A BBC Audio Discussion: Has American lost its moral authority?

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Novelist Will Self and historian Simon Schama discuss the question.

Filed under: * International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.

Posted April 29, 2008 at 9:28 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. Henry Greville wrote:

Who seriously believes the USA ever had moral authority? Given our history of human bondage, our colonizing Europeans’ treatment of the native population of USA’s portion of the North American continent, and our continuing social divisions due to racism mixed with economic classism, for all our generosity with our soldiers’ lives our public and private dollars, and our occasional food surpluses, we have at best a checkered reputation.

April 29, 9:44 am | [comment link]
2. Words Matter wrote:

What country doesn’t have a checkered history?

April 29, 9:58 am | [comment link]
3. An Anxious Anglican wrote:

What is your point, Henry?  Is a “checkered reputation” absolutely and logically inconsistent with possessing any moral authority, especially in relation to our fellow nations who might be somewhat chary with their own wealth and treasure but seem especially willing to tell us what to do with ours?  And how long do you hold a nation of living people responsible for the perceived transgressions of their ancestors?  I think that the 20th century is a pretty good example of the exercise of our moral authority: opposing militarism in World War I; opposing fascism and genocide in WWII; opposing communism in the Cold War, Korea, and Vietnam; opposing dictatorial oppressive regimes in Grenada and Panama; keeping the peace in the Sinai and the Balkans; liberating Kuwait.  Does none of that “count” in your assessment b/c of the slavery of the 18th & 19th century, period?  I would be curious to know what country does possess moral authority in your assessment.

April 29, 10:46 am | [comment link]
4. magnolia wrote:

i know that we have all been spoonfed as children that anglos are bad and have contributed to all evils of the world, but i would urge you henry to look at the histories of other countries; you may find that it was human nature to conquer; slavery was not that uncommon and more importantly not just a sin exclusive to whites.

April 29, 1:08 pm | [comment link]
5. mary martha wrote:

If we lost it….who found it?

Point to ANY other nation on earth and they have at best a checkered reputation as well.

April 29, 1:16 pm | [comment link]
6. Alice Linsley wrote:

For Christian leaders in many nations, America’s continued presence in Iraq has muddied our moral face more than any other recent action.

April 29, 1:35 pm | [comment link]
7. Henry Greville wrote:

Dear Anxious Anglican: Unless the speaker is God, any claim of “moral authority” is presumptuous grandstanding. Every person and every society on Earth is under God’s judgment, which (we have hope through Christ) is merciful. Therefore it seems more appropriate to pray constantly for divine inspiration to guide us to live more pleasingly in God’s sight, than to spend time either beating ourselves up, or congratulating ourselves, for how badly, or wonderfully, we decide we are doing.

April 29, 3:01 pm | [comment link]
8. Cole wrote:

Alice:  I wonder how many nations actually have “Christian Leaders”?  And when I say that, I am defining the phrase as leaders having a Christian World View as many of the contributors to this blog might define it.  (I’m sure we can get off-track with that statement - But don’t.)  It is a very difficult task for our nation to be policeman to the world when other nations want to only depended on us to do the dirty work.  It is easy for them to be critical when things bog down.  We pay the price to deploy aircraft carriers in the world’s oceans and seas to provide safe passage for oil tankers supplying most of the nations’ economies who use the eastern hemisphere’s sea lanes.  If that oil or other commerce such as food, etc, was cut off, how many people would starve?  If our earlier intention with Iraq was to force peace rather than an inevitable larger conflict, I can’t agree with the inference of your statement.  Moral judgement can not be made with myopic vision.

April 29, 5:52 pm | [comment link]
9. Henry Greville wrote:

The USA has consistently behaved, not as the advocate and defender of freedom and justice in the world (although when it suits us diplomatically we make small efforts in these areas), but as the mercenaries of global capitalism and maximum profit with minimal accountabiity. I am extremely patriotic, but this is a shameful truth about the country I prefer to live in above all others that is still the truth.

April 29, 6:59 pm | [comment link]
10. Cole wrote:

Henry:  Your statement #7 sounds reasonable.  Your #1 and #9 sounds Marxist.  It is hard to know the real you.  When one speaks of morality, one must also consider intent.  Sure, Satan has his bidders in the statecraft of nations, but you are looking at things very negatively.  As I said before “intent”, but not unfortunate consequence.  Capitalism is not the great Satan, nor is our foreign policy one big conspiracy.

April 29, 7:33 pm | [comment link]
11. Now Orthodox wrote:

WOW!  The interview sounded like one of those “Does your neighbor know you beat your wife?” question and answer deals.  Two people who agree in principle that America HAS lost her “moral authority” are debating as to how she did it and under what circumstances.  Questions:  Where else is there greater personal freedom?  Where else can self determination and self actualization be more fully achieved?

America is not perfect however individuals experience greater freedom and opportunity here than anywhere else in the world IMHO!


April 29, 10:46 pm | [comment link]
12. Billy wrote:

Henry, #9, is just an opinion statement without support, at present.  As such, it has no credibility.  Are you able to put some meat on its bones?

April 30, 2:44 pm | [comment link]
13. Henry Greville wrote:

Billy, you may not have lived through the last half of the 20th century, but I have. Since the Korean War, there were more police-state dictatorships that American government policy has upheld (for example, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Iran, Cuba, South Vietnam under Diem, Indonesia, the Phillippines, Chile, even Iraq under Saddam Hussein for a while) than oppressed people the American government has tried to liberate. Furthermore, it has been American government policy ever since the Second World War to blow a lot wind about equal justice and human rights while the same government has done little to make amends to the peoples native to these shores that European, Asian, and even the at-first unwilling African immigrants and all of the descendants of these immigrants displaced. Go have a look sometime: there is not a “reservation” in the U.S.A. that is comprised of favorable terrain that anyone else wanted, until the temptation of gambling profits in the boonies throughout the nation became overwhelming. Once in a while, read some history and current evaluation of the U.S.A. and its role in the world written from a non-American perspective.
I agree that the U.S.A. is the earthly society that is the most free, most just, and most full of economic opportunity. I love to wave the Stars and Stripes flag for the ideals and sacrifices it represents. and for which family and friends have fought and died. Even so, as a Christian, I cannot agree that the U.S.A. is yet co-terminous with the Kingdom of God, and I think both Our Lord and Saints Paul, Peter, and James would have us striving toward that goal.

April 30, 7:28 pm | [comment link]
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