Island America

In history class, I learned that US history in the 19th and 20th centuries included several episodes of isolationist sentiment. One example was the American public’s unwillingness to get involved in what it viewed as a European war right up until the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in December 1941, years after the war started in Europe. What I find curious about the current context in the US is that our government has arrogated to itself the right to abduct citizens of other countries and hold them indefinitely at Gitmo under torturous conditions and without rights (such violations of basic rights are far, far worse than the injuries from King George that led colonists in Boston and elsewhere to revolt against England in 1776…and to start a military campaign that the traditionalist and more powerful British military viewed as ungentlemanly and rather uncivilized – the concept of terrorist didn’t exist yet then – in nature), to invade Iraq and Afghanistan despite, in the former case at least, very strong and legitimate international concerns about the invasion.

Mom and I also visited the newly-reopened Getty Villa, up on a cliff above the Pacific near Malibu; this museum now houses the Getty’s classical collections from ancient Greece and Rome, and reminded me after two years spent absorbing the wonders of China and south and east Asia that we westerners have much to be proud of in our history as well. All visitors to LA should have both the Getty Center (the more famous building) and the Getty Villa on their itineraries; both can easily be full-day or nearly full-day excursions, and are well worth all the time you can give them. And their cafes have excellent food at very reasonable prices – so why not make a day of it, with lunch in the middle!?

All this happens at a time when the average citizen in the US is so utterly clueless about the world in which we live, the history of American foreign adventures in the 20th century and how almost every problem we now face grew from seeds planted in earlier interventions full of hubris and ideas about projecting American power or democracy or what have you around the globe. (Hey, you want specifics, write me a comment and I’ll give them to you…but for a few quickies: we put down a democratic rebellion in Iran in the 1950s and installed the Shah, whose repressive policies led to later revolt and Islamic republic; it was the Desert-Storm stationing of American soldiers in Saudi Arabia that helped radicalize one generation of Islamic extremists, and American dollars to fund the anti-Soviet Mujahideen that started what later morphed, after the Soviet withdrawal, into the Taliban…oh, and for the record, we installed Sadam Hussein and his Baath party in power, back in the 1970s in Iraq, and supported him right up until the day he invaded Kuwait in 1990, although by that point he’d committed plenty of the kind of atrocities with which the Bush Greedmongers later tried to justify his invasion. And for those who’ve forgotten…GWB’s dad headed the CIA during some critical periods in the evolution of that US policy towards Iraq in the 1970s. When are we gonna learn that we have to stop trying to play God globally, and support meaningful international institutions that may not always do what we want, but will help build some global stability and consensus???)

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