Volume 8

A Moral History of Western Society

An Historical Review of the West's Great
Political, Social, Cultural, and Intellectual Legacy
Volume 2

From the Mid-1800s to the Present


12. Glory
13. The "Great War" (World War One)
14. Attempts at Recovery (The 1920s)
15. Depression ... and More Dictatorship
16. World War – Round Two
17. The Postwar World
18. A Cold War Develops
19. The Settling in of a Bi-Polar World
20. Peace
21. The Troubled 21st Century
22. The Lessons of History


Nationalism.  But this competitive or Darwinist ethic not only set the European "property-owning class" against the European "working class," it also set European nation against European nation.  

Actually it was not Darwinism that first put the moral foundations in place for very competitive nationalism.  The spirit of nationalism was hardly new – for it dates back to ancient tribalism when societies were very protective of their particular genealogical and ethnic communities.  But the German philosopher Hegel would bring a national spirit now stirring Europe into full philosophical view and justification.  In the early 1800s he laid out clearly the workings of a social dynamic driving history progressively, one that worked along lines that Darwinism would soon take up:  historical progress by a self-aware group rising to defend itself against a prevailing social order in which that newly-aware group was finding it hard to survive.  This oppressed group would collectively take up a spirit of struggle – aided greatly by a divine Weltgeist (World-Spirit) – and throw off the prevailing social yoke in order to take its own place at the head of history ... at least for the duration of the next historical cycle.

The Germans of his day took such Hegelian thought as the very call to arms that they needed as a people to finally find their own "German" place in the sun.  Soon other groups found themselves taking up the same militant Hegelian logic on behalf of their own rising national spirit.

Of course Darwinism only gave further "scientific" validity for the rising spirit of militant nationalism that was sweeping the continent.  It supported strongly an ever-growing instinct or spirit of each European nation to prove itself historically superior to its neighbors.  

For France and England, this competition already had a long history.  But it most conveniently served in the 1800s both to soften the class lines within the French and English nations as it also hardened the diplomatic lines of one nation against the other.  

This would come to anger Marx deeply because he hated the way the nationalist spirit was used to soften the industrial class lines, ones that he was expecting to lead the world to its final historical stage.

This nationalist urge also drove the Germans and Italians – who had long been divided internally into a number of fiercely competitive smaller states – to create the new nation states of Italy (1860) and Germany (1870).  It also stirred ethnic minorities within the remaining European multi-national empires to demand the same national independence.

Thus the spirit of nationalism was allowed, and even encouraged – through the creation of a highly Romanticized national history, poetry, operas, anthems, etc. – as a means of preserving social harmony within Europe's increasingly self-aware national units.

And so it was that the nation and its quest for glory finally came to command the full, overriding loyalty of its members – even to the extent of a call to die gallantly in war for the nation's rightful place in the sun.  The nation became celebrated as the supreme instrument of God's will on earth – as well as the ultimate source of all material well-being, justice, and right-mindedness here on earth.  Indeed, Westerners were creating a new god of sorts: their beloved nation – whether England, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, America or elsewhere.

Imperialism.  For the duration of the 1800s, this hotly competitive national spirit flung itself outward into the larger world – uniting imperial armies, industrialists and traders, and Christian missionaries in the effort to extend the influence of their sending nations among the pagans and heathens of the world.  The West was on the move, impelled by zealous forces which seemed to have no limit to their ambitions for mastery or dominance in the world.  

The British pushed for global commercialism, headquartered in London. The French pushed for a global French language and culture, headquartered in Paris.  The Americans pushed for constitutional democracy and commercialism abroad, sponsored and "protected" by America itself.  The Germans and Italians, coming lately to the game, struggled to find imperial colonies for themselves to govern in a demonstration of Germanic or Italian greatness.  And the Russians and Austro-Hungarians looked to grab pieces of their Muslim neighbor, the Turkish Ottoman Empire, in their own program of imperial expansion.

Tragically (but perhaps mercifully for the non-European societies), by the end of the century they had run out of overseas territories to grab in this Darwinian contest.  But given the fact that this in no ways diminished the nationalist spirit running hot through Western society, it was inevitable that these different sending forces would ultimately clash with each other – right at home in Europe itself – in a most ferocious sort of way.


The "Great War" (World War One:  1914-1918).  It took only the single incident of a Serbian nationalist assassinating a visiting heir to the Austrian throne to get much of Europe to come out fighting (the Spanish and Dutch stayed out as did also Switzerland and the Scandinavian countries).  No one had actually thought about how this was all supposed to end, because none of the nations involved in the action (Britain, France, Russia and little Serbia, joined eventually by Italy – in opposition to Germany and Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and Turkey) planned to quit.  Thus the slaughter of millions of young European males resulted … with no good result or even end in sight.  The killing simply continued … draining the strength and morale of the participating nations greatly.  

This would be a loss that Europe would never recover from fully or even significantly.  It was all politically very suicidal.  But these nations would not stop themselves.

Finally Russia collapsed … tipping the decision of a reluctant America to finally get involved.  With the collapse of the "autocratic" Russian government in early 1917, Wilson (as all secularists seem to do) supposed that the inevitable result would be the natural "democratization" of Russian society … turning the European dynamic (in Wilson's eyes) now into a great moral battle between "democracy" (represented by Britain, France – and now, at least potentially so, by newly "democratic" Russia) against "autocracy" (Germany, Austria-Hungary and Turkey).  The fact that Germany was no more autocratic than Britain (both had monarchies ... and both also had popularly-elected parliaments) seemed not to have factored into this piece of Wilsonian ideology.  And the fact that "the Russian people were always at heart a democratic people" was sheer Wilsonian fantasy.  But it worked well enough for Wilson now to bring America into the war … into the pointless slaughter.

America's participation put needed strength into the British and French side of the war* and helped bring a desperate German society to collapse … thus mercifully ending the pointless slaughter.  

[*The Russians, soon under Lenin's Communist government had simply withdrawn from the war … to fight an even more ferocious civil war now going on among the Russian people themselves.]  

How surprised then Wilson became when he found the "victorious" British and French in a deeply vengeful mood against a collapsed and defenseless Germany (and Austria, Bulgaria and Turkey) and most unwilling to support what Wilson hoped would be a fair "peace."  Instead, all that Europe got from the catastrophe was a vengeful Germany, a Communist (not "democratic") Russia, a weakened Austria-Hungary and Turkey (both carved up into a number of small and relatively defenseless national units), a domineering Britain and France (who expanded the size of their empires because of the way the "peace" worked out for them) … and a cynical America determined to never get involved again in the dangerous follies of the "Old World" (Europe).  America even failed to join the new League of Nations, a global diplomatic body that Wilson had hoped would bring some degree of democratic "reason" to the mess created by the war and right the wrongs of the post-war "peace."  Wilson himself then spent the last two years of his presidency in office as a very broken man.


Recovery.  Europe was no less cynical than America in the post-war period.  And the post-war politicians of Europe were well aware of the fact … making for quite weak political leadership.  

This enabled Mussolini in the early 1920s to easily convince the Italian King to appoint him as Italy's political leader – and from there to try to put forward a new nationalist or "Fascist" dream to lure the Italian people back to action … in which he was only partially successful.  Mussolini's troops consequently would take over the last African free society, Ethiopia, in an effort to recast Italy as a revived Roman Imperium.  The Italians were not terribly impressed.  But the battle weary "world powers" (who were they really at this point?) did little to counter Mussolini.

Mostly, like America, Westerners simply lost themselves in the rising world of consumerism, from radios to automobiles, and into the seemingly happy world of the latest fashions, hairstyles, dance moves, and heavy drinking.  While all that covered over the general sense at that time of the meaninglessness of life, it did not go deeply into that life … especially with the younger "Lost Generation."  The "Roaring Twenties" was actually a very shallow period.

European Christianity did not fare well either … with churches empty except for weddings, funerals and key celebrations.*

[*Footnote: Tragically, European Christianity had identified itself closely with the nationalist impulse in country after country during the war (for instance, the "Gott mit uns" or German "God with us" phrase having been played constantly before the German population during the war) … and thus Christianity would experience the same post-war disillusionment among the people that nationalism itself experienced.]  

And even the Christianity that survived the war seemed to exist mostly as just social ritual … and not as a deep part of the spirit of the times (whatever that spirit happened to be).  

Indeed, very popular at the time was the psychologist Freud, who mocked all religion as mere neurotic fantasy held by people unable to cope with reality.  But atheistic Secularists were not doing much to help the world cope with that reality either.  

There was some interest in global spiritualism – sort of a synthesis of mostly Eastern religions mixed in with some Christian attitudes.  But this did not reach widely into Western society either.   In short, the West was having a very difficult time spiritually coming out of the nightmare of the Great War.


Then at the end of the 1920s the Great Depression hit, first in America and then, by economic extension, the deeply American-dependent economies of Europe … especially Germany, completely mortgaged to America in order to be able to pay off very unfair war-compensation it supposedly owed to France.  Thus the economic lights went out across the entire West.

And into the darkness of those early 1930s stepped Hitler, who took Mussolini's Fascist style even further, flattering his German people with ideological garbage about what a powerful people they were, a superior race designed to rule the world.  He also promised them that he was personally, as their Führer (Leader), going to lead the Germans in building a grand German Empire (the Third Reich), one that would last a thousand years (it lasted only a dozen!).

Elsewhere in the world, the once Europe-dependent societies, such as India and China, were struggling in the face of an obvious weakening of the European hand to find their own way to national glory.  Most notably in those troubled 1930s, Gandhi in India and Chiang in China were doing what they could to free themselves from Western dependency … in Gandhi's case even Western culture itself.  However, China had already freed itself from the unofficial grip of the greatly distracted Western powers during the Great War … but was at this point still struggling simply to put in operation politically and economically its own successful Republic. And the global economic crash did not help matters much.  Meanwhile Gandhi kept himself busy organizing Indian protests designed to get the wearied British to "quit India."

And then there was Japan, not sure exactly how it wanted to move into the future … whether as a proto-Western democratic republic or as some kind of Japanese version of the German and Italian Fascist model glorifying the greatness of some mythical path and gearing the people up for a grand war that would restore that greatness to Japan … and build a Japanese Empire reaching across the whole of East (and possibly Central) Asia.

In the face of such Fascist aggression, the response of the "democratic" West was very, very weak … merely encouraging the boldness of these fast-rising Fascist powers.  The war-weary French were unable to get their political act together, so deeply divided among themselves over whether Germany was a friend or enemy in the face of a rising Communist Russia or whether Russia, though Communist, was the best bet as an ally in checking growing German power.  The French could never come to a decision on that matter.  And the British were led by politicians deeply committed to the idea of "peace at any cost" … failing to understand that offering pacifism ("appeasement" was the term actually used at the time) in the face of a rising bully in the neighborhood (Hitler) was not likely to have any effect on the bully except to encourage it in its bullying ways.

