Countries are much like children-they learn by making mistakes in the present and not learning from the mistakes in the past. Case in point: America is racing down the same path that we have traveled for four centuries, and to make matters worse, there are only a few faint voices raising concerns as we journey down the road of Manifest Destiny (the belief that God had chosen America to bring Christianity and democracy to those lacking it). We are in the process of expanding that historical mandate by bringing democracy to the Middle East. No one is even troubled by the fact that no one requested it in the first place. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria, Iran, the Palestinian Authority, and Libya haven't been begging for régime change in their countries or in Iraq, nevertheless, America hears our Manifest Destiny calling.
Where did we get this zeal to carry the good news of Americanism to the legions of the thirsting millions? We came to this mission honestly. Manifest Destiny was there from the birth of America and the arrival of colonialists in 1620. John Winthrop, the Puritan, said, "We shall be as a City upon a Hill, the eyes of all people are upon us..." This God-given calling was still with us in the wake of the American Revolution. Samuel Langdon said in 1788, "We cannot but acknowledge that God hath graciously patronized our cause and taken us under his special care, as he did his ancient covenant people." America is the New Covenant People of Israel.
We continued to accelerate down the road of our national high calling into the middle part of the 19th century. The great push westward had many engines including the Iron Horse (trains) and our certainty that it was God's desire that we conquered the West. In doing so, we could unite the North American continent under both Christianity and democracy. After all, the North wanted additional markets for their manufactured products, and the South wanted to enlarge the number of slave States so that they could deal with the increasing numbers of slaves.
In addition, during this time period of the 1840s, President Polk wanted to annex California and New Mexico. Washington actually considered annexing the Yucatan Peninsula and Cuba to extend slavery beyond just the South.
Our Manifest Destiny journey slowed a little during the Civil War. Both sides had to wrestle with the question-whose side was God on? This was a particularly thorny issue since both sides prayed to the same God. There were only three choices: the North was correct and God was on their side, the South was correct and God was on their side, or both were wrong and God was hopping mad at both sides for killing over 600,000 Americans during the Civil War and for the enslaving of nearly four million of human beings.
Manifest Destiny's 21st century incarnation is our war in Iraq. We have invaded Iraq for numerous reasons including WMD (weapons of mass destruction), régime change, protect our national interest in the area, and Manifest Destiny. We see it as our responsibility to bring democracy to the Middle East. Not only is that presumptuous on our part, but it is beyond possibility. There are over 300,000,000 people in the Middle East with almost no experience with democracy. Neither their culture nor their religion foster our notion of democracy. Besides that, how would you feel, if another country attacked us to find WMD, bring régime charge, protect their national interest and impose upon us another form of government? Why do we think that they will view our efforts differently than we would feel if that was done to us?
There are a number of problems with Manifest Destiny:
1.What evidence do we have to prove that God selected America as the New Israel? We have people say that God did, but how do we know what is in the mind of God-divining the mind of the Divine is at best tricky and at worst hypocritical.
2. Manifest Destiny leads to racism-those not like us are less than we. This allowed Americans to mistreat both Native Americans and African slaves on the road to Manifest Destiny.
3. Hubris (false pride) always causes problems for those that believe that they are inherently better than others are (i.e. having God on their side). It produces wars like the Mexican War, the Spanish-American War, Viet-Nam, and the present war in Iraq.
4. Manifest Destiny creates cultural and political imperialism. We gained California and New Mexico from the Mexican War. The Spanish-American War resulted in our acquiring the Philippians, Guam, Puerto Rico, and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
5. Finally, it causes both our allies and enemies abroad to question our judgment. When we believe that God is on our side and act as if God were, it creates very deep-seated hatred and resentment of us.
The philosopher, George Santayana wrote, "Those who cannot learn from history
are doomed to repeat it." Countries are much like children-they learn by making
mistakes in the present and not learning from the mistakes in the past.