It is my earnest hope—indeed the hope of all mankind—that from this solemn occasion a better world shall emerge out of the blood and carnage of the past…
– General Douglas MacArthur, 1945
On the overcast morning of September 2nd, 1945, the United States Navy battleship, BB-63, USS Missouri, was one of a fleet of Allied ships anchored in Tokyo Bay. After major fighting in the Pacific and Asia had ended in the previous few weeks, a Japanese delegation of ranking foreign ministers, Admirals, and Generals representing the Empire of Japan, who had arrived by a small ship, were brought aboard for the official surrender ceremony.
American General Douglas MacArthur gave a short 23 minute speech imploring all sides to “emerge out of the blood and carnage” and work toward “a world dedicated to the dignity of man and the fulfillment of his most cherished wish for freedom, tolerance, and justice“, then the American and Japanese delegations signed the instruments of surrender. The Second World War that claimed 419,000 American lives and a staggering 3,000,000 Japanese lives was, at last, over.
The delicate post war politics, however, had just begun, not only in Japan but in Germany, Italy, and their one time colonies and dependent states. The transition from war to peace took years and tested the patience of all sides, but the real challenge posed by destroyed cities, manufacturing facilities, roads, bridges, railroads, shipping facilities, as well as the sheer cost of human lives lost in the war, would take decades. The United States was the only major power in the world left untouched by the ravages of war.
…a world founded upon faith and understanding, a world dedicated to the dignity of man and the fulfillment of his most cherished wish for freedom, tolerance, and justice.
– General Douglas MacArthur, 1945
When Americans talk about “making America great again“, much of what they think makes a country “great” actually has absolutely nothing to do with greatness. Wealth? Wealth doesn’t make a country great, only rich. Power? Power makes a nation enemies, not greatness. History overflows with examples of rich and powerful nations, kingdoms, and even empires that were “superpowers” in their times. Where are they now? Gone, collapsed into ruin once their temporary economic or military advantage vanished.
All that’s left of them is their angry rubes, believing they are somehow entitled to the wealth and economic superiority they had absolutely no part in constructing, blaming their countrymen for the inevitable fruits of hubris on a national scale. As far as the “greatness” of America Trump supporters are obsessed with “making again“? It never existed. It was a terrible byproduct of a global conflict that churned the developed and developing worlds into a sea of chaos and blood.
This “great” America was a myth. A lie. A fabrication. There was nothing about America that made it “great“. It was something that was missing: competition. From 1945 to the 1970’s, the United States was the sole beneficiary of the post World War II economic period. The prosperity of the mid 20th Century was not because American workers are superior to workers from anywhere else. Our rubes were alive. Their rubes were dead. It took a generation, roughly 25 years, for the populations (human capital) to recover.
…that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
– The Declaration of Independence
The true greatness of America lies not in its wealth, its military, or even its people. The true greatness of America is in the values that we once held. I believe that the United States has been, since its inception, the greatest nation on Earth, not because of anything it had, such as its politics, economics, or technology. The United States was and is great because of something that it is, the philosophy at its core: the belief that every human being on the face of the Earth has within him the Breathe of Creation.
Every statesman, every scientist, every doctor, every fire fighter, every engineer, every machinist, and every janitor is a precise and valuable Creation, moral equals before the law and entitled to their life, liberty, and property. There’s no club. No initiation. No requirements of any kind. It is simply a matter of fact that a man or woman is born free, as is his or her right. It is only society (and the state) that has ever sought to imprison or enslave them, but not in this country. In this country, in America, they are born free.
But this freedom and equality of the American ethos has a price. If everyone on the face of the Earth is born free, that means everyone is equal and are entitled to exactly the same rights and opportunities as us. America has failed to live up to her highest ideals for her entire history, enslaving millions, engaging in racism, and practicing bald faced bigotry. We have always been imperfect bearers of the torch of Liberty, but it was never about us. It was always about the torch.
…a dreary, desolate and, indeed, quite abject and distressing one; what we might call, by way of eminence, the dismal science.
– Thomas Carlyle
Prior to the Second World War, the United States was seen as less than a second tier world power. We were nothing more than an agricultural nation. In fact, we were such a non-power, the Japanese Empire actually believed their attack on Pearl Harbor would cause the United States to stay out of the war, so this myth that the United States should be an economic juggernaut is simply ridiculous.
Unless willing to abandon the American ideal of universal moral equality and simply casting the rest of the world into perpetual darkness, insuring, once again, that we are the only country on Earth that can produce anything, Americans have to accept this very simple fact of basic economics: the United States is simply one competitor in an entire world of competitors, each trying to maximize the return on their resources and labor.
All other things being equal, when the productive capabilities of other nations is intact, no nation on Earth can be a “global economic super power“. Sure, it’s an underwhelming final lesson to take from this, but it’s the truth. Americans can either except this truth or they can tear America apart pretending otherwise. Sadly, it seems that “otherwise” is going to carry the day, but it would be very nice if my fellow Americans could prove me wrong…
Liberty is For The Win!