Go West, America; Protectionism Today Is Wishful Thinking
George Will Copyright Washington Post Writers Group, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)
In October 1900, when Seattle was a raw town of 80,000, across the continent in Cambridge, Mass., a Harvard philosopher, George Santayana, addressed an undergraduate literary club, delivering a pointed poem, "Young Sam's First Wild Oats," which began:
Mid Uncle Sam's expanded acres
There's an old, secluded glade
Where grey Puritans and Quakers
Still grow fervid in the shade;
And the same great elms and beeches
That once graced the ancestral farm,
Bending to the old men's speeches,
Lend their words an echo's charm.
Laurel, clematis, and vine
Weave green trellises about,
And three maples and a pine
Shut the mucker-village out.
Yet the smoke of trade and battle
Cannot quite be banished hence,
And the air-line to Seattle
Whizzes just behind the fence.
Back then, before the birth of Seattle's Boeing Corp., an "air-line" was a fast train. In Santayana's poem, such a train symbolized the mingling of booming commerce and imperial politics that much of Harvard's faculty considered unaesthetic ("mucker-village") and immoral. McKinley's re-election campaign and the angry debate about the Philippines - America's acquisition of Pacific empire - were boiling along. Santayana was indicting people whose politics amounted, he believed, to a feckless wish that the world would spin another way.
Today protectionism is a popular form of wishful thinking - more popular and durable than many complacent people think now that NAFTA has been approved. But protectionism cannot deflect the forces that have turned this nation's attention to the ocean on the left side of the continent.
When Secretary of State Warren Christopher says "Eurocentric" policies are anachronistic because "Western Europe is no longer the dominant area of the world," his words express what the president's behavior expresses. Clinton has not been to Paris, London or Bonn but has been to Tokyo and Seoul.
The Asian orientation of U.S. policy is partly a result of Europe's decadence. …