And Russia's ruthless and highly paranoid dictator, Stalin, interpreted British and French appeasement of Germany as actually Britain and France's way of turning an ambitious Hitler in Russia's direction.  Therefore, Stalin decided to reverse the program and engage in a peace agreement with Hitler, one that would clear the way for Hitler's ambitions to head in a Westerly direction – against France and Britain.  And Hitler was more than happy to accept the deal.  A week later, World War Two got underway.


Poland was quickly split up between Germany and Russia, Italy (and eventually Japan) joined the battle on the Fascist side, France – not able to act quickly in the face of German Blitzkrieg (lightning war) – was quickly overrun … and Britain found itself under constant aerial bombardment for what was presumably the prelude to a German military invasion of the British Isles.  Meanwhile, a stunned America stood by and watched … attempting to stay out of this new European political game.

But under Churchill, Britain would not cave in to German intimidation … and Hitler realized that he was most unready to truly follow through with an invasion of England.  So foolishly, not wanting to appear to have lost a political round in the game, Hitler decided to break his treaty with Stalin, and invade Russia instead … expecting this to be an easy match – one that would also gain Germany some much-needed material resources (oil for instance) in the process.

At the same time the Japanese supposed that an equally weak "democratic" America could be brought to submission (they were furious about America's refusal to sell Japan any more strategic materials, especially the oil and scrap iron needed by Japan in order to continue its imperial game, in China and elsewhere).  Thus the Japanese attacked and largely destroyed the American fleet anchored in Hawaii ... in order to cut off the American path to Asia – a continent that Japan now intended to bring under full Japanese control – especially its all-important material resources.  Thus America found itself at war – at least with just Japan … until foolishly a few days after the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor, Hitler decided that it would be a glorious thing to bring America into the war as a German as well as Japanese enemy.

However, America surprised both Germany and Japan with its ability to build unimaginable magnitudes of war goods in America's vast industrial network – and use these goods skillfully against its Japanese and German enemies.  Also, Russia proved to be an unmovable military obstacle for the Germans at the city of Stalingrad.  And Britain proved that it still had a lot of fight left in it.  Mussolini's Italy soon dropped out of the war, Germany was overrun from the West by the British and Americans and from the East by the Russians … and Japan finally called it quits when not one but two horrible nuclear bombs were dropped on its cities by American bombers.  By September of 1945 the war was over.


Recovery – Round Two.  But Europe at this point found itself in a state of complete ruin (Spain, Switzerland and Sweden excepted, as they had stayed "neutral" during the war).  It was not only that once again Europe had lost multitudes of young men, but that Europe's cities were in ruin, its factories were demolished, inexperienced politicians were called on to take command (the British had replaced Churchill with the Labourite or Socialist Atlee even before the final victory), and the whole Eastern half of Europe was under occupation by Russia's Red Army … an army which seemed determined to place itself in a position so as to be able to direct and control the post-war political development of that half of Europe.  At the same time, the Americans seemed just as determined to "go home" to America immediately … leaving the post-war power structure of a greatly weakened Western Europe in deep question.  Indeed, it looked even as if the huge Communist Parties of France and Italy, obviously taking orders from Stalin, were planning to start up enough mischief to possibly bring their countries under the same Stalinist dominion that had overtaken Eastern Europe.

Truman.  Thankfully, the shocking death of American President Roosevelt during the last year of the war had brought forth Vice President Truman to presidential office.  Outwardly Truman looked most unexceptional ... just another "Middle American."  True, he was himself very conscious and very supportive of Middle American culture.  But Truman was also an individual with amazingly high political instincts … and recognized immediately the challenge that Stalin now posed to the Western World.*

[*Footnote: Roosevelt had tragically been taken in by Stalin's "friendliness" … thus finding himself rather unsuspecting of Stalin's very calculating and totally ruthless character.]

Truman got Congress to back him in sending vital support to Turkey to fend of an expansion-minded Stalin next door ... and to block a similar interest by Yugoslavia's Communist President Tito in overrunning a greatly weakened Greece … saving both Turkey and Greece from falling to Communist control.  Then to counter the influence of the huge Communist Parties making mischief in Western Europe (especially in France and Italy) Truman sent billions of dollars freely to Europe to help get the Western economies back on their feet (the Marshall Plan) – including even America's recent enemies Germany and Italy – to help rebuild Europe's industries … and get its workers back to profitable work, thus stealing the political thunder of the Communists.


Then Truman proved that he would not be bullied out of the American position in Germany's strategic Berlin, by daring to fly vital material support to that city under Russian blockade … embarrassing Stalin in the process – who finally backed down.  And he got America to agree to be the part of a "peacetime" military alliance, whose formal organization NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) would involve America deeply in the ongoing defense of the "Free World" (the West).  And even more amazingly, he then offered Marshall aid to his former opponent Tito when Tito and Stalin had a split in their Communist ranks … thus in supporting Tito's independence, keeping Stalin's reach from extending all the way to the Adriatic Sea in the Mediterranean region.  To Truman, this was not about doing ideological battle with Communism.  This was about diplomatic, economic and military strategy, designed to counter expansive Soviet Russian power, power that needed to be blocked lest the world find the dictatorial powers of Germany and Japan simply replaced by those of Stalin's Russia.

Thus Truman wisely refused to get caught up militarily in the civil war raging in China between Chiang's Nationalists and Mao's Communists … although he did provide American naval protection for the Chinese Nationalists when they took refuge on the island of Taiwan.  But he did take military action when North Korea invaded South Korea … because a North Korean victory would have put Russia in a strategic position at the top of the China Sea (North Korea was simply a client state of Stalin's Russia).  To Truman, American diplomacy was about employing very strategically the power needed to block Soviet expansion … lest the world find the dictatorial powers of Germany and Japan simply replaced by those of Stalin's Russia.

However, at one point he had to refuse support to the Communist leader Ho Chi Minh in his group's effort to achieve independence from French imperialism – because by this time America itself was now caught up in a huge Red Scare.  Unfortunately, this caused Ho Chi Minh to turn to Stalin for help … a typical diplomatic loss that America would face … when political ideology and diplomatic strategy contradicted each other.

Undoubtedly America's defense was needed vitally in the face of what had become a bitter Cold War.  American involvement in the Korean War had to be done.  But Americans were not very enthusiastic about this responsibility.  But there was no other country in the West in a position to do anything about the matter.  The Europeans would help.  But they would no longer take the lead.  Leadership in the defense of the West and its values seemed to be almost completely an American responsibility.

Indeed, at this point the world understood that there were only two superpowers directing the world's strategic affairs … and neither of them was part of the original European superpower camp.  Instead, they were outlying powers located at the Eastern and Western edges of the once great Christian West.

America and its European allies differ deeply on this matter of "empire."  The situation facing the former powers of Europe would be made even more difficult, given the almost sacred belief among Americans that the control of any society by another is most evil – and needs to be stopped regardless of the consequences in doing so.

Thus the Dutch, once they got out from under Nazi Germany's control and began to put their society back together again, would also look to restoring their 300-year old empire in Southeast Asia, one that the Japanese had taken over when the Dutch were under German occupation.  But the Japanese, even as they realized that their government had accepted defeat at the hands of the Americans, did everything possible to make the post-war Dutch return to the area impossible, supporting strongly an Indonesian independence movement led by a local Indonesian, Sukarno.  Thousands of Dutch living in the colony were butchered in the process and local Indonesian Christians suffered the same fate (Indonesia is heavily Muslim).  The Dutch gathered forces to fight back … only to find themselves opposed by the new United Nations Organization – with America taking the lead in that very opposition.  What were the Dutch to do … especially when Truman announced that America would suspend Marshall Plan aid to the Dutch if they did not simply abandon their colony to the locals?  Finally, the very discouraged Dutch did so.  And with that, the Netherlands, as a once powerful society, came to an end as such.  It was now simply a small but cute European society.

The French faced the same problem when they tried to reinstate themselves in their former position as an imperial power in Southeast Asia (Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos).  Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh even informed Truman that he would appreciate American help in freeing his country from the French effort to retake control of his country.  But as a Communist, he had come too late in making that appeal.  Truman could not help him because by this time America was bitter about any Communist advance (a huge Red Scare was on at the time).  Actually, America would eventually come to support the French in their effort.  But the effort was losing support at home in France itself … and by 1954 the French were ready to sign out on the effort (America played no role in the ultimate negotiations).   And so too, this involved a great reduction in French stature.

And Britain under Atlee was actually in a hurry to divest itself of its Indian holdings … negotiating a turnover to Gandhi's nationalists of all of India – minus (to Gandhi's grand irritation) a huge portion of the subcontinent that was basically Muslim and not Hindu in character ... the future Pakistan, both West and East (the latter eventually becoming Bangladesh).  And then when at independence all hell broke loose in India as Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus squared off against each other, the British did nothing.  India's cultural animosities were now strictly a problem for the Indians themselves to work out.  And thus Britain too stepped out of the imperialism business … and became simply a small island nation lying off the coast of the European continent.

And the drift of the former European "greats" into nothingness was confirmed in 1957 when Egypt seized the vital Suez Canal linking Europe with Asia … and the French and British (joined by the new Israelis) grabbed it back.  To the shock of the Americans, this came across in the world's (and America's) opinion as merely another imperialist act on the part of the former European powers.*

[*Footnote: Actually, the French had built the canal and the British had also come to own it in part because of its importance in Europe's economic and cultural ties with Asia.   France and Britain did not see this as imperialism … but instead simply as a matter of practical necessity.]

Worse, the event came at a bad time … when the Russians were forced to send a huge Russian military force into Hungary in response to an independence movement in Hungary that was underway at the same time.  America's President Eisenhower was furious over his French and British allies' behavior … seeing that their own "imperialist" effort to hang onto this canal undercut the propaganda advantage that Eisenhower was trying to gain against Russia, depicting Russia as a deceptively authoritarian regime that the world would be unwise to follow.  

All Eisenhower could see in this Suez Crisis was how this played out negatively in America's ongoing ideological contest with Russia … not where it figured into the political status of its European allies.  Consequently, the British and French were forced to back off.  

Britain took the humiliation quietly.  But the French were a bit more resentful … as they were also having a hard time hanging onto a valuable piece of North African real estate just opposite France across the Mediterranean.  Being forced to back down in the face of the Arab opposition offered by Egyptian President Nasser did not help France's battle with the Arabs of French Algeria.  The French were bitter.

