Empire for Liberty: A History of American Imperialism from Benjamin Franklin to Paul Wolfowitz

By Richard H. Immerman | Go to book overview

POSTSCRIPT
The Dark Side

THE SIX MEN whose story this book tells believed fervently in the America that they helped to build, shape, and expand.1 The America they believed in was the America that Thomas Jefferson and his colleagues wrote about in the Declaration of Independence and risked their lives to create against seemingly insuperable odds. At the core of this America was the sanctity of the inalienable rights of all men, chief among which was liberty. Franklin, Adams, Seward, Lodge, Dulles, and Wolfowitz were not unique. In each of their lifetimes, which collectively span America's history, there were other policymakers, opinion makers, decision makers, some of whom held greater power, who believed what these six believed and whose stories likewise ft the grand narrative of the American empire.

In this regard, the subjects of this book, with their diverse backgrounds and dissimilar career paths, both represent and reflect values and ideals that have endured within the American identity since the era of the Founding Fathers. Certainly they were smarter than most, more articulate than most, and more ambitious than most. In the end, all were more privileged than most. Yet the language they spoke and the policies and programs they promoted were “mainstream Americana.” Liberty meant different things to different people at different times. Nevertheless, in the popular imagination across generations, America is the land of liberty. Americans acquired territory, fought wars, and overthrew foreign governments for the purpose of preserving and promoting liberty. The evidence presented in this book reveals that this was not always the purpose. But Franklin, Adams, Seward, Lodge, Dulles, and Wolfowitz believed it was. And so did most Americans. They were not tricked into accepting this purpose. They believed that America stood for liberty and stood against empire. They believed that America was exceptional. When “ground truth” diverged from these beliefs, they rationalized the discrepancy by arguing that long–term

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