Friday, May 17, 2019

The very-American delusion behind Trump's foreign policy
The Bold 19th Century and 21st Century Women Architect-Advocates of America's Manifest Destiny

Jane Cazneau - The 19th Century Mistress of Manifest Destiny

The first female war correspondent in American history, Jane Cazneau, is credited with coining the term "Manifest Destiny" in 1845.

The term "manifest destiny" appeared in an unsigned editorial entitled "Annexation" in the United States Magazine and Democratic Review which at the time was edited by John L. O'Sullivan who was rescued from obscurity in the twentieth century after the term was traced back to the publication and was assumed to have been written by him (after all, he was a man).

In fact Cazneau regularly wrote for the publication but it wasn't until Linda S. Hudson in her 2001 biography of Cazneau Mistress of Manifest Destiny that Cazneau was credited and then only because Hudson used computer-aided "textual analysis" to support her argument.

In the editorial, Cazneau wrote almost prophetically (emphasis added):

    Why, were other reasoning wanting, in favor of now elevating this question of the reception of Texas into the Union, out of the lower region of our past party dissensions, up to its proper level of a high and broad nationality, it surely is to be found, found abundantly, in the manner in which other nations have undertaken to intrude themselves into it, between us and the proper parties to the case, in a spirit of hostile interference against us, for the avowed object of thwarting our policy and hampering our power, limiting our greatness and checking the fulfillment of our manifest destiny to overspread the continent allotted by Providence for the free development of our yearly multiplying millions.
    Away, then, with all idle French talk of balances of power on the American Continent. There is no growth in Spanish America! Whatever progress of population there may be in the British Canadas, is only for their own early severance of their present colonial relation to the little island three thousand miles across the Atlantic; soon to be followed by Annexation, and destined to swell the still accumulating momentum of our progress. And whosoever may hold the balance, though they should cast into the opposite scale all the bayonets and cannon, not only of France and England, but of Europe entire, how would it kick the beam against the simple, solid weight of the two hundred and fifty, or three hundred millions–and American millions–destined to gather beneath the flutter of the stripes and stars, in the fast hastening year of the Lord 1945!

This was motivated by economic self-interest. In 1832, Jane's father ventured into land speculation, and was one of the founders of the Galveston Bay and Texas Land Company. Jane and her brother Robert traveled to Texas, which was then still part of Mexico, to buy land. The next year, Jane (pictured right), her father, her brother Robert and a company of German settlers set out to take possession of the land, but when the scheme failed she returned home with her father to Brunswick, NY. Her brother Robert remained in Texas and eventually became a wealthy planter. Also at this time, Eliza Jumel named her as co-respondent in her divorce suit with Aaron Burr, alleging an affair in addition to his ruinous attempt at land speculation.

Though a northerner Cazneau embraced the expansion of the South, and of slavery, its 'peculiar institution', into Central America and the Caribbean. President John Polk sent her on a secret peace mission to Mexico in 1845 which evolved into her Mexican-American War coverage, after which she began advocating Cuba's annexation and denouncing its Spanish colonial status. She did not live long enough to see the Spanish-American War. Having married William Cazneau in 1849, they moved  to the Dominican Republic in 1855. She wrote that the Civil War was a serious interruption to further prospects of American expansion in the Caribbean. In 1878, she was drowned when her ship sank in a storm on her way to Santo Domingo.

The term Manifest Destiny was used to justify the war with Mexico. One might speculate that if alive today Cazneau would be a Trump supporter on Fox News because of her political and personal opinions would fit nicely into Trump's view of life. 

As explained in the Wikipedia entry, Manifest Destiny:

    The legacy is a complex one....
    The belief in an American mission to promote and defend democracy throughout the world, as expounded by Thomas Jefferson and his "Empire of Liberty" and Abraham Lincoln, was continued by Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson. Under Harry Truman (and Douglas MacArthur) it was implemented in practice in the American rebuilding of Japan and Germany after World War II. George W. Bush in the 21st century applied it to the Middle East, in Afghanistan and Iraq. Tyner argues that in proclaiming a mission to combat terror, Bush was continuing a long tradition of prophetic presidential action to be the beacon of freedom in the spirit of manifest destiny.
    President Woodrow Wilson continued the policy of interventionism in the Americas, and attempted to redefine both manifest destiny and America's "mission" on a broader, worldwide scale. Wilson led the United States into World War I with the argument that "The world must be made safe for democracy." In his 1920 message to Congress after the war, Wilson stated:

    ... I think we all realize that the day has come when Democracy is being put upon its final test. The Old World is just now suffering from a wanton rejection of the principle of democracy and a substitution of the principle of autocracy as asserted in the name, but without the authority and sanction, of the multitude. This is the time of all others when Democracy should prove its purity and its spiritual power to prevail. It is surely the manifest destiny of the United States to lead in the attempt to make this spirit prevail.
    This was the only time a president had used the phrase "manifest destiny" in his annual address....
    "Manifest destiny" is sometimes used by critics of U.S. foreign policy to characterize interventions in the Middle East and elsewhere. In this usage, "manifest destiny" is interpreted as the underlying cause of what is denounced by some as "American imperialism." A more positive-sounding phrase devised by scholars at the end of the twentieth century is "nation building," and State Department official Karin Von Hippel notes that the U.S. has "been involved in nation-building and promoting democracy since the middle of the nineteenth century and 'Manifest Destiny.'"

