say that he was a philosopher of religion.) Later in life, he was for a time, the vice president of India in the early 1960s. We have already reviewed, after a fashion, his work An Idealist View of Life in an earlier essay in early 2013 (see link at bottom). From a Vedic perspective, he gives us a different view of some of the things we believe in the West.
(Although Radhakrishnan from his writings seemed to hold to the impersonal Absolute view of God, his surname is formed by joining Radha (the consort of Krishna) and Krishna (the supreme personality of Godhead). This seems a little ironic to me.)
In no particular order here are several quotes from the book. We will comment when it is necessary to add the appropriate context for readers, and to give our view, if appropriate.
Speaking of modern Indians, modern Hindus:
“. . . . Today we seem to be afraid of ourselves, and are therefore clinging to the shell of our religion for self-preservation. The envelope by which we try to protect life checks its expansion. The bark which protects the interior of a tree must be as living as that which it contains. It must not stifle the tree’s growth, but must expand in response to the inner compulsion.” (page 91)
“The history of philosophy in India as well as Europe has been one long illustration of the inability of the human mind to solve the mystery of the relation of God to the world. The greatest thinkers are those who admit the mystery and comfort themselves by the idea that the human mind is not omniscient.” (page 49)
“. . . . The variety of the pictures of God is easily intelligible when we realize that religious experience is psychologically mediated.
“It is sometimes urged that the descriptions of God conflict with one another. It only shows that our notions are not true. To say that our ideas of God are not true is not to deny the reality of God to which our ideas refer.” (page 20, emphasis mine)
Here we would interject to say that not all understandings (or concepts) of God can be correct given that many are in contradiction with one another. A skeptic might say that all of these could be in error and not be true. Would the skeptic concede that one of these might be true?
(Now, please, dear readers, do not be angry with me – I only present the reality of the dilemma.)
On religious violence because of intolerance:
“. . . . They invoke divine sanction for the cruelties inflicted on the conquered. The spirit of old Israel is inherited by Christianity and Islam, and it might not be unreasonable to suggest that it would have been better for Western civilization if Greece had moulded it on this question rather than Palestine. Wars of religion which are the outcome of fanaticism that prompts and justifies the extermination of aliens of different creeds were practically unknown in Hindu India. (page 40)
Here one recalls the bloody war in Germany between Protestants and Catholics that depopulated whole districts in the first half of the 1600s. As well, Islam today (and the entire history of Islam) is pretty much described in the quote above. In more than one previous essay, we have warned that if one fails to govern one’s religious fervor with reason, one may descend into fanaticism (which leads to violence).
“. . . . When two or three different systems claim that they contain the revelation of the very core and centre of truth and the acceptance of it is the exclusive pathway to heaven, conflicts are inevitable. . . . . To obliterate every other religion than one’s own is a sort of bolshevism in religion which we must try to prevent. We can do so only if we accept something like the Hindu solution, which seeks the unity of religion not in common creed but in a common quest.” (page 42)
The “quest” may be interpreted by some to mean salvation, and by others to mean spiritual evolution and spiritual growth (maturation).
“. . . . Love of wealth is disrupting social life and is tending to the suppression of the spiritual. Wealth has become a means of self-indulgence, and universal greed is the cause of much of the meanness and cruelty which we find in the world. Hinduism has no sympathy with the view that ‘to mix religion and business is to spoil two good things’. We ought not to banish spiritual values from life.” (page 78)
Atheists, agnostics, hedonists, and yes, many church goers (of all faiths) are guilty of banishing spiritual values from their daily lives.