Then the following year (1958), French General de Gaulle seized power in France and tried to restore some of France's lost grandeur.  First he simply abandoned Algeria (and the millions of Frenchmen living there to their own fate), as he saw no value in continuing the contest with the Arabs in Algeria.  More importantly, he then turned on the English-speaking "Anglo-Saxons" (Britain and America) … actually carrying much of French society with him in his anti-Anglo revolt.  He blocked British entry into the European Common Market* … simply as a way of humiliating Britain.  And then he turned on NATO, even though it was headquartered in his country, in an attempt to undercut American leadership in Europe.  He pulled his troops and fleets out of NATO and then forced NATO troops out of his country – in the hopes of making a European power (namely France) able to take the lead in Europe's own affairs.  In the end, none of the other European members of NATO chose to follow his lead.  Most Europeans understood how deeply they needed the American connection.

[*Footnote: The Common Market was a West European effort to get past its history of nationalist animosities … by uniting European social dynamics by way of some post-nationalist or all-European programming, starting in the all-important field of economics.  NATO was also part of that programming.]


The problem of "power."  Being an effective major power involves some wisdom, usually acquired through tough experience.  As America became the head of the West – and given the responsibility of seeing to the West's very survival in the face of highly expansive Soviet efforts to "revolutionize" the world – it became apparent that America had some way to go before it had such deep wisdom.  Sadly, such power seemed way too often to bring out rather naive thoughts by Idealistic rather than Realistic leaders, thoughts that it was now America's duty not just to deal with the world and its many challenges … but to actually change that world – make it into a better social order, even a perfect social order.

We saw that tendency in Wilson – US President (1913-1920), but also former professor and former Princeton University president.  His was the classic mindset of the academic intellectual, loving to work from his desk in designing a better world, a world that he actually knew very little about in real terms.  But his ideas were so wonderful that, according to his own logic, they had to be real, to be exactly what the world needed.  And thus Wilson designed – and presented that design to the American people as reality – the idea that the Russian people had always been a democratic people at heart, and that only the small Russian ruling class was what put that country in the category of "autocracy."  Thus according to Wilson's logic, now that the autocracy had been overthrown (early 1917), Americans could expect to see Russia quickly joining the democratic world.  Of course, he was shocked when in fact that was not the direction Russia took once it got rid of its governing Russian aristocracy.  And his shock only deepened when he also realized that his "democratic" allies Britain and France shared none of his political Idealism – unless it somehow served some selfish purpose for these two European powers.

Even more tragically, America really did not improve in the political wisdom category after this example of Wilson's Idealistic thinking blew up in the face of Reality.  Americans would find it easy to continue to dream the dream of a more perfect world … brought into being through the work and direction of "enlightened" leaders.

Actually, Truman himself did not suffer from this Idealistic illusion … thankfully so because he wisely and most skillfully put American power to work where it would bring the greatest benefit to the West … and to America itself.  Perhaps that was because he did not come to the American presidency by way of fancy schooling, but instead by taking on tough challenges: an outstanding artillery officer in World War One, a failed men's clothing store owner after the war, self-taught in the law, working with the powers-that-be which ran Missouri politics … but doing so without losing his sense of integrity, serving in the US Senate as an investigator into corporate spending during World War Two (saving the US billions of dollars in the process).  Truman was a hard-nosed Realist ... most of the time.

And Eisenhower also tended more to the Realist rather than the Idealist side in his thinking, although his handling of the Suez Crisis was not exactly an example of political Realism at work.  And the results of Eisenhower's lack of Realism in handling this delicate matter – for the West and even for America itself – consequently were not good.

But with the coming of the 1960s, America would see political Idealism emerging more and more, most notably in the form of a "Liberal" political philosophy which took control of Washington at that time.  At first, under Kennedy it took the form simply of asking Americans to join him in helping to make the world a better place ... aimed particularly at young Americans (the "Silents" who formed a generation somewhere between the World War Two Vets and the Vet's post-war Boomer generation – Silents just coming out of college about this time) who filled the ranks of his "Peace Corps," sent off to help Third-World countries develop along more "Progressive" (that is,"American") socio-political lines.  But his idealism was deeply tested at the Bay of Pigs in Cuba (April 1961) when he failed to follow through on an attempt to remove the Socialist dictator Castro, and at the new Berlin wall (July 1961) – where Kennedy took no action when Khrushchev cut off East Europeans' escape route to the West.  This then prompted Khrushchev to test Kennedy's will over Soviet missile sites built in Cuba (October 1962) – although this time Kennedy did not back down ... and Khrushchev was forced to take the humiliating route of removing those Soviet missiles from Cuba.  But how Kennedy was then going to move ahead would never be known, although he did have the pro-Western Vietnamese dictator Diem taken down ... just before Kennedy himself was assassinated in November of 1963.

This Idealism also registered itself in the form of the Supreme Court, which – with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) taking the case forward – came to the decision (1962) that the Constitution does not protect religion in American public life, but prevents it in public life ... at least at this point just in America's public schooling.  A year later the Supreme Court also decided that the Bible – the longstanding source of American moral standards – likewise was to be kept out of American public schooling.  Somehow, according to American Idealism (going back to Wilson ... and even Rousseau and Marx in the 1700s and 1800s) such morality was supposedly instinctive to all people – and merely needed the right social-political formula put in place in order to bring out this Humanistic glory.

The "Great Society" disaster. And Kennedy's replacement, Johnson, would believe that he had just such a formula ready to put in place in America:  his "Great Society" program.  He first claimed that his program was designed merely to help states and local communities rise to better standards.  But it soon became obvious that he was mostly looking to the Washington bureaucracy – which expanded massively during his 1963-1969 presidency – to do a grand redesign of American society.

But all of this simply weakened the bonds of social tradition within America itself, long-lasting social bonds that are needed to continue to hold any society together in good health.

For instance, the Rev. Dr. King was asking only that America honor its promise to let all people, regardless of their racial character or background, participate as equals in the process of Republican government (elections of public officials mostly).  But Johnson and his vastly expansive bureaucracy presented the Idea to the American public that the government's role was not that as political referee in a democratic political game … but needed itself to be the key player in the game … a player that undertook the responsibility of making sure that everyone came away from the game a winner.  Why?  Because public life was now about entitlements delivered to the people by their government … not citizen duties or civil responsibilities encouraged and monitored by their government.

At the same time he became massively obsessed with the spread of social programming of a quite similar nature in Vietnam ... because the Vietnamese program unfolded under the label of "Communism."  And Johnson was not going to allow such top-down "Communist" dictatorship to spread from one country to the next (the "domino theory") in Southeast Asia.  But the troops he sent to Vietnam seemed unable to block this spreading "Communist" disease.  Thus he responded by sending in yet more troops ... until by 1968 he had over a half-million US troops in South Vietnam, killing "Communists" – who truly could not be distinguished from the general population Johnson was supposedly trying to save.  His Vietnam venture thus was turning itself into a grand disaster.

Also at the same time, things were not improving socially in America itself ... but in fact were going down ever uglier paths.  Somehow members of the rising Boomer generation (reaching college age by the mid-1960s) interpreted the new "Progressive" social dynamic as the call to personal freedom ... freedom in every aspect of life.  Furthermore, "government" was not longer some kind or responsibility or duty of the citizens themselves ... but was the role that political professionals (the bureaucrats or "technocrats" of Johnson's Washington, DC) were to undertake in making sure that all citizens got the social-economic-political "entitlements" they were due as citizens.  In other words, "government" existed above the realm of the citizens themselves ... supposedly now in the hands of the professionals given the responsibility of taking care of (or "mothering") the citizenry.

But when these social-material "entitlements" did not come at the pace expected – it caused highly expectant entitled" groups to rise up on revolt ... even plunder, burn and kill (the "revolution of rising expectations").  Particularly impatient – and thus riotous – were a number of younger American Blacks ("Black Panthers" they called themselves), who expected social "equality" and the benefits of equality to come their way simply upon governmental decree.

But young American women were also part of the increasingly unhappy sector of American society ... especially since the publication in 1963 of Friedan's best-seller, The Feminine Mystique, in which she made it clear that professionalism in the job industry (long solely a male domain) was the proper place for the modern woman ... not the full-time, servile and mind-crushing position in the American home as housewife.  Boomer women needed to be "freed" from such servitude ... and take their proper places in the higher ranks of American society.  In response to this challenge, although Boomer females did not prove riotous, they could certainly be loud in denouncing America's traditional family standards ... now under assault for being repressive and non-progressive.

Then there was the increasing resistance of young men to the military draft – especially as the death and wounding of American soldiers mounted in number ... without any evidence that any of "Johnson's War" was progressing matters in Vietnam.

And thus vital sections of America become the scene of massive social rebellion, even rioting and burning, during the last years of the Johnson presidency, especially during the annus horribilis (horrible year) of 1968.

Thus it was, and not at all surprisingly, that Johnson's Idealistic presidency ended up in 1968 as a rather grand disaster … with Johnson simply abandoning his catastrophic political legacy for someone else to deal with.

He had been so preoccupied with the ever-deepening military American involvement in Vietnam that he had ignored America's responsibilities elsewhere during his presidency.  He played no role in shaping a favorable political outcome when in 1968 Czechoslovakia attempted – and failed – to break free from the Soviet Russian grip.  And he offered no serious response to de Gaulle's anti-American and anti-NATO challenges.

Developments in the Larger World During the 1960s

Western Europe was finally making a fast recovery economically ... thanks to the readiness to work together as a single unit through the European Common Market (later to become known as the European Union).  And Russia, under the leadership of Brezhnev (after 1964), was preoccupied with its own economic development and did not "meddle" in political hot-spots – including Vietnam, an event the Russians stayed away from (except for offering weapons to the Viet Cong).

Africa in the 1960s saw European colonialism come to an end – mostly peacefully – except in South Africa where the 300-year old Dutch Afrikaner community fought strongly to keep its place at the head of a country where Blacks, Coloureds, Indians and even Englishmen were jockeying for their own political place in the life of the country.

The Middle East continued down the road of developing Arab Nationalism under the guidance of Egyptian President Nasser - who however blundered grandly in 1967 when he and Arab allies decided to remove the "Zionist cancer" of Israel from their midst.  His rumblings of war were met instead by a surprise strike of the Israeli air force ... which quickly destroyed his own air force on the ground.  And from there, his defeat, and the defeat of Jordan and Syria who foolishly come in at this point, became a certain thing.  As a result the Arab Palestinians lost all their ancestral land to the Israelis – though the rest of the world (including even the US) refused to recognize Israel’s new territorial acquisitions.