Has the reality of the 21st Century been overlain with a veneer of American 19th Century delusion clouding the eyes of many Americans, particularly those in the Trump Administration?

The correct word is "overlain", the past participle of "overlie", as it means to cover, overwhelm, or smother. That is different from "overlaid", the past participle of "overlay" which means adds something such as "he overlaid the railroad routes to the highway map."

The ideological seeds of the Trump Administration as supported by The Deplorables were planted in 19th Century America. We grew a belief in Manifest Destiny the policy effects of which are well expressed by John Gast’s painting “American Progress”.

Its images which in truth were of government subsidized railroads and homesteaders taking advantage of the various Homestead Acts (though the subsidized portion is a commonly shared denial), includes in its darkness slavery, hysterical anti-heretic religious discrimination ranging from the witch trials to anti-Catholic pogroms, the genocidal American Indian Wars, the permanent occupation resulting from the Mexican American War, and the Imperialism of the Spanish American War of 1898 which was reflected in this political cartoon of the time...

Kiron Skinner - The 21st Century Mistress of Manifest Destiny

All of this brings us to the racist history underlying the Trump Administration's approach to China. And to understand that, you need to be aware of another woman,  Kiron Skinner, who on behalf of the Trump Administration appears to have embraced a 21st Century update of Cazneau's worldview.

But first, some history review is required....

On May 6, 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Act was signed into law just 13 years after the Last Spike was driven to connect east and west portions of the Transcontinental Railroad. The Act effectively barred the Chinese from entering the country and prevented them from achieving citizenship. It was an addition to the 1875 Page Act, which banned Chinese women from immigrating to the United States. These were the first laws implemented to prevent all members of a specific racial, ethnic or national group from immigrating and/or obtaining citizenship. Thus began a period of systematic discrimination against the Chinese, hundreds of whom built the west portion of the railroad as part of the achievement of America's Manifest Destiny.

Now you might ask why I would bring up this history today? What could it possibly have to do with current government policy. Well apparently whether white or black, historically in the 19th Century or currently in the 21st Century, American foreign policy officials really do seem to have a problem with Asians, particularly the Chinese as an ethnic group.

Earlier this month, building on a story that appeared in the Washington Examiner, The Washington Post headlined its report Because China isn’t ‘Caucasian,’ the U.S. is planning for a ‘clash of civilizations.’ That could be dangerous. From another source defending the "Caucasian" reference, I learned that the Director of Policy Planning at the United States Department of State Kiron Skinner said at a security forum March 29: "So in China we have an economic competitor, we have an ideological competitor, one that really does seek a kind of global reach that many of us didn't expect a couple of decades ago, and I think it's also striking that it's the first time that we will have a great power competitor that is not Caucasian."

Kiron Kanina Skinner having been raised in California should
  1. be aware of Japan's position in Asia in the first half of the 20th Century - you know, we fought them, used the atomic bomb on them, etc. - and 
  2. understand that the Japanese are not Caucasian. 
She has a superlative education and extensive experience in government and in politics. Oh, and she's black which superficially would seem to caution her about racial references particularly because she was a student of, Condoleezza Rice, the Thomas and Barbara Stephenson Senior Fellow on Public Policy at the ideologically Neoconservative Hoover Institution.

So when I read that Skinner is the W. Glenn Campbell Research Fellow and a member of the Shultz-Stephenson Task Force on Energy Policy at Stanford University's Hoover Institution, it started to dawn on me that her likely ideological orientation is Neoconservative. Like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton she's one of the Neocon's in the Trump foreign policy group.

She worked on the political campaigns of George W. Bush,  Newt Gingrich,  and Mitt Romney and served on Trump's transition team. Her academic life includes extensive published work on Ronald Reagan. She is a Fox News contributor.

And today she works directly for Secretary of State and former Congressman from Kansas Mike Pompeo who in a talk at the right wing, Koch Brothers funded Heritage Foundation on May 21, 2018, said: "First as a private citizen and then as a member of Congress, and even today, the Heritage Foundation has shaped my thinking on matters of the world and public policy issues".

Skinner’s office is composing what it calls “Letter X” — styled after George Kennan’s “X Article” that laid out an argument for containing the Soviet Union during the first years of the Cold War. In other words, the Trump Neocons such as Skinner are set on creating a new Cold War with China's 1.4 billion people.

Unfortunately in the long term that makes no sense in the context of Climate Change which in the late-21st Century will wipe away the veneer of American 19th Century delusion.

And unfortunately, as will be explored in the next post, by embracing in the 21st Century the American 19th Century delusion the implementation of new 5G technology for use by the average American will be significantly delayed.

But when Trump said he wanted to "Make America Great Again" he apparently meant embracing that Manifest Destiny delusion, though perhaps he is unaware that it launched the United States into its first two foreign wars of aggression.

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