“. . . . If a tradition does not grow, it only means that its followers have become spiritually dead. . . . .” (page 17)
“. . . . Precious as are the echoes of God’s voice in the souls of men of long ago, our regard for them must be tempered by the recognition of the truth that God has never finished the revelation of His wisdom and love. . . . ” (page 16)
“. . . . There can be no final breach between the two powers of the human mind, reason and intuition. . . . .” (page 14)
“. . . . The spiritual element in man allows him freedom within the limits of his nature. Man is not a mere mechanism of instincts. . . . .” (page 54)
“The Hindu attitude to religion is interesting. . . . . . Intellect is subordinated to intuition, dogma to experience, outer expression to inner realization. . . . . Religious experience is of a self-certifying character. . . . . The mechanical faith which depends on authority and wishes to enjoy the consolations of religion without the labour of being religious is quite different from the religious faith which has its roots in experience. . . . . Blind belief in dogma is not the faith which saves. It is an unfortunate legacy of the course which Christian theology has followed in Europe that faith has come to connote a mechanical adherence to authority. . . . . We call it faith simply because spiritual perception, like other kinds of perception, is liable to error and requires the testing processes of logical thought. . . . ” (pages 13 – 14)
A few words of clarification are appropriate here. Later in the book, Radhakrishnan speaks to sin and morality and the law of karma. Thus, it would be a mistake to think that he thinks one can live a spiritual and constructive life without also striving to live a moral life. Hedonism and licentiousness are not espoused in Hinduism. Also, I think he is making the point that one must live his/her faith and not merely give lip service to it. For the Christian who fails to take the Christian principles out into the world, into daily life, once he/she leaves the church house, he/she would not really have the faith, would not really be practicing it.
This final quote is interesting. (From lectures given in 1926?!)
“. . . . But the modern woman, if I may say so, is losing her self-respect. She does not respect her own individuality and uniqueness, but is paying an unconscious tribute to man by trying to imitate him. She is fast becoming masculine and mechanical. Adventurous pursuits are leading her into conflict with her own inner nature.” (page 64)
We have already written essays on women, and on feminism pro and con.
We could not find one passage that we looked for, perhaps it was in another of the books by this author that we have. But I recall reading that Radhakrishnan points out that we in the West make an assumption that heaven is both a static state or condition and a never-ending place of residence for those who get there. From memory, I seem to recall he says something to the effect that we assume that God would never tire of hearing His praises sung – as though Heaven would be one very, very long church service. I, too, find this a bit of a stretch. There would be no possibility of growth, or of learning new things? It may be that Heaven is a temporary (not “for ever”) stop on our spiritual journey and there may be future assignments for us.
Also, of possible interest to some readers is this earlier essay.
Best wishes to all.
copyright 2014 – larrysmusings.com
some books by Hilaire Belloc and the demise of post-Christian Europe
We will blog even in the current sub-Arctic conditions that we are enduring.
Hilaire Belloc (1870 – 1953) was a Catholic historian. His father was French and his mother was English. He lived most of his adult life in England.
Having recently read a few of his more noteworthy books, I can say that he is an under-appreciated modern writer and historian. His many worthwhile and thought provoking writings are often neglected by students of today. Belloc’s main thrust appears to be that religion (specifically Catholic Christianity) and challenges to that religion have been a principal, if not the main, driver of history and social change in Europe since the time of the ancient pagan Roman Empire’s conversion to Christianity in the 4th century A.D. (the century of Constantine, the Council of Nicea, Theodosius the Great, etc.).
Before continuing we must insert this relevant observation. Many Christians of the Protestant variety will often immediately come to a negative conclusion when the Catholic Church is mentioned. This is unfortunate. There is undeniably a strongly held negative prejudicial state of mind shared by many Protestants against the Catholic Church. (We observe that this anti-Catholic bias appears to be most virulent among the English.) Let me simply say that one needs to strive to be objective and aware of one’s biases. Objectivity can help us to arrive at, or at least approach the truth on many issues and questions, especially ones of a historical character. Also, be aware that many who find various positions taken by the institutional Catholic Church to be problematic, do not know much, if anything, about the Catholic faith. (They have never taken the time to try to learn about it.) Sadly, ignorance and prejudice can lead to hate. As well, it has always baffled me when considering the hate that people who claim to be Christian will harbor towards other Christians and other Christian churches. We condemn hate. Please, if you are claiming to be Christian, do not harbor hatred in your heart. Hate is antithetical to the teachings of Christ.
