The Folly of Empire: What George W. Bush Could Learn from Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson

The Folly of Empire: What George W. Bush Could Learn from Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson

The Folly of Empire: What George W. Bush Could Learn from Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson

The Folly of Empire: What George W. Bush Could Learn from Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson

Synopsis

A century ago, the Theodore Roosevelt administration believed building an American empire was the only way the U. S. could ensure its role in the world, but came to see the occupation of the Philippines as America's "heel of Achilles." Woodrow Wilson, shocked by the failure of Americanintervention in Mexico and by the outbreak of World War I, came to see imperialism as the underlying cause of war and set about trying to create an international system to eliminate empires. But, the current Bush administration, despite the lessons of the past, has revived the older dreams ofAmerican empire--under the guise of democracy--even touting the American experience in the Philippines as a success upon which the United States could build in attempting to transform the Middle East. With The Folly of Empire, John B. Judis shows that history can teach us lessons and allow political leaders, if sensitive to history, to change their strategy in order to avoid past mistakes. Judis shows how presidents from Franklin Roosevelt to Bill Clinton drew upon what Theodore Rooseveltand Woodrow Wilson learned about the pitfalls of using American power unilaterally to carve out a world in America's image. Exercising leadership through international institutions and alliances, the United States was able to win the Cold War and the first Gulf War. But by ignoring these lessons,the Bush administration has created a quagmire of terror and ethnic conflict. By examining America's role in the international community--then and now--The Folly of Empire is a sharp and compelling critique of America's current foreign policy and offers a direct challenge to neo-conservatives.

Excerpt

At noon, October 18, 2003, President George W. Bush landed in Manila as part of a six-nation Asian tour. Because officials were concerned about a terrorist attack on the embattled islands, the presidential airplane, Air Force One, was shepherded into Philippine air space by F-15s. Bush's speech to the Philippine Congress was delayed by what one reporter described as “undulating throngs of demonstrators who lined his motorcade route past rows of shacks.” Outside the Philippine House of Representatives, several thousand more demonstrators greeted Bush, and several Philippine legislators staged a walkout during his twenty-minute speech.

In his speech, Bush took credit for America transforming the Philippines into “the first democratic nation in Asia.” Said Bush, “America is proud of its part in the great story of the Filipino people. Together our soldiers liberated the Philippines from colonial rule. Together we rescued the islands from invasion and occupation.” And he drew an analogy between America's attempt to create democracy in the Philippines and its attempt to create a democratic Middle East through invading and occupying Iraq in the spring of 2003: “Democracy always has skeptics. Some say the culture of the Middle East will not sustain the institutions of democracy. The same doubts were once expressed about the culture of Asia. These doubts were proven wrong nearly six decades ago, when the Republic of the Philippines became the first democratic nation in Asia.”

After a state dinner, Bush and his party were bundled back onto Air Force One and shunted off to the president's next stop, Thailand. The Secret Service had warned Bush that it was not safe for him to remain overnight in the “first Democratic nation in Asia.”

As many Philippine commentators remarked afterward, Bush's rendition of Philippine-American history bore very little relation to fact. True, the . . .

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