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A humble foreign policy in 2012

The New Republic has a long take on the G.O.P. turn away from foreign policy interventionism between 2008 and 2011. The article presages the fact that the recent debt deal seems to open the door to defense spending cuts if that’s the price for no increases in taxes. The flip side of this shift away from international engagement is a paranoia about sharia law in the USA.





On that “Special Relationship”

When it comes to multiple loyalties we know about the issues which cropped up with Germans, Italians and Japanese during World War II, and the vociferous anti-German activism of World War I, the ambivalence which the Irish viewed intervention on the side of Britain during the World Wars. But of course there is one overarching bond of affinity and hostility which has characterized the American nation, and that is the relationship with the United Kingdom. During the War of 1812 the elites of New England did mull over secession from the United States. There was a clear commercial rationale for this, a rationale which was inverted during the Civil War when it was the Southern states who had ties of commerce with United Kingdom, but there was also an ethno-cultural valence. Even today Greater New England remains the most explicitly “English” of American regions. Though the elites of New England had clear material interests with the United Kingdom, bonds of culture and ethnicity were also prominent during the late 18th and early 19th century, which set off this region as particularly Anglophile. By contrast, in 1800 the South was dominated demographically by Scots-Irish, and ruled over by a planter elite with paradoxical Jacobin sympathies (Thomas Jefferson’s Francophilia was extreme, but illustrated the trend). During the Civil War the Southern elite were no longer so enamored of revolution, and styled themselves cavalier aristocrats from the English West Country. Much of the British aristocracy was sympathetic with the Confederacy, again, for material reasons foremost, but buttressed by imagined ties of culture and heritage.

The American affinity for Britain, and in particular England, is such an assumed background condition that many would never even consider it a foreign tie or loyalty. But all nations have histories, pasts, and relationships with other nations.


At The American Scene there’s a post about WASPs and their relationship to Israel. Of course, that begs the question, what do you mean by WASP? WASP = White Anglo-Saxon Protestant, but that is a plain and broad-church definition which many self-described WASPs might bristle at, as they self-identify as the scions of the Northeastern gentry. This highlights the reality that there are secret ethnic groups in the United States, ethnic groups which are discussed explicitly only in scholarship, for example Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America, but understood implicitly. George H. W. Bush is a WASP. Bill Clinton is a Southerner. Both are white and Protestant and of British ancestry. The type of “white people” which black comedians such as Dave Chappelle mock as without color are WASPs. George H. W. Bush. Not Bill Clinton.

In any case, I wanted to look at possible differences in attitudes toward Israel among American whites separated by region in the GSS. I limited the years to between 1988-1994 (this is the tail end of the survey question). The variable itself is “ISRAEL,” which asks:

You will notice that the boxes on this card go from the highest position of “plus 5” for a country which you like very much, to the lowest position of “minus 5” for a country you dislike very much. How far up the scale or how far down the scale would you rate the following countries? g. Israel

In the GSS I decided to look at “mean” score of each class. I recoded the regions so that I combined “Pacific” and “Mountain” into “West,” and simply aggregated the three Southern regions and the two Midwestern ones (you can see the Census regions here) The means are also generated from recoded variables, so that lower scores are pro-Israel, and higher scores are anti-Israel. The most pro-Israel score would be 0, and the most anti-Israel score would be 9. The bold are the means, while below them are the sample sizes. Finally, I limited the “Bible” variable to Protestants alone.

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