Back to Belloc now. The 3 books that I recently read are: The Crisis of Civilization, (originally published in 1937); The Great Heresies, (originally published in 1938); and The Crusades (originally published in 1937). We have copies of 2 more works by Belloc, How The Reformation Happened (1928), and Characters of The Reformation (1936) that we have not yet read. Belloc does not deny that there were legitimate grievances about various abuses of the Catholic Church in the decades leading up to the start (in 1517) of the Reformation. He decries both the loss of Christian unity in Europe that resulted from the Reformation, and the adverse consequences of that loss of unity.
In The Crisis of Civilization, Belloc, writing in the midst of the Great Depression of the 1930s, contrasts unfettered industrial capitalism (with its proletariat class that lacks property) against the “remedy” of communism. He recommends a third alternative, one which would restore widespread small property ownership and prevent the formation of monopolies or the concentration of property ownership in too few hands. (The proletariat are politically free, but not economically free and are thus alienated, frustrated and increasingly angry.) He recommends bringing back some of the institutions that worked well in the later Middle Ages such as guilds for craftsmen. He condemns usury which essentially makes us all slaves to the banking interests.
In The Great Heresies, Belloc gives the history of 5 major heresies that not only threatened the survival of the Catholic faith, but also threatened European culture as we know it. The heresies he covers are: the Arian heresy; the heresy of Mohammed (Belloc takes the position that Mohammed did not start a new religion so much as he succeeded in giving a heretical version of Christianity a powerful life of its own); the Albigensian attack (of the 12th and 13th centuries); the Reformation (not as an individual heresy or heresies, but rather as a movement that denied Christian unity); and lastly, the Modern Attack (what we have with us today which we discuss below from our own point of view).
All the above books were reprinted by Tan Books and Publishers (Rockford, Illinois) in the early 1990s. TAN Books has in the past few years been acquired by Saint Benedict’s Press (North Carolina). These paperbacks can still be found in used copies on Amazon or Alibris.com and from other online sources or in used bookstores. Here is the link to buy them direct from the current publisher:
Look at the current cultural battleground in Europe. (And, by “culture”, we also include the pressing economic and social issues.) 3 non-Christian – in fact, anti-Christian – groups are competing for supremacy, are fighting for the heart and soul of Europe today: 1. violent, intolerant Muslim immigrants (and converts) who believe themselves morally superior to the native, Christian Europeans; 2. atheistic communists and their sometime allies, the anarchists; and 3. morally nihilistic hedonists including some neo-pagans (largely obsessed with a debauched sexual lifestyle, and the use of various recreational drugs). Groups 2 and 3 are violent as well at times and in different forms.
Can Europe, or at least the European culture we know, or have known, survive these assaults? Can an effectively post-Christian Europe defeat these groups intent on forever destroying the age-old Christian culture of Europe? Europe having lost touch with its Christian roots and values in this age of excessive materialist skepticism and cynicism, does seem to be losing the war for the survival of its historic cultural identity. Belloc expressed his view that European culture would not, could not, survive this modern attack unless it returned to its authentic Christian roots and Christian values. For him, Europe was not the product of the “white race”, but was the product of the original Christian religion that formed the culture. (It is worth noting here that white Europeans, by consciously choosing to have only one child per couple (the current average in most European countries today), are committing demographic suicide.)
We now share a few thought provoking quotes from Belloc’s writings.
” . . . . political change invariably comes prior to economic change; economic change could not take place but for the acceptation of laws and a machinery of government which allows the new economic conditions to function. First comes, in every great revolution of European affairs, a spiritual change; next, bred by this, a change in social philosophy and therefore in political arrangement; lastly, the economic change which political rearrangement has rendered possible.” (p. 102, The Crisis of Civilization)
We, as human beings, are often behind the curve when it comes to momentous change.
