Posted by Lex, on June 30, 2010
Alexis de Tocqueville was an apt, if early political scientist who chronicled the rise of the uniquely American body politic in his seminal 1835 book, “Democracy in America,” contrasting it to the fading aristocracy of continental Europe:
The uniquely American morals and opinions, Tocqueville argued, lay within the origins of American society and derived from the peculiar social conditions that had welcomed colonists in prior centuries. Indeed, the basis of much of the colonization was the search for religious freedom, the right to worship the Almighty in one’s own way. Unlike Europe, venturers to America found a vast expanse of open land. Any and all who arrived could own their own land and cultivate an independent life. Sparse elites and a number of landed aristocrats existed, but, according to Tocqueville, these few stood no chance against the rapidly developing values bred by such vast land ownership. With such an open society, layered with so much opportunity, men of all sorts began working their way up in the world: industriousness became a dominant ethic, and “middling” values began taking root.
It turns out that the French philosphe also traveled to Algeria, where Andrew Bostom thinks his observations still have merit, at least as regards our adventure in Afghanistan:
Nearly 170 years later, it is a bitter, tragic irony that the harshest and most valid critiques of Stanley McChrystal — leveled by military officers in Michael Hastings’ now infamous Rolling Stone essay (“The Runaway General“) — hinge upon the general’s ignorant and willfully misconceived formulation of the same timeless Islamic doctrines so plainly elucidated by Tocqueville.
Contrasted to Tocqueville’s plangent, if Orientalist, observations on the nature of the Prophet’s more enthusiastic followers, I recently spoke with a Marine 1st lieutenant returned from Helmand Province.
“They’re just farmers,” he said.
I guess we’ll see.