In China, Mao (who had been chastened by his Communist colleagues for the failures of his "Great Leap Forward" in 1958-1961) tried to make a comeback with another political extravaganza:  his "Cultural Revolution" (1966-1968) in which he appealed to China’s youth – over the heads of their elders and even the Communist political organization – to rise up together as a new "Red Guard" and purge the land of "revisionist" thinking and (under his own guidance) set the country on a truly revolutionary course once again.  The result was a total breakdown of social order – which after nearly devastating the country (and killing over 400,000 people) was brought back under order by the Red Army.  The surviving "pragmatists" in the Chinese Communist Party now forced Mao to be merely a "reigning" rather than ruling national figure – away from the day-to-day decisions needed to return the country to economic growth.

The example of American youth rising up in rebellion against their adult Establishments spread to the youth of other countries:  Mexico, France, Germany, Italy, Belgium.  Governments toppled and political chaos reigned for weeks in many countries (taking place at the same time as the 1968 chaos in America).  In France, De Gaulle tried to tighten up on French politics as a result of these "events of May" (1968) – but the move backfired on him and in 1969 he once again stalked off into retirement, hoping to collapse the 5th Republic with his departure (in fact it survived his going quite nicely)

In Czechoslovakia a reform group within the ruling Communist Party began to permit more political freedom in the country (the "Prague Spring" of 1968).  But the Russians saw these changes as a dangerous virus which might spread to the rest of the Soviet Block.  In August, 650,000 Soviets troops were sent into Czechoslovakia to crush the reform movement.

The "Political Realism" of Nixon and his foreign policy advisor Kissinger

Nixon – a strong Establishment figure – was elected President in November of 1968 in the hope that he could restore some sense of order and "decency" to the country.  But this merely pushed the young Boomers (whose views moved in the opposite direction) into a deeper anti-Establishment, even anti-patriotic, reaction.

Nixon had learned the art of diplomatic Realpolitik (Political Realism) in his 8 years out of office, traveling and visiting with different foreign government leaders.  He was the most diplomatically informed of all American presidents upon his arrival to the White House – and it showed in his choice of National Security Advisor (and eventually Secretary of State) Kissinger.  Nixon was not confused by the ideological title "Communist" attached to the Russians, Chinese and Vietnamese, knowing that they were three quite different (and often quite hostile) countries.  He planned to exploit these differences in order to correct America's poor foreign relations (thanks to Vietnam) with the larger world.

In the early 1970s, Nixon decided to wield a stick against North Vietnam in order to strengthen the American diplomatic hand at the meetings being held in Paris to work out the future of Vietnam.  In late April he sent U.S. troops into Cambodia ... to cut off North Vietnamese supplies to the Viet Cong along the Ho Chi Minh trail.

Nixon's moves to "thaw" the Cold War

Vietnam. 1972 he had only 6,000 US troops in Vietnam.

China. At the same time, Nixon moved to end the diplomatic isolation of Communist or mainland China ... and used new relations with China to help stabilize his policy of "Vietnamizing" the conflict in Vietnam (turning the war over to South Vietnamese regular troops).  Thus he sent Kissinger on a secret diplomatic mission to China in 1971 and then he himself traveled to China in 1972 to open lines of communication with Beijing.

Russia. He also decided that it was time to defuse the nuclear overtones of the Cold War with Russia ... and work with the Soviets in bringing some kind of cooperative restraint to the arms race (a détente as it was called – or a "backing-down").  Improved relations with Russia would also keep the Chinese on their toes, just as improved relations with China would keep the Russian on their toes – and as improved relations with both China and Russia was carefully designed to keep North Vietnam on its toes!

Most tragically for everyone involved, an anti-Nixon, "Liberal" or Idealist Congress (part of Johnson's legacy that did continue) tried very hard to block President Nixon's efforts to conduct a Realist foreign policy ... preferring to hang on to their own highly developed ideological views on foreign-policy matters.


An incident during the summer 1972 presidential campaign – the break-in into the Watergate offices of the Democratic National Committee by enthusiastic political lieutenants – finally gave Nixon's opponents their chance to destroy him.  The issue blew up when two young reporters of the Washington Post followed up on the story – hoping to find a trail of intrigue that would lead to a prize-winning story.  As the story came out of "high-up" officials being behind the break-in, Nixon "circled the wagons" to protect his staff.  Thus although there was no direct connection initially between Nixon and the Watergate break-in, his move to protect his staff with a post-event "cover-up" was a serious matter.  In the end, proof was brought forward that the Supreme Enforcer of the law of the land had broken the law himself in the cover-up effort, an impeachable offense.  Nixon, not willing to see what a hostile House of Representatives might do in an impeachment hearing, choose to resign (August 1974) rather than go through the process.

Liberals "save" American democracy from Presidential imperialism

Vice President Gerald Ford now became President – but possessed no power to lead the nation – as the Liberal Press, Congress and Judiciary did not intend to give up their status of "defenders of democracy" against "presidential tyranny."

Congress undercuts the Saigon government (1975) ... bringing on the shame of the inglorious departure of the last Americans from Vietnam

Swelled with a sense of the importance of a new"'power is evil" Liberal Idealism, Congress announced that it would no longer give financial assistance to the Saigon government in Vietnam – the one established by "tyranny" (that is, by American power).

With this clear go-ahead signal to America’s former enemy, the Vietnamese Communists, the political situation which had been fairly stable in Vietnam for three years, declined rapidly ... and then simply collapsed tragically in April of 1975. The world was forced to stand by in shock as the American political legacy in Vietnam (bought with so much American blood) simply vanished through the high moral intentions of America’s "new democracy."

The chaos in Vietnam spills over cruelly into Cambodia

While China was veering away from doctrinaire politics, the tiny country of Cambodia was plunging into a blood bath centered on ideological doctrine.  Following the collapse in 1975 of the pro-American South Vietnamese government next door, the Communist Khmer Rouge led by Pol Pot seized power in Cambodia, closed the country to the outside world, and – inspired by Mao's agrarian or rural radicalism – began a campaign of eradicating "capitalist, bourgeois" urban culture from the country.  Merchants, professionals, teachers, any educated Cambodians – but ultimately all urbanites – were moved to the countryside for ideological indoctrination as newly-converted "working-class Cambodians."  The program became increasingly brutal as hundreds of thousands of "class (and ethnic) enemies" were liquidated.

But Pol Pot’s alignment with China proved to be the undoing of his Khmer Rouge.  Vietnam, though Communist, was deeply hostile to China’s influence in the region and decided in December of 1978 to invade Cambodia – and install a pro-Vietnam government there.  This was when the rumors of the mass genocide by the Khmer Rouge finally came to light.  Eventually it was revealed that possibly a million Cambodians had died in the "Killing Fields" during the Khmer Rouge ascendancy.

Sadly, America's "Idealist" Congress of the time had no serious understanding of power and its responsibilities.  Even worse, Congress simply looked away from the mess it had created in Vietnam and Cambodia, refusing to acknowledge the role it had played in producing this huge tragedy.  Consequently, American Idealism learned nothing from this event … and would continue forward unchanged.

The American Republic at 200 years of age (1976)

1976 was the year of America’s celebration of 200 years of its existence as a free democracy – the year of the Bicentennial.  But it was a whimpering, pathetic celebration.  The small group of Americans that did come out to celebrate their patriotic loyalties sensed that something was wrong with America.

Crime and drugs were spreading through American society like a fast-moving cancer and nothing seemed to be able to slow it down, much less stop it.  There was an outbreak of divorce never seen before in American society – or any other – that was throwing the family foundations of the country into turmoil.  Public civility and politeness had also been replaced by a "me and my rights" spirit of belligerence ... setting American against American not only publicly but also privately.

The ACLU and U.S. Supreme Court work together
to move America off of its Christian roots

The ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) learned early on that the Supreme Court, not Congress, was the supreme legislative body in the U.S. government ... and went there to get the country to begin the replace America's Christian moral-spiritual foundations ... with Secular-Humanism's moral-spiritual foundations.  Thus in the early 1960s the ACLU got the Supreme Court to declare prayer and Bible reading to be forbidden as an activity within America's public schools (only Catholic schools stood outside the system at the time ... and were exempt from this restriction).  But the Supreme Court outdid itself when in 1971 in the Lemon v. Kurzman case, it declared very officially that only "Secular" – not religious (meaning "Christian") – purpose was to direct American schooling ... not realizing that Secularism is itself no less a religion.

A religion is, after all, the understanding as to what directs all life ... and what we humans are to do in order to put ourselves in harmony with that fundamental force.  And by officially establishing Secularism as the only perspective that education could work from, the Supreme Court itself violated the very clear terms of the first amendment ... which reads specifically: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.  But this would be only the beginning of this move to prohibit the free exercise of Christianity ... and most illegally establish Secularism as the country's foundational religion.

European Developments

The "New Europe" on the economic rise.  In the meantime, in the larger world beyond America, peace and growth – even if slow at times – was the norm in the 70s.  This was particularly the case in Western Europe where the old nations pooled their economic resources to create a growing European Economic Community (to eventually become the European Community – and then the European Union).  With De Gaulle gone from the scene, French hostility to the joining of England to the Community then ended and England, along with Ireland and Denmark, joined the EEC (1973).

Peaceful revolution in Spain. In 1975 the 36-year old fascist regime in Spain finally came to an end when Franco died.  Young King Juan Carlos then began to move Spain carefully toward cultural freedom and democracy – and in 1977 the country had its first truly democratic election (even the Communists were allowed to participate).  But in 1981 disgruntled former fascist military officers staged a coup to return the country to Franco’s ways.  But the King stood firm in his support of the democracy – and the coup withered.  Europe was so impressed by the King’s stand that Spain was finally invited to join NATO in 1982.  From this point on, Spain then began a long period of strong economic growth and entry into the mainstream of European culture ... joining the EEC in 1986.

But serious problems in Northern Ireland.  An exception to this picture of peace was Northern Ireland – part of the British Kingdom.  By 1972, Catholic-Protestant animosities in Northern Ireland (which first flared up in 1969 over economic hard times) turned into a bloody conflict when British soldiers fired on Catholic protesters, killing 12.  The fiercely Catholic Irish Republican Army – the IRA (largely quiet since Irish independence from Britain after World War One) – came back to life as a terrorist organization ... aiming to force the ceding of (largely Protestant) Northern Ireland (the Ulster Province) to the (largely Catholic) Irish Republic.  But Britain fought back at the IRA – and the battle continued its violent course throughout the rest of the 1970s.

Developments Elsewhere in the 1970s

Curious political twists coming from Egypt. In the Middle East, Nasser died (1970s) shortly after dedicating the Aswan High Dam on the Nile, and his Vice President and long-time friend Anwar al-Sadat replaced him as president of Egypt.  In 1972 Sadat expelled 15,000 Soviet military technicians from Egypt (they had become overbearing as advisors) – yet was very willing to receive new Soviet military aid.