“It is very difficult to say when the tide turns in the great processes of history. But one rule may be wisely applied; the turn of the tide comes earlier than men judging by surface phenomena conceive.” (p. 135, The Great Heresies)
Talking about Napoleon and projecting an ultimately different European culture had Napoleon not been defeated, Belloc makes this comment:
” . . . . Nor, for all his genius, did he clearly perceive that difference of religion is at the root of differences in culture, for the generation to which he belonged had no conception of that profound and universal judgment.” (p. 132, The Great Heresies)
This last quote is very telling indeed and prescient. Belloc wrote this in 1938 – 75 years ago. It does seem to correctly critique, or envisage, the current situation in the US (and other countries). We have had a welfare state mentality since at least the “Great Society” of the mid 1960s and President Lyndon Johnson, if not the New Deal of FDR in the 1930s.
” . . . . When the mass of families in a State are without property, then those who were once citizens become virtually slaves. The more the State steps in to enforce conditions of security and sufficiency; the more it regulates wages, provides compulsory insurance, doctoring, education, and in general takes over the lives of the wage-earners, for the benefit of the companies and men employing the wage-earners, the more is this condition of semi-slavery accentuated. And if it be continued for, say, three generations, it will become so thoroughly established as a social habit and frame of mind that there may be no escape from it in the countries where State Socialism of this kind has been forged and riveted on the body politic.” (p. 150, The Great Heresies)
Thanks for reading.
book overview – LIFE 101
Let’s add a splash of color before we begin.
LIFE 101 Everything We Wish We Had Learned About Life In School – But Didn’t, by John-Roger and Peter McWilliams, copyright 1991 by Prelude Press, a Bantam-Prelude book, 400 pages (including Index).
The book is organized with brief quotes in large print on the left hand pages and text on the right hand pages. Thus, it is not really 400 pages of reading.
Wanting to write an essay on some of the contents of this book, I sought it in various parts of the house. It was not easily found. This book was finally located in the very last bookcase in the house – the one I had least expected it to be in. I feared that it was lost.
At first glance, you may think that this might just be another “self-help” book that only aging hippies would be interested in. But, it does contain much very practical advice and good insights.
This book challenges the reader. Sometimes we have to take a step outside of ourselves and look at how we are living our life, and what our priorities are – and question all this.
Here are a few things I took away from the book. Even our negative emotions and our bad, painful experiences can be teachers, can help us to become better people. It takes more character strength to love and forgive than to hate. Do not become a prisoner of your routines, or of your habitual ways of thinking.
Dear readers, make the most of your life’s journey, but try to spread love. The world is in so desperate need of love. Don’t wait for the world to become loving, you help make it so.
Enough of my thoughts.
We offer these 31 quotes in the hope that these may be helpful to at least a few readers. What is helpful, take with you. What is not, leave behind.
“Only the curious will learn and only the resolute overcome the obstacles to learning. The quest quotient has always excited me more than the intelligence quotient.” Eugene S. Wilson (page 2)
“We don’t receive wisdom; we must discover it for ourselves after a journey that no one can take for us or spare us.” Marcel Proust (page 6)
“Seek not, my soul, the life of the immortals; but enjoy to the full the resources that are within thy reach.” Pindar 518 – 438 B.C. (page 14)
“We learn simply by the exposure of living. Much that passes for education is not education at all but ritual. The fact is that we are being educated when we know it least.” David P. Gardner (page 24)
“Man is slightly nearer to the atom than to the star. From his central position man can survey the grandest works of Nature with the astronomer, or the minutest works with the physicist.” Sir Arthur Stanley (page 48)
“The important thing in science is not so much to obtain new facts as to discover new ways of thinking about them.” Sir William Bragg (page 52)
“Some problems are just too complicated for rational, logical solutions. They admit of insights, not answers.” Jerome Wiesner (page 56)
“The scientific theory I like best is that the rings of Saturn are composed entirely of lost airline luggage.” Mark Russell (page 56)
“Good people are good because they’ve come to wisdom through failure.” William Saroyan (page 64)
“The last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” Viktor Frankl (page 92)
The voice of the turtle-dove speaks out. It says: “Day breaks, which way are you going?”
