Monday, October 23, 2006

United States: dangerous nation?

Robert Kagan, author of a new book, Dangerous Nation, was interviewed. Worth listening to for me. And the book looks interesting too. An excerpt is shared on the same page.

I think his thoughts help me take a more realistic view towards the United States of America, my country. He helps us avoid an unreal ideal attributed to the founding and earlier years of our nation. This nation is made up of humans who do good and bad things. Motives have not, nor always are completely good. Though the United States has often seen itself as an agent of good will toward humanity, as in what we're doing now, in trying to bring democracy to other peoples, so that they might enjoy ideals that some of us think are intrinsic to human beings.

Of course we get into all kinds of problems philosophically here. And I don't want, neither very well can go into that in this post (or any post). But my point here is that we need to take leaders and their policies for what they are. Maybe poor judgment. Generally well meaning for others, with not a little of our own interests factored in. This is a part of our American heritage, if one is to believe Kagan. I, at least in large part, do.

Does the book live up to its name? Based on the interview alone, I rather doubt it. Though Kagan does have some hard things to say about the United States. And in some ways sees this nation as an empire (benevolent, certainly not in the same category as the Third Reich), but in other ways- not (as compared with the Roman empire). The book, I believe helps us see the fallibility of our leaders from the beginning. But is richly nuanced, if I can judge by the interview itself. So that we're left with some complexity about American ideals and actions. And basically see a nation that wants to do good by its standards, sometimes fails, often succeeds. But with consequences that can be a mixed blessing.

So if you have a little time, and are so inclined, I would encourage you to give this interview a listen. And read the excerpt from Kagan's new book, as well. Then give us your thoughts, if you like, about it.

12 comments:

L.L. Barkat said...

I have often thought that the very concept of nation-hood is dangerous, pitting group against group. Yet, this is life as we know it. I do wonder how, short of heaven, things could be much different? (Not that we shouldn't strive to look for the best earthly solutions possible!)

Michael W. Kruse said...

Thanks for this link. I haven't listened to it yet but intend to.

You wrote:

"And basically see a nation that wants to do good by its standards, sometimes fails, often succeeds. But with consequences that can be a mixed blessing."

Well said!

DLW said...

Looks like Kagan gets 41.7 thousands google hits.
http://www.google.com/search?sourceid=navclient&ie=UTF-8&rls=DELA,DELA:2006-02,DELA:en&q=%22Dangerous+Nation%22+Kagan

I think we need a tempered nationalism as Christians and a better knowledge of our history.

My pov is that int'l manipulations are inevitable but can be constrained in their worse tendencies by greater democracy and trade relations.

I trust such matters to prevent chaos from ensuing, but not to lead us to a better world. I do not trust the US to spread democracy everwhere and over come radical terrorism. We don't need to be the ones who do that and if we insist that it be us, then we are right to suspect that there are true ulterior motives at work.

dlw

Ted Gossard said...

L.L.,

I tend to agree with you. I am less optimisitic than some Christians seem to be, as to what can be accomplished in this world. Yet more optimistic than those who seem to resign the world to the devil until Jesus returns.

I think much good can be done, even through nation-states. But that there will be a pull against what is good and right, going on, in this present existence, until Jesus returns. So we should, certainly, strive for all the good that can be done. And that somehow does matter, as the kingdom of God in Jesus has already come to the world, though not yet having come in its fullness preempting in judgment and complete restoration, all creation.

Ted Gossard said...

Michael,

Thanks.

I'm really echoing what Kagan says in the interview. Hope I'm not inadvertently quoting him.

Ted Gossard said...

dlw,

Your take is interesting, and I'm sure very nuanced.

I think my position must be close to yours. And I agree that we evangelicals would be better off if we understood our history and tempered our nationalism. I've practically shed my sense of nationalism, and in so doing, perhaps I've gone too far.

Thanks.

Allan R. Bevere said...

Ted:

Thanks for the link; I will listen to it.

I think we must recognize the benevolent intentions of any nation as well as persons, but such benevolence can also be deceiving. The Romans had benevolent intentions in attempting to bring the rest of the world (by force)under the influence of the Pax Romana.

Ted Gossard said...

Allan,

Amen. I think our nation and political leadership needs more humility. To have a spirit of serving rather than saving the world.

Allan R. Bevere said...

"To have a spirit of serving rather than saving the world."

Gosh! Well said. I may have to quote you in an upcoming post.

Ted Gossard said...

Allan,

Thanks brother. I just quoted you on the next post (or was it a paraphrase?).

JP Anderson said...

Ted, yikes, I have not seen this book before, I am tempted to forge ahead with an Amazon purchase. I have listened to some of www.wallbuilders.com . I am both impressed about some of the Theological depth of the American forefathers yet I am apprehensive to make general assumpations about motives and divine guidance on the nation of US based on quotes and stories. Thanks for the suggestion of a read.

Ted Gossard said...

JP, Thanks for your good input here. I think this author is just looking at one angle of the American founding fathers, and the United States, though certainly significant.

The next post I get off (I'll try to do so this morning) I think provides more balance in seeing the genuine faith of the founding fathers.

Hope you, Rachel and the little one are fine.