The October or Yom Kippur War.  In October of 1973 Egypt and Syria suddenly attacked Israel in an effort to unstick earlier efforts to get Israel to return Arab lands lost in 1967.  Initially the war moved to the Arabs' favor – but Israel regrouped and regained lost ground – and more.  But at this point Israel and the Arabs had both depleted their military arsenal – and the Soviets and Americans moved into the conflict to resupply their respective allies with replacement airplanes, tanks, etc.  Then the largely Arab OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) imposed an oil embargo on America and the West.  Fearing an escalation of the conflict into a collapse of Soviet-American détente – and feeling the pinch of a horrible energy crisis – America (through Kissinger’s "shuttle diplomacy") negotiated an Arab-Israeli cease-fire ... and an Israeli move toward granting some of the territorial concessions the Arabs had originally been seeking (spring of 1974).

The struggles of a post-Maoist China. In 1976 both the zany Mao Zedong and his more practical ally Zhou Enlai died – and a power struggle erupted between Mao’s radical widow Jiang Qing (leader of the "Gang of Four") and the leaders of the Chinese "pragmatists," Hua Guofeng and Deng Xiaoping.  By 1977 Jiang found herself in prison and Deng in charge of China (Hua had been eased a bit to the sidelines of power).  This marked the beginning of China’s shift away from doctrinaire Maoism toward economic pragmatism (allowing limited capitalism into China and new trade relations with the Western world)


Jimmy Carter:  Mr. "Nice Guy" as U.S. President

1976 was also a presidential-election year – and a largely unknown former governor of Georgia, Jimmy Carter, was put forth by a small New York political association, the Foreign Policy Institute, to run as the Democratic candidate against the Republican Gerald Ford.  A taste of what was to come was when, during a series of televised debates, Carter attacked Ford (and his Secretary of State Kissinger) for practicing immoral politics which "linked" diplomacy with political payoffs ... rather than with high moral ideals.

Carter was playing the "power is evil" card as the main feature of his political campaign.  During his campaign he promised to end American "imperialism" and to pull the country’s support away from foreign leaders who used immoral means to undergird their power.  He cited specifically the Shah of Iran who was known to put people in prison merely for their political affiliations.  Indeed – unlike the previous Republican administrations (Nixon and Ford) – under his Presidency, America would be restored to a morally clean agenda.

Carter was elected President – and the world stood in amazement as he attempted to put his "power is evil" philosophy into effect.  He proposed to end American "imperialism" in Europe by bringing home the American troops in Europe (part of the anti-Soviet NATO command) – until panicked European leaders convinced Carter that this would destabilize the very political structure that had brought peace to Europe for over 30 years.  Even the Soviets were not keen on this because it would have destabilized the whole of Europe, their zone of domination as well!  When he similarly proposed to liberate South Korea by bringing home the American troops positioned there since 1950, the reaction was even louder: everyone knew that the very day after the departure of such troops, North Korea would be invading the South again.  Carter backed down.  He was beginning slowly to acknowledge the key role of power in shaping world peace.

The "Camp David Accords" sponsored by Carter

In 1977 Sadat surprised the world by flying uninvited to Jerusalem and meeting with Menachem Begin to push for a new peace accord between Egypt and Israel.  Carter then jumped into the initiative when it began to stall up (Begin had no interest in any kind of a deal with Sadat) and brought both Sadat and Begin to America and the presidential retreat at Camp David (1978) to work out their differences.  Carter's warning that Begin had better come up with something or he would find himself politically isolated ultimately led to the "Camp David Accords."  These officially ended Israeli-Egyptian hostilities.  He and Begin were then awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1978.

But this new Egyptian policy would begin Sadat’s troubles with the Arab hardliners in the larger Arab world ... and in his own country.

Begin unsurprisingly did not hold up his part of the bargain concerning self-government for the Palestinians – and the Arab League kicked Sadat out for transacting this empty "separate peace" with Israel.  Things then grew worse for Sadat – especially as Begin further ignored the Camp David Accords and instituted new Jewish settlements in what the rest of the world (including America) understood to be Palestinian lands.

The Arabs grew increasingly furious with Sadat’s sell-out – and in October 1981 he was assassinated by Muslim fundamentalists.  However, his successor, Hosni Mubarak, seeking to maintain the new working relationship with America, promised nonetheless to continue to work toward the implementation of the Camp David Accords.

Grand Catastrophe in Iran

And tragically for Iran, the "Political Realist" lessons for Carter came too late.  Having spoken loudly and clearly about his views on the Shah during his election campaign in 1976, Carter helped galvanize Iranian opinion that their Shah was an evil man.  Actually he was merely a foolish man.  The huge flow of new oil money gushing into Iran (complements of the Arab-produced oil inflation of 1973-1974) had succeeded in destabilizing Iranian society by creating a huge gap in wealth between the small group of families around the Shah who reaped most of Iran's oil gains ... and the larger, still very rural population which had not shared in the wealth – and in fact had watched their real wealth disappear under the inflation of prices for even basic necessities, prices they could not afford to pay.

The Shah, once well-loved by his people for the very obvious material progress he was bringing the country, was now being resented for the way he had allowed this huge gap in wealth to come into being in his own country.  The Islamic clerics, who were once scorned as lingering symbols of Iran’s former backwardness as a feudal Muslim society, now began to be listened to as they gave religious judgments on the hard economic times in Iran.  Under their guidance, the Shah was named as the cause of all evil in their lives.  "The only hope for Iran is the removal of this Evil – and the restoration of the country to the holy ways of traditional Islam."  The Iranians started to listen attentively to the clerics.

Eventually Carter came to realize that what was going on in Iran was truly a battle between modern Western civilization and a hostile traditional Muslim civilization.  The Shah needed help – counsel in straightening out the growing economic mess in Iran – rather than diplomatic isolation by the once biggest supporter of his modernization reforms.  But such awareness came too late to save the Shah.

Under the guidance of the Ayatollah Khomeini (located in Paris at the time), a street revolution was organizing against the Shah, and the belated efforts of Carter to come to the Shah’s aid only made clearer to angry Iranians another part of the clerics' message: "behind the Evil of the Shah stands the greatest Evil of all, America."

When the Shah was then driven from power in February of 1979 the Ayatollah turned Iran to its next struggle: the destruction of the Great Satan, America.

Throughout the year Iran grew more restless in its readiness to do battle with the great Satan America.  Then when Carter offered shelter (in Egypt) to a very sick Shah, the Iranians grew angry.  In November a crowd stormed the American Embassy in Tehran and grabbed all the American staff members.  Americans watched from their TVs in horror as the Iranians paraded bound and blindfolded Americans before the screaming Iranian mobs.  This vision touched the deep sense of helplessness that Americans were beginning to feel in the face of changes going on rapidly in their world.

Another humiliating gas shortage ... and hyper-inflation

This was in part due to the fact that in late 1979, for the second time in the decade, due to the stoppage of oil exports from Iran, Americans (and Europeans) were having to form very long lines at the gas stations to get scarce gasoline ... whose cost was skyrocketing to ever new heights.  Once again Arab-dominated OPEC – and American oil companies as well – were taking advantage of the shortage to run the price of oil as high as possible.

Higher energy costs were in turn pushing ever-higher prices for everything that the people are paying for.  Inflation was running rampant.

Then ... just to make matters worse – much, much worse – Federal Reserve President Paul Volcker decided that the best way to fight this inflation was to take Federal discount (interest) rates sky high ... all the way up to 20% ... making loans – ones that undergirded all businesses – so high, that to stay in business, prices charged by that business had to be raised accordingly.  How exactly Volcker ever thought that this would fight inflation – rather than add massively to it – remains an unanswered question.  In any case, his intervention into the sad working of the economy merely made things almost catastrophic.  A lot of businesses failed ... taking goods off the market, and making those that remained all the more scarce – and thus more expensive.  Crazy!

By 1980 Americans were in a bitter, depressed mood.  Carter was coming up for reelection and was in a quandary as to what to do.

In April he attempted a foolhardy military rescue of Americans held hostage in Iran (his Secretary of State Cyrus Vance was opposed to the mission and resigned when it failed) – which ended in failure in the desert sands of southern Iran with the loss thankfully of only a handful of lives ("thankfully" because had the effort reached Tehran, the hostages most likely would have been butchered, along with their rescuers, and the American humiliation would have been all the greater).

As a result, Carter, who had finally learned "linkage" politics, began to negotiate with Iran in secret for the release of the American hostages, holding over the Iranians the much needed financial assets frozen in US banks – at a time when Iran was fighting to fend off an Iraqi attack (begun in September ) and needed those assets badly.  The negotiations resulted finally in the release of the American hostages – but too late for Carter to get the credit.

Meanwhile Carter that summer (1980) convinced Volcker to back off his high interest rate strategy – and the economy began to rebound, long enough for Carter to be renominated by the Democrats as their presidential candidate.  But Volcker then sent the rates back up again ... and the economy immediately slumped back into a recession – just prior to the November elections.  Unsurprisingly, Carter was not reelected President.

1981 – Reagan Takes Command

In January 1981 former actor, former California governor, and Republican presidential nominee, Ronald Reagan, took office with a clear agenda to return America to its former, stronger, traditional ways.  The Liberal "saviors of democracy" did not like this, seeing in Reagan a return to the White House of "Nixon" in a new guise.  But Reagan knew how to handle the American press (unlike Nixon) and, though returning to the type of foreign policy Nixon exercised, Reagan knew how to handle domestic politics as well.  It was highly symbolic of a restored sense of American strength and resolve ... that at the very moment Reagan was being sworn into office, the American hostages were finally released and were in airplanes on their way home to America.

In March, two months into office, Reagan was shot in the chest by a deranged young man.  Reagan recovered quickly – but his press secretary Brady, also shot, was permanently brain damaged.  The shock of this event inspired Congress to then America’s first (still quite limited) gun control law – known as the Brady Law.

Reagan immediately demonstrated that the Presidency was to move forward on the basis of strength – and not just merely good moral intentions.  He immediately confronted labor unions – who had been helping drive inflation along with their constant round of wage increases for their members (leaving non-union workers falling further and further behind economically).  When the public air traffic controllers organization (PATCO) went on strike for new benefits – threatening to shut down all air traffic (and the nation’s economy) – Reagan mobilized the military air traffic controllers to take their place.  PATCO was forced to back down – and most of America cheered (the strongly pro-union Democrats fumed – but sensed that the nation was not with them on this issue).

England's Margaret Thatcher demonstrates
the virtues of "tough" leadership

This was in keeping with what was going on in England under the lead of Margaret Thatcher, Prime Minister since 1979.  The English had grown very tired of British unions shutting down the nation’s economy every time one or another of them wanted a new round of benefits.  The Conservative Prime Minister Thatcher confronted the unions (something the Labour Party would never do), backed them down, and freed the English economy for astonishing growth.  Thatcher and Reagan, sharing very similar outlooks on things, became close friends across the Atlantic.