“Lay off, little bird, must you so scold me? I found my lover on his bed, and my heart was sweet to excess.”
Love Songs of The New Kingdom. 1550 – 1080 B.C. (page 124)
“When an emotional injury takes place, the body begins a process as natural as the healing of a physical wound. Let the process happen. Trust that nature will do the healing. Know that the pain will pass and, when it passes, you will be stronger, happier, more sensitive and aware.” HOW TO SURVIVE THE LOSS OF A LOVE (page 130)
“See golden days, fruitful of golden deeds, with Joy and Love triumphing.” John Milton, 1667 A.D. (page 146)
“Experience is the name everyone gives to their mistakes.” Oscar Wilde (page 158)
“Mistakes are the portals of discovery.” James Joyce (page 158)
This next quote is worth remembering!
“Every great mistake has a halfway moment, a split second when it can be recalled and perhaps remedied.” Pearl S. Buck (page 164)
On regret, sorrow, loss, guilt, remorse . . . .
“Whenever he thought about it, he felt terrible. And so, at last, he came to a fateful decision. He decided not to think about it.” No credit given. (page 176)
“Men fear death as children fear to go in the dark; and as that natural fear in children is increased with tales, so is the other.” Francis Bacon, 1625 A.D. (page 188)
“The purpose of life is a life of purpose.” Robert Byrne (page 212)
“Who begins too much accomplishes little.” German Proverb (page 226)
“A man is not idle because he is absorbed in thought. There is a visible labor and there is an invisible labor.” Victor Hugo, 1862 (page 236)
“Nobody, as long as he moves about among the chaotic currents of life, is without trouble.” Carl Jung (page 270)
“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. Security does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than exposure.” Helen Keller (page 296)
“From birth to age 18, a girl needs good parents,
from 18 to 35 she needs good looks,
from 35 to 55 she needs a good personality,
and from 55 on she needs cash.”
Sophie Tucker (p 302)
“Money-giving is a very good criterion of a person’s mental health. Generous people are rarely mentally ill people.” Dr. Karl A. Menninger (page 312)
“A friend is a gift you give yourself.” Robert Louis Stevenson (page 314)
“My mother had a great deal of trouble with me, but I think she enjoyed it.” Mark Twain (page 332)
“Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city.” George Burns (page 348)
“Learn the art of patience.
Apply discipline to your thoughts when they become anxious over the outcome of a goal.
Impatience breeds anxiety, fear, discouragement and failure.
Patience creates confidence, decisiveness and a rational outlook, which eventually leads to success.”
Brian Adams (page 352)
“Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.” Carl Jung (page 368)
“First keep the peace within yourself, then you can also bring peace to others.” Thomas a Kempis, 1420 A.D. (page 372)
We have some creative writing mixed with some hardcore reality coming up in future essays.
book review – The Last Crusade (Spanish Civil War)
The impulse came to me during breakfast today to write a short essay about this book and its subject matter. This impulse is delaying work on another upcoming essay on a different topic.
The Last Crusade, written by Warren Carroll (copyright 1996, published by Christendom Press, Front Royal, Virginia (USA), paperback, 218 pages plus bibliography and index).
I read this book in the (northern hemisphere) summer of 2010. (Regards to our readers in Australia.)
The book’s cover has changed somewhat since the edition I have. (You can read more reviews of it on Amazon.com if you are interested. I have not read the reviews recently, but no doubt you can read more comprehensive reviews for this book than I am offering here.)
The book’s title derives from the fact that the Spanish communists and anarchists were fighting to destroy Spain’s Christian (Catholic) culture and society.
Dr. Carroll is a Catholic historian who has written extensively on communism. He is one of the very few writers to cover the Spanish Civil War both comprehensively and objectively. It is difficult to find accounts of the Spanish Civil War that are not written by authors possessing a bias in favor of “the Republic”, meaning the communists and anarchists. At least this is true for accounts written in English. Many idealistic, young Americans went to Spain in the late 1930s and fought on the side of the communists. Their accounts are flawed because they are biased.
