Fred Thompson and spilling blood for liberty

The base of Fred Thompson's comments about the USA having spilt more blood for liberty than any other state is ridiculous and, where it is going, dangerous.. Most Americans alive today were not alive in 1945; they are at least one step removed from it. Rather more, though, were determined not to fight in Vietnam, even though there was a draft. Thompson cannot claim the one without the other. Equally, he cannot ignore one part of history (referring to my first paragraph) while accepting another part unless he has a damned good argument for a delineation.

I wonder if Fred Thompson includes in Americans who died for liberty all those who died in the American Civil War; I wonder if he counts every lash felt by a slave; I wonder if he counts every victim of a lynching. I wonder if, in the teleological march towards modern American liberty, all the deaths of American Indians count as having been towards liberty.

Lots of political approval ratings subtract the negative from the positive. I wonder if Fred Thompson subtracts from those who died for liberty those who died in the Mexican-American War, or who were tortured to death by graduates of the School of the Americas, or the Philippines or countless other, half-forgotten battles. I wonder if the number is still positive.

I would add that claiming that the modern US polity is stronger because some people who happened to have been born on US soil died a few decades around is an argument so poor as to be beneath contempt, particularly when many of those who died were blacks who were denied the liberties they were sent overseas to fight for.

I would also say that many of the wars were not wars for liberty. To call WW1 such a war is, I think, mistaken; it was the last of the imperial wars and was as much about defending the interests of the elites in the various combatant states as it was about liberty, even if it was dressed up in the clothes of righteous indignation.

WW2 is slightly different, as for the Europeans it was a war for survival and so it is hard to distill the purity of any motives. That does not apply to the US, although you could say that, as part of the justification for the use of nuclear weapons at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was that it would reduce the length of the war, that the people who died in those two cities also died for liberty.

As it happens, I'm quite the Atlanticist, but I dislike nationalistic tubthumping. It may well be true that more Americans have died for liberty than children of any other state. That matters not a jot; while we may learn a lot from past wars, it does not mean the current or next wars are 'for liberty'. More worryingly, it promotes a nationalistic tone that can only be damaging in international relations. It leads to idiocy like calling for Mahmoud Ahmedinejad to be denied entry to the USA in order to attend the United Nations, as Thompson is currently doing. Ahmedinejad is undeserving of anything more than, as Christopher Hitchens would have had it, selling pencils from a cup, but he is the leader of a member state of the United Nations and no less offensive than some of the other people - Fidel Castro included - who have visited the US from time to time.


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