This toughness also showed up in their handling of foreign affairs.  In April 1982 the generals of Argentina, who had been keeping a cruel and unpopular dictatorship going over the country, decided that a bold foreign venture might restore some popularity to them.  They invaded the British Falkland Islands 300 miles east of Argentina in the Atlantic Ocean and claimed it as Argentinian land.  At first the Argentinians – and all Latin Americans – cheered the move.  But Thatcher (with Reagan’s strong approval) struck back ... and sent British troops to recapture the islands.  By June the Argentinian defeat was total.  This then toppled Argentina’s military dictatorship, freeing Argentina from years of oppression ... and confirmed Thatcher as the "Iron Lady."

Reagan's misstep in the Middle East

This was followed the next year (1983) by American military action in Lebanon – which however turned out quite differently.  Problems in Lebanon had been going on since the mid-1970s, when the huge influx of mostly Muslim Palestinian refugees fleeing Israel’s wrath destabilized the balance of power between Muslim Lebanese and Christian Lebanese.  Lebanon was transformed from the jewel of the Eastern Mediterranean into a battle zone of various warlords and their private armies.  In 1982, Begin decided to send Israeli troops into Lebanon – at first merely to clear the border regions with Israel with PLO militants who used the area to launch raids into Israel.  But he quickly expanded his goals to include the invasion of the capital, Beirut, to destroy the PLO base there, throw out the Syrian troops there (ostensibly to bring some kind of peace to the country) and to set up a Christian Lebanese government there which would be presumably an Israeli ally.

The US tried to broker a new peace between Israel and the Arabs – and a UN peacekeeping force (which included American soldiers) was set to Lebanon to stabilize the country.  But soon thereafter the Israelis turned two Palestinian refugee camps over to Christian Lebanese and then stood by and watched as the "Christians" proceeded to slaughter 800 (mostly women and children) of the inhabitants of the Palestinian camps.

The world now reacts in outrage. Although Israel forced Ariel Sharon to leave the cabinet for his role in the affair, this hardly satisfied Arab Hezbollah militants who (in April) blew up the US embassy in Beirut, killing 40 people – then (in October) French and American military barracks, this time killing 58 French and 241 American troops.  Reagan – waiting a bit so that it would not look as if he was leaving in defeat at the hand of a group of terrorists – withdrew the rest of the US military forces in Lebanon the following February.  Then Israel pulled out in mid-1985 – and Lebanon plunged deeper into civil war.

But Reagan rebounded from the humiliation in Beirut by sending US Marines only a few days later to a tiny Caribbean Island, Grenada, when a leftist government there let conditions in the country turn chaotic.

The Iran-Contra Affair

Reagan’s second term was caught up in a scandal known as the Iran-Contra Affair.  In 1985 his National Security Advisor – using Israel as a go-between – worked a secret deal with Iran, promising to sell Iran arms (it was involved in a ruinous war with Iraq and needed arms badly) in exchange for Iran using its influence to gain the release of Americans held hostage by Muslim fanatics in Lebanon.  This was all very illegal – as officially Americans were not allowed to negotiate with kidnappers – and as Iran was supposed to be under an American boycott.  Further, the money Iran paid for the illegal arms was being funneled secretly by the CIA through Marine Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North to Nicaraguan expatriate soldiers, called the Contras, who were fighting to overthrow the Leftist Sandinista government in Nicaragua.  This too was illegal – as Congress had made it very clear that the US was to stay out of Nicaragua’s civil war.

In the fall of 1986 this all came before the notice of Congress and the American public – and it looked as if the Reagan government might be saddled with a scandal as big as Nixon's Watergate Affair.  But Reagan fired a number of his officials – and by a year later seemed somehow to have kept himself out of impeachment danger.  It seems that the American public (with the exception of certain Democrats) was not interested in a lynching the way it was in the days of the Watergate Affair.  And the year after that (1988), as Reagan finished out his last year in office, his approval rating was running at 63% – a very high figure.

Indeed, to many Americans, it now seemed that the powers of political, economic and military diplomacy that Congress had taken away from the Presidency in the wild days of Watergate needed to be restored to the President – and people such as Ollie North should be acknowledged as patriots working in the best interest of the country – not as criminals.  The Liberal mood of the mid-1970s had definitely swung during the Reagan 1980s back to a more Conservative mood in the country.

The rapid decline and collapse of the Soviet Union

The 1980s were proving to be a very trying time for the Soviets.  It was quite obvious in Russia that the Western worker was doing very much better economically under capitalism than the Russian worker was doing under Communism.  And the Russian economy was in deep trouble because its efforts in the early 1980s to grab the lead in the wealthy oil market by lowering the price for Russian oil (Russia's only serious export item) merely brought on a price war with OPEC ... helping the West immensely with its now much-lower energy costs, but nearly bankrupting Russia in the process.

Politically things were not going well in Russia either, with a rapid turnover (four different Soviet leaders from 1982 to 1985).  And the Soviet invasion in neighboring Afghanistan in the early 1980s – to support a Communist takeover of that country – was not going well at all for the Soviet troops, facing well-armed Afghan troops (thanks in part to American military aid).

This prompted the new Soviet leader, Gorbachev, in the mid-1980s to try to introduce a "new-look" to Soviet life ... to open it up to new personal freedoms (glasnost), to a shift of the economic system closer to capitalism (perestroika) – which was working wonders in China at that same time – and to a democratization of the political system (demokratizatsiya).

However, the Russian world-view and Russian social instincts were not the same as the Chinese – the latter who still, at least in urban China, had strong entrepreneurial instincts.  Thus the freeing up of Russia did not produce the economic miracle (except for a handful of clever economic manipulators) that Gorbachev had hoped for ... but instead simply social confusion.

And that confusion compounded when the "satellite" Communist countries of East Europe (Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, etc.) took Gorbachev's reforms as an invitation to pull back from Soviet domination ... and go their own way politically.

Thus by the end of the 1980s, Stalin's Soviet Empire had simply disappeared ... and the Soviet Union itself even began to break apart (beginning of the 1990s) as the various groups (Ukrainians, Estonians, Azerbaijanis, Kazaks, etc.) went their own way as independent nations.

The Bush (Sr.) presidency
... and America now as the world's sole superpower

Russia. Actually, the crumbling of the Soviet Empire and Union took place in the early years of the presidency of George Bush, the country's vice president during the Reagan years.  Other than trying to support Gorbachev (as Reagan had), Bush did not intervene in Russian developments during Russia's hard years of the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Iraq. But when Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein – who mistakenly thought he had an American "go-ahead," thanks to a tepid reply of America's ambassador at the time – invaded neighboring Kuwait, the world was shocked ... and looked to America to straighten out the situation.  At first diplomatic efforts were stalled with Saddam claiming that Kuwait was just a fiction created earlier by British oil interests and had always been a part of the Mesopotamian world (Iraq in today's understanding) – largely true.

But Iraq grabbing Kuwait would put the oil world too much under Iraqi control ... and possibly lead to another Iraqi expansion – right into neighboring Saudi Arabia.

Thus Bush put together a huge international military coalition ... and after much warning (but Saddam felt now that he could not back down without a huge loss of political power at home in Iraq) Bush ordered the coalition into Kuwait.

Quick work was made of the Iraqi challenge ... and soon Bush's allied troops were in Iraq. But then they halted.  As American Secretary of Defense, later put matters, to try to insert American political authority into Iraq would be to fall into a "quagmire" (quicksand).  So with Iraq out of Kuwait, America and its allies went home.

America and the world was deeply appreciative of Bush's carefully calculated effort to correct a threat to the world's economy.

A brief economic stumble in America. But America had its own economic difficulties at home – another economic bubble in the US housing and banking having just burst – which undercut Bush in his re-election bid ... even though as election time approached, America was actually in the process of a strong economic recovery.  But this however was not really noticed at the time by the American voter.  And there was a very wealthy third-party candidate running, with considerable support of his own.

Bush out, Clinton in.  All this consequently brought Bush to defeat ... and brought the young Boomer (former Arkansas governor) Clinton to the White House in 1993

1990s – Clinton

The Clinton approach.  America's generational differences were clearly demonstrated in the varying character of its late 20th and early 21st century presidents.  The Boomer mindset, which asks "not what I can do for the country ... but what the country can do for me" (the exact reversal of Kennedy's inauguration challenge to America in 1961), seemed to now take over as America's underlying moral principle.*

[Footnote:  Interestingly (and sadly ... even tragically, actually) three of America's recent presidents were all born as early Boomers in 1946 ... just months apart:  Clinton in August, Bush Jr. in July, and Trump in June.  In quite unique ways, they were very "Boomer" in the way they would go about their respective presidencies.]

Clinton indeed started off as a typical Boomer Idealist … ready to take America down a key "post-Vet" road of government-directed national healthcare.  But things did not work out well for him (or anyway, for his also-Boomer wife, Hillary, who was put in charge of the program by her husband-president Bill) when chaos, rather than clear resolve of the American society, resulted from this early effort.  America was not ready to give up its rights to self-care ... in taking up Socialistic state-care – typical of societies which treat their citizens as if they were simply helpless peasants needing to be taken care of by the power elite of society.

And although Clinton signed into law Congress's widely supported 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA),* reaffirming the American family headed by a pair of male-female parents (not the state) as the moral, social and economic foundation of America, he had no choice in the matter, the Congressional vote was so strong that it would override any veto of his ... although Clinton would eventually come to claim to be supportive of it

[Footnote:  DOMA was passed with 224 Republicans in favor (only one opposed) and 118 Democrats also in favor (only 65 Democrats and the "Independent" Bernie Sanders opposed) ... that is, 342 in favor and 67 opposed in the House.  In the Senate, the vote went 81 to 14 (the small opposition being all Democrats).  This made DOMA one of the most widely supported pieces of legislation ever enacted by Congress.]

However otherwise, Clinton was pushed by the "Silent" generation Gingrich back into a more conservative or "Realist" political trajectory with Gingrich's 1994 Republican sweep of Congress.*  From that point on, Clinton acted much less like a Boomer (to the grand disappointment of his Democratic Party supporters … loaded up with Boomers) and more like a conservative Vet, or at least a Silent.

[Footnote:  Gingrich's "Contract with America" promised to balance the budget, reduce Federal government spending (expecially endless welfare payments) and lower taxes ... and the supportive response of the American voters was so great that in order to rescue his presidency (like he had to at one point as Arkansas governor), the "comeback kid" Clinton moved to take up much of Gingrich's program ... as if it were originally his own!]

Indeed, under pressure from Gingrich, Clinton backed the federal government away from its huge spending tendencies … actually reducing the federal debt somewhat – and thus continuing to lead America to its longest economic growth period in its history!