General Franco (1892 – 1975), whose forces eventually defeated the revolutionaries, has been a favorite target for ridicule by the Left since the 1930s. Yet, as Carroll points out in his book, during the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, the Spanish were freer to criticize their government in the open air cafes of Madrid and other Spanish cities than the citizens of Moscow, Warsaw, Beijing (Peking) or East Berlin were. Franco may have been strict out of necessity, but he was not a totalitarian.
What I want to focus briefly on is the terrible atrocities committed by the communists and anarchists during the fighting. This is what makes Carroll’s book important. He brings these atrocities out in the open and does not downplay or ignore them. (And, we all know what happens when the communists win and consolidate their hold on power within a country. Estimates vary, but many (tens of) millions of people are classed as “counter-revolutionaries” and killed. Others, in the millions, die in failed experiments in collectivized agriculture (as in the “Great Leap Forward” in the late 1950s in Mao’s China), or in manmade famines (as in the Ukraine in 1932 -1933).)
In the very violent days of 1936 when anarchy reigned in Madrid and other Spanish cities, priests and nuns were murdered and in some very gruesome ways. We will avoid the grisly details of many of these murders. But, such outrages had to be driven by powerful emotions of the murderers. Yes, the revolutionaries were giving vent to their hatred of any and all who represented the old order, and who opposed their drive to power. As well, many common Spanish people were killed by the anarchists. The blood lust fed on itself and became an orgy of wanton killing. There were no trials, no due process, no rule of law. Having read accounts of similar outrageous atrocities committed in France during the French Revolution (early to mid 1790s), that similar actions occurred in Spain did not totally surprise me. (Similar crimes were committed against the small Christian minority in China in the early 1950s with Mao’s approval. And, Tibetan lamas and monks were killed in Tibet in this same time period.)
That is what I want to emphasize about this book. It is one of the few in existence (in English) that unmasks and exposes the propaganda so many of us have been fed that the Republic (read the communists and anarchists) was a positive thing, was bringing Spain out of medieval times and into the modern world. You are not helping people and improving their lot by killing them or taking their rights away as you install an all-powerful state.
I know of no decent person that defends the Left and its methods or goals in the year 2013. Another way of saying this is that any who do defend the Left are not decent human beings. The American, David Horowitz, a former Leftist himself, in some of his writings tells of idealistic Leftists who were trying to bring about a utopia or paradise on Earth, and they believed the ends (such lofty, noble ends!) justified the terrible means used. His view of the Leftists seems to take on religious overtones. I reject this quasi apologia for the Left and its heinous crimes against humanity. But, I do agree that the Leftist killers were fanatics, and their Marxian ideology did assume for them the place of a not-to-be-questioned dogmatic religion.
And, truth be told, these opportunistic revolutionaries use this “workers’ utopia” nonsense as a vehicle to gain power as this nonsense seduces many naive, unrealistic and disaffected people in a society. The true “opiate of the masses” was not authentic religion (which speaks to the spiritual dimension and spiritual longings in human beings), but rather this fairy tale belief in a paradise on Earth. As some have said before, “Nirvana is not of this world.”
Thanks for reading.
book review of full spectrum dominance: U.S. power in Iraq and beyond
Just came across this book a few weeks ago and read it earlier this month.
Full Spectrum Dominance: U.S. Power in Iraq and Beyond, written by Rahul Mahajan (2003, paperback, 207 pages, An Open Media Book, Seven Stories Press, New York).
The book is divided into 2 main sections: The “War on Terrorism”, and The War on Iraq.
Published shortly after the US led invasion of Iraq in early 2003, the author makes the case that US foreign policy and military policy are geared to controlling the production and transportation of the world’s oil, and to benefitting US corporations around the globe. In the post Cold War world, the US as the lone superpower is a threat to world peace. Albeit written 10 years ago, the concerns that the book raises are still relevant today.