Clinton and the realm of foreign affairs

This more "Realist" approach to the presidency proved to be true also in the realm of foreign policy ... where Clinton took a very cautious, yet willing, approach to the diplomatic responsibilities left to America as the world's sole superpower (was his Georgetown education partly responsible for his more highly strategized and less ideological approach to foreign affairs more typical of the Boomer?).

Somalia.  For instance, as head of the world's now sole superpower, he was asked by the UN to intervene in the chaos in Somalia, where various military groups were battling each other ... and where UN food aid for the civilian population was being confiscated by these groups. Intervene American troops did (1993).  But when it quickly became apparent that this same civilian population was unwilling, or just unable, to support American assistance, Clinton quickly ended American involvement in Somalia.  No way was he going to attempt to "fix" the Somalia situation ... the way political dreamers of America's extreme wings (Left and Right) like to go at things – until they have made a complete mess of things.

Israel-Palestine.  But he was able to bring the Israelis and the Palestinians to agree to the "Oslo Accords" (also 1993) ... though tragically the Israeli prime minister was assassinated by an angry Israeli two years later – and the peace agreement thus fell apart.

Haiti.  In 1994 he sent a large shipment of American troops boldly on their way to Haiti, to force a military junta that had taken power there to return the country to the governance of the democratically elected president ... without having to fire a shot.

Rwanda.  But once again he balked when the UN asked America to take the lead in Rwanda (also 1994) to stop the civil war raging there between the Tutsi and Hutu tribes ... with almost a million civilians killed in the crossfire.  This was a very tragic event ... but it was going to have to be solved by the Rwandans themselves because it was a vastly weightier matter than the Americans had the ability to resolve for them.  So America stayed out of this African "quagmire."

Clinton was clearly quite prepared to continue down the path of invaluable diplomatic wisdom laid by his predecessors, Reagan and Bush Sr.

Bosnia.  Once again (in 1995) the UN (and particularly America's European allies) looked to America to help bring peace between warring religious-ethnic groups slaughtering each other in the former Yugoslavia ... now that this country had splintered into various ethnic subcommunities.  This issue involved quite directly American – no to mention European – national interests ... although even here Clinton was quite cautious in how he would respond to the matter – though respond he did.  He used primarily American air strikes to back the parties off of each other (in particular the Serbs who were bullying the Bosnians) and thus soon got all parties involved to finally come to an agreement to stop the fighting (the Dayton Accords).  This included the sending of 60,000 NATO troops to the region as international peacekeepers, one third of whom were American.  And indeed peace resulted in Bosnia.

Kosovo.  Four years later (1999), another region of the former Yugoslavia found itself caught in similar slaughter ... this time between the Serbs and the Albanian-speaking Kosovars.  The Serbian portion constituted only a small minority in the region of Kosovo, but had the full support of the Serbian government just to the north of Kosovo.  Again, American airpower hit the Serbian expansion, forcing the Serbs to back off from their extermination program in Kosovo (the Serbian president arrested as an international war criminal) ... ultimately bringing not only peace to Kosovo, but also major hero status to Clinton among the Kosovars!

Russia.  Clinton worked hard at keeping the new rapport with America's former rival Russia ongoing, Clinton and Russia's president Yeltsin loving to appear before the world press as something of personal "buddies."  But Russia, unlike China, was not doing well under its release from political authoritarianism.  The Russians seemed mostly to have just lost their way through life.  And the statistics showed how deeply this reached ... with the life expectancy of Russians to have dropped by as much as ten years – alcoholism and drug addiction seeming to have taken over the Russian spirit in an ever-widening realm.  It was very sad.  And there really was nothing that America could do to help remedy the situation.


George W. Bush (Bush, Jr.)

Bush Jr. came to the White House in full Boomer bloom.  During his campaign for the presidency, he announced himself to be a "compassionate conservative" (as if other conservatives had no compassion) … and once in the White House, immediately undertook the effort to bring American education under new federal standards.  This was shockingly a very non-conservative view of the role of the national government in what traditionally in America had been a matter solely of American families … and the local school boards they supported and directed in how they wanted their children educated outside of their homes.

9/11.  But this Bush venture into Boomer Idealism would be rather immediately upstaged by the events of 9/11 (al-Qaeda's terrorist attacks on the New York Twin Towers and DC's Pentagon building on September 11, 2001).  The world was shocked … and very supportive of American efforts to bring the perpetrators of this evil deed to justice.  But finding and bringing down the al-Qaeda organization behind those attacks would not be easy … because of the amorphous character of the "organization" (more an idea or philosophy than a social organization) and because neither the Pakistani government nor the Afghan Taliban (Islamic fighters who had recently taken control of Afghanistan) were willing to seize and extradite the al-Qaeda members operating in their respective countries.

So what did Bush decide to do?  Pakistan was a nuclear power and very unwilling to cooperate in this venture into international justice.  Clearly, there was nothing to be done there … despite the fact the al-Qaeda's operational headquarters were clearly located in that country.  What about Afghanistan?  Al-Qaeda had a number of jihadist training bases in the country … although these moved easily from place to place and could easily slip into the Hindu Kush mountains where locating them would be virtually impossible.

Afghanistan.  So ultimately what did Bush decide to do?  Invade Afghanistan … and make the country over into a more "democratic" society.  Would that bring al-Qaeda to justice?  Of course not.  But it would give the Boomer Idealist Bush the appearance of at least doing something "honorable" in response to the huge national hit America had just experienced.

But of course making over a society that had been Muslim for well over a thousand years into something reflective of what Bush understood as "democratic" – the Boomer American Idealist version of "democratic" society anyway – was a task destined to grand failure.  Did he not understand this?  No of course not.  No true Boomer does.  Boomers live in a world of grand Ideals that make them qualify as "Progressivists" … "progressivism" being almost anything that takes society down a new – and thus of course naturally always better – road than it has been on. Or so the Boomer belief (even religion) goes.

Do Boomers have any idea of how such a quest is likely to end up?  How could they ... since they respect no social models offered by history to instruct them in the choices they would have to make?  After all, to a Boomer, history is simply a record of failures that Boomers are positive that they themselves will never repeat in their "progressivist" – that is, "well-reasoned" – move into the future.

And so off Bush – and his Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld's new "professional" army – went in order to make over Afghanistan.

Did Bush learn nothing from the catastrophic Soviet venture into the same country so recently undertaken … during the time his father was Reagan's Vice President?  Of course not.  Boomers do not learn lessons even from recent history.  They dream dreams and chase after them … because they are so much more impressive than the past "mistakes" made by earlier generations.

Saddam Hussein's Iraq.  Then even more amazing was Bush's decision that while America's armed forces were over in the Middle East, they might as well also take down the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein … a task that Bush's father had "failed" to do when he merely had American troops drive Saddam's forces out of neighboring Kuwait.

And why exactly was Bush Jr. deciding to undertake this task?  Even his Vice President Dick Cheney had once stated that going into Iraq would be to fall into a quagmire … wasting expensive political assets with no possible reward.  But why was Cheney now supporting Bush's "democratic dream"?  That's just how politics in high places works.  You support the Big Man … no matter how foolish such support clearly happens to be.

Also, fabulously wealthy corporations that dealt in energy production and weapons manufacture would certainly also benefit enormously from this venture ... although at the cost of countless thousands of lives.

And so off America went, bombing and killing Iraqis (and ultimately Saddam Hussein himself) … in the name of "democracy for Iraq."  Did the Iraqis want this? They never said so. This was strictly a Bush, Jr. idea.

And thus into the "quagmire" America went … spending lives, military machinery, and lots of dollars to bring "democratic happiness" to Iraq. And of course, the Iraqis shot back.  But Bush simply poured more American assets into the venture … before announcing an Iraqi pullout as he came to an end of his eight-years in office.

Ultimately, during those many years in Iraq, he had simply switched the power base from one set of deeply dedicated Muslims (the Shi'ites) to another set of deeply dedicated Muslims (the Sunnis) … and left the Sunnis now as equally deeply dedicated enemies of America.  The whole of Northeast Iraq (spilling into Eastern Syria) became the seat of a very dedicated group of fiercely anti-American/anti-Western terrorists … that the Middle East, Europe and America would have to deal with.  What a political legacy!

And the victorious Shi'ites he left in power in Iraq were vastly closer in their loyalties to the "death-to-the-Great-Satan-America" Iranians next door than they were to their American deliverers!

And all of this was achieved at the cost to Americans of over a trillion dollars.  Thank you, Boomer Bush.

The American economic meltdown

But the Boomer Bush economic catastrophe did not end there.  When the American economy finally showed a slump in his early years in office, Bush decided to "free up" the American economy from a number of legal restraints placed on it dating back to the 1930s during Roosevelt's Depression Era New Deal.  And now enjoying the lack of economic boundaries (that actually had worked quite well to keep the economy under some kind of operating order) the American economy took off again … right into one of the worst economic meltdowns to hit the country since the Depression.

And Bush was forced to throw massive amounts of federal money after corporations facing bankruptcy from all the financial foolishness they had been recently caught up in … driving up the national debt to astronomical heights – in fact doubling the national debt from five to ten trillion dollars during Bush's eight years in office.

Needless to say, all this left Americans feeling very grumpy … and the Republican Party (that Bush was supposed to have been leading) as an understandable target for disillusioned Americans going into a national election in 2008 – as Bush left office … and a shattered economy behind him. Wow.  What a Boomer legacy.

The Gen-Xer Obama and His Desire to "Change" America

Not surprisingly, the 2008 elections brought a massive shift in favor of the Democratic Party (and all of its Boomer "Progressivism") ... and its Gen-Xer presidential candidate Barack Obama.

In so many ways Obama exemplified the American generation that was to follow the Idealistic, self-promoting Boomer generation.  He came from a divorced family, with a missing African father and a well-educated and highly "professionalized" White mother, and raised here and there by various other sources … including simply the world of "others" immediately around him, the schools that gave him the social guidance that the family did not offer (though he was close to his grandparents … also typical of Gen-Xers) … and the entertainment and news (increasingly just social commentary) media as the ultimate informant for what he was to expect of himself – and the larger world.

Like so many Gen-Xers, he did not have some kind of highly Idealistic dream to guide him … but rather a cynical view that "whatever" would work fine enough for him. There really was no alternative.  Being personally bi-racial, after going through law school (and finding corporate law uninteresting) he got involved in "community development" … giving him some sense of larger purpose.

But the Gen-X world was frustrating because it ultimately seemed to offer so little in reward for one's effort (whatever that effort might be).  Little wonder then that as a Gen-X presidential candidate, Obama's theme (offered repeatedly) was "Change" … deep change in how things worked, whatever they might be – with the hope that what replaced old social patterns would make more sense and work better for everyone ... because the "old" or "traditional" was not working very well.

But unlike the well-focused and highly energized Idealistic drive of the Boomers, the Gen-X hunger for change tended to be rather random or "whateverish" in form.  In his campaign, Obama did not spell out exactly what his program of "Change" was to entail.  Certainly he was hoping for "better" in such social areas as poverty, health care, education, etc. … all the areas needing change in order to produce a more successful life.

Little wonder that he chose two unmarried and childless women to fill emptied Supreme Court slots (thus part of the slim 5-4 judicial majority throwing DOMA out as "unconstitutional") … with the clear expectation that they would certainly stand in favor of social "progress" … meaning, leaving the past behind and thus opening up opportunities for the future to take its new shape.

Obama had little use for male authority … especially White male authority … and was quick to fill the ranks of his Cabinet (as well as the Supreme Court) with those who qualified as being not of the White male variety.  He did select as 2008 his running mate a White male, Joe Biden.  But Biden was there only to "balance" the picture … not to have any serious influence in matters.

Obama was a strong supporter of the "Black Lives Matter" Movement … formed up as a result of a (false) portrayal of events occurring between a White policeman and a Black pothead in a small town in Missouri.  America was torched by another round of Black anger … and Obama did what he could to spin the story in favor of the Black youth (not the first time he did this sort of thing either).

And when Black sports figures decided to not stand in honor of the country in the playing of the national anthem, in typical Gen-x mode, Obama as president of the country stood with those refusing to honor the flag … and whatever it might represent.  After all, it was exactly all of that (vaguely) that he wanted changed.

And he was in office for eight years – enough time to double the national debt again (10 trillion to 20 trillion dollars) … and leave both militant females and disenchanted youth with an even stronger conviction that America needed to shake off its political traditions – shaped almost completely by White males – and move into a world that extolled those of not one or the other (or better, both) qualities.  Indeed … Black females (or at least non-Anglo females) would soon come into strong political-social-cultural influence … thanks in great part to the Obama legacy – carried forward as a virtual crusade by a "progressive" press corps.

Indeed, the American press corps and entertainment media generally (Fox News being about the only exception) went down this same road very strongly with Obama … seeming themselves called to conduct a virtual crusade that had to be carried forward ... against any and all opposition.

And the Democratic Party saw its duty to identify itself completely with that same "Progressivist" urge.  Those who still supported conservative values needed to be completely brought down.  There could be no political compromise on the matter ... for "compromise" represented less than full embrace of the crusade.

And so this all played a huge part in shaping deep "change" in the American social structure … all of it being done by those who congratulated themselves as being true "Progressives."

Trump: The Shock of Another Boomer President

In 2016, the Democrats put forward as their presidential candidate Hillary Clinton … clearly moving down the Progressivist or post-traditionalist road in doing so – and expecting a dazzling electoral victory in the presidential elections of that year in doing so.  But weren't they shocked when the person who represented most vividly the traits that Progressivist America deplored won the election.  How did this happen?

Apparently there was a rather large "basket of deplorables" out there, conservative voters as Hillary herself termed them, unable to see the Progressivist moral picture clearly.  And thus these "deplorables" voted for the highly ego-centric and theatrical (thus also true Boomer) Donald Trump ... at least a number large enough to turn the vote of the electoral college in favor of Trump.

The reaction of the Progressivist world was immediate.  Not only in America but across the world, masses of people (mostly women and youth) turned out in huge numbers to declare that Trump was "not my president."  Immediately, action was taken up by Congressional Democrats to find grounds to impeach Trump as quickly as possible (a Congressional process now being used regularly as a clever political tool to remove political opponents from the presidential office).  And they found documents (paid for by the Hillary election campaign) that supposedly connected Trump with some kind of Russian conspiracy to have him rather than Hillary elected as US President.  And surely these offered the legal means to impeach Trump.

However a committee they were forced to create to look into the matter did not come up with the results they expected ... so they tried again, basing their second impeachment effort on the way Trump held off American payments to Ukraine until Ukrainian corruption could be cleaned up a bit ... implicating Democratic leader Joe Biden's son in the corruption matter (Joe Biden emerging as the Democratic Party's presidential candidate for the upcoming 2020 election).  Supposedly Trump's bringing Joe's son Hunter into question violated some piece of American election law, allowing them to impeach Trump for having violated just such a law.  But then Democrats backed down when they realized that bringing Joe's son Hunter into the discussion would in fact hurt rather than help their political crusade.  So they simply decided to impeach Trump because he refused to honor their subpoenas demanding his appearance in front of the Democratic-Party-controlled Congressional committee pursuing its impeachment possibilities.

Tragically, all this pointed out how deeply America was divided.  There seemed to be no middle ground between Republican Party "Conservatives" and Democratic Party "Progressives."  America was splitting into two hostile communities.

And the media was no help in the matter, slanting the "news" (again, mostly just deeply ideologized social commentary) in favor of the "Trumpian" Republicans (mostly Fox News) on one side ... and Trump's enemies (mostly all the other media) on the other.

And Trump, being a classic Boomer, was no help in the matter.  He had no professional experience in public office ... and seemed totally unaware of the niceties required to make a contentious political engagement not become poisonous.  Indeed, besides being a very wealthy, very successful, self-absorbed urban construction chief, he was a host for years of a widely-watched TV program … one that delighted in bring in contestants and then cutting them down in some kind of competition for larger service in the community.  Trump used that same TV flare for cutting out contestants to similarly undercut vocally his fellow Republican contestants in the 2016 race for the Republican Party presidential candidacy (issuing one ridiculous insult after another and interrupting their time to deliver their cases before the TV audience) ... thereby finally eliminating all but himself for the position. Very clever.

And then sadly, when in office, he continued the same theatrics against anyone he decided that needed to be taken down personally a peg or two.

Trump simply had no idea of how to build support among any except those willing to follow him slavishly.  He had his wild supporters of course.  But he seemed unable or just unwilling to bring the all-important political "center" to his support.  That would require compromise.  And he was just not interested in such political niceties.  Theatrics seemed to be the only strategy (if you can call it a strategy) that he was willing to employ to get things done.

He used those theatrics a bit in his effort to develop a Trump "foreign policy" ... although what that exactly amounted to was never very clear.  He seemed to repulse most of his European allies.  And neither Russia's Putin nor China's Xi seemed to have much regard for him.

And finally his theatrics failed him … when he was shocked to find that he had not been reelected in the 2020 presidential election – claiming (without offering any material proof) that the whole process had been a fraud.  He was so loud in his protesting that he ultimately repulsed Georgian voters in a follow-up senatorial election enough to undercut the lead of the Republican candidate – ultimately bringing the Democratic candidate to victory … and thereby also cutting the Republican lead in the Senate down to a mere tie with the Democrats.

Indeed, his persistent theatrics got him in deep trouble when they inspired a massive group of Trumpian hotheads to invade the US Capitol building – just as Congress gathered to confirm the official results of the election ... violence and death occurring in this most sacred of political sites.  At that point a number of Congressional Republicans seemed quite willing to join the Democrats in indicting Trump for criminal behavior … something with very serious consequences not only for Trump but also for the nation

Biden Does Ideology Perfectly

The winner of the 2020 presidential election, Joe Biden, was pre-Boomer, that is, something of a "Silent" ... one of those individuals born just before or during World War Two – and deeply committed to some higher cause shaped by forces larger than simply one's own imagination.

Biden was/is a "loyalist" not untypical of most Silents ... a loyalist especially to the Democratic Party of which he had been a longtime member.  He was elected to the US Senate when he was only 30, served numerous terms, becoming even the lead Democrat of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and as a Democrat running for the office of President a couple of times before becoming Obama's running mate and thus Vice President.  Now finally – after four years out of the electoral-office business (2016-2020) and in his upper 70s in age – he became America's President.

Given the fact that America itself seemed to have lost sight of exactly what it was that all Americans should stand for (and not just against), it was not surprising that Biden's "loyalism" found its natural place in a much narrower context than that of the American national interest.  Indeed, was there even anyone with a sense of what that higher national interest truly should be ... something that all Americans could rally around?  At the point of Biden's taking office in 2021, political interests seemed to register themselves only along the lines of the narrower ideologies dividing the country.

Briefly – very briefly – a flicker of hope arose when Biden pledged in his inauguration speech that he planned to be the president of all Americans, not just those who voted for him.  But sadly, that same afternoon he entered his new presidential office and issued 17 executive orders … each one of them in support of the ideological agenda of his Democratic Party.  No conferences were held across party lines to bring a larger American grouping on board; no discussion, no explanation was offered.  Biden simply jumped to the task of putting into full operation his party's political agenda … because as president, he supposedly had the personal power to put into full operation just such rulings.

In short, Biden was all about ideology … and the necessity of putting it into full operation.

Unfortunately, ideology is not strategy.  Ideology is about emotional attachments, not about well-thought-through programs.  It was ideology, not strategy, that Biden was offering in his announcement that America would offer open borders to refugees seeking asylum in America (virtually everyone wanting a better life than they lived in their own parts of the world); or in his ending of national petroleum self-sufficiency because it contributed (a small portion actually) to the larger, and certainly very problematic, climate change impacting the world; and in his strongly held notion that the Washington bureaucracy should take care of a younger generation not able to be brought to a better world simply through the efforts of family and local authorities ... all of this, of course, undertaken at the taxpayers' – or rather future taxpayers' – expense.  Unsurprisingly, all this in very short order ran the federal debt up to astronomic heights … quickly hitting the 30 trillion dollar mark.  And all of this took place as massive inflation rocked the nation … making material needs (such as gasoline for the car and food for the table) extremely expensive for the average American.

And symbolically, the wearing of masks, decreed by DC authorities as an absolute necessity in fighting the Covid epidemic, Biden insisted must be obeyed across the country.

Biden was fully convinced that, more than ever, the country needed to bow to DC's leadership … in every matter.


But this kind of impersonal and lofty power offered by these mega systems and their managers often proved to be very dangerous to human life.  Stalin's Russia, Hitler's Germany, Tojo's Japan and Mao's China demonstrated clearly the terrifying downside of "totalitarian" societies which easily resulted from this trend.

The quest for identity and purpose.  But man is ultimately made to find meaning in life personally and spiritually – not mechanically.  Humanity or the quality of being truly human is a value which is developed through risk, struggle, even sacrifice – that is, personal heroics.  Man does not need impersonal institutions to take care of him.  Instead man needs to live on his own strength, tested and developed as he goes through life.

Man needs heroes, those who through the example of their own struggles and victories inspire others.  Man himself needs to be a hero – in order to live truly.  And that brings us back full circle to the origins of the West in the ancient world of the Greeks.