In the first section, the author tells how the war on terrorism was used to justify an increase in US defense spending, the acquisition of more foreign military bases throughout the world, and the war in Iraq in 2003. Even today in 2013, we hear that the US spends more on defense than all other countries combined and that it has bases and/or military personnel in more than a hundred nations. One rightly wonders is this really necessary?
In the second section of the book, Mahajan deals at length with Iraq, the first Gulf War in 1991, the punitive sanctions on Iraq subsequent to the 1991 war, the lead up to the second Gulf War in 2003, and future concerns about US militarism in the region and the rest of the world. The author makes the case that Iraq posed no threat to the US as it was never allowed to recover (either economically or militarily) from the 1991 war, and thus lacked the means of attacking the US. This is all covered very extensively and backed with much research and many notes. As such, it is difficult to quarrel with the facts he presents. This leaves only his conclusions to evaluate.
Let us offer one lengthy quote from this book and then give our thoughts.
From pages 27 – 28:
The United States has reached a new zenith of political dominance–capable of flouting the express wishes of the vast mass of humanity and the vast majority of nations and still force them to assimilate into its ever-expanding structures of control. There is no longer any pretense that the United States is not an empire, or even that it is a reluctant one. For the apologists of the new order, the entire question hangs on not whether or not an empire exists, but whether or not the empire is benevolent.
For the rest of us, two things should be clear. First, that even the most benevolent empire is no substitute for independence and international equality. Second, that empires are never benevolent; the considerations of the empire-builders cannot possibly align with the considerations of the people being ruled.
As we will discover, the claims to benevolence of this empire ring particularly hollow.
I want to focus first on punitive actions taken (by the victors) after the cessation of hostilities. The sanctions imposed after the first Gulf War in 1991 led to the collapse of Iraq’s economy during the 1990s. As Mahajan points out in his book, even when Iraq tried to comply with weapons inspections and other post war requirements, the US made no move to end or reduce the severity of the sanctions, and even gave notice that complete Iraqi compliance with post war demands would not necessarily end the sanctions.
These punitive and unduly harsh sanctions led to much malnourishment and suffering for the children in Iraq. Estimates vary (some in the hundreds of thousands), but many Iraqi children died during the 1990s because of the post war sanctions. (Is it any wonder then that the Iraqis did not welcome the US forces as “liberators” in early 2003?)
(In the summer of 2001, prior to the events of September 11, there was small public display, more like an information table, with several concerned individuals protesting the harm done to the Iraqi children by the crippling sanctions. This was in the plaza in front of the federal building in Oakland, California. At that time, there was a website with more information about the children’s plight under the sanctions. So there was a miniscule public awareness of this injustice in the US prior to Gulf War 2 in early 2003.)
The US and Britain have a history of engaging in punitive actions after a war is over. Britain blockaded Germany after World War One for several months during 1919. This lead to malnourishment and starvation among the civilian population. The US engaged in a punitive policy in its zone of occupation after World War II towards both the German civilians and their disarmed military men. (The US occupation in Germany was much harsher than its occupation of defeated Japan.) These types of actions are not moral.
This is why the facade of moral superiority (the holier than thou attitude and rhetoric) on the part of the Allies after the two world wars rings so hollow with some of us.
Defeated enemies (both armed forces and civilians) are still human beings.
US military leaders and political authorities need to recognize the reality of the 21st century. It is going to be a multi-polar world with several regional powers. No one nation is going to be able to run the world so to speak. There is a real danger here of falling prey to a “might makes right” mentality given the current US military superiority over all other nations.
Current threats to world peace include an arrogant China (discussed in an earlier essay back in February), a radical and violent Islamic fanaticism and chauvinism, and at least regionally, Zionism in Israel (however, war between Israel and its neighbors could easily escalate and bring major powers into the conflict). The US drive to dominance in the world has to be considered as a threat to world peace. The US ought to stop acting like an imperial power. (The founders of the country envisioned a republic, not an empire.)
Here are links to some earlier, relevant essays that you might be interested in.
Thanks for reading.