Should U.S. spread freedom beyond sea to shining sea?
When Christopher Columbus daringly sailed through the Straits of Gibraltar with its rock guarding the western Mediterranean Sea, he approached the end of the known world. That’s how the Spanish monarchy sized up our globe. They believed in the royal motto, “Ne Plus Ultra,” meaning “No more lies beyond.” After Columbus sailed right by these barriers, Queen Isabella turned a mistaken motto into a new pledge of allegiance to explore further and farther. She erased the first word of the original motto. Revised, it read “Plus Ultra,” meaning “More lies beyond.”Our national policy of exporting freedom overseas captures the spirit of this Spanish royal motto. Why corral this democratic virtue of liberty within lands between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans? Doesn’t freedom deserve to be spread, especially in Arab lands where potentates rule and dictators head repressive regimes?The ancient Jews yearned for freedom when exiled in Babylon, territory that now Iraq occupies. Divine rhythms vibrated in a poet’s ear. He heard God promise, “Is not this the fast that I choose, to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? (Isaiah 58:6).President George W. Bush sounds like this prophet. With America’s shining democratic freedom spurring him on, he will stamp out dark al-Qaeda. Freedom’s beacon burns brighter disposing these “barbaric criminals.” Our president tackles terrorism wherever it lurks. Freedom’s light opens a broad and good path all seek to travel. Our nation fights evil with good. And we shall win our leaders promise us.Freedom is a good gift from God. It must be spread. These vital themes our president expresses in major speeches and at press conferences. In an address to the National Endowment for Democracy (November 6, 2003), our president sounded like a contemporary Isaiah. “The advance of freedom is the calling of our time. It is the calling of our country…. We believe that liberty is the design of nature. We believe that liberty is the direction of history. We believe that human fulfillment and excellence come in the responsible exercise of liberty. And we believe that freedom, the freedom we prize, is not for us alone. It is the right and the capacity of all mankind. And as we meet terror and violence of the world, we can be certain the author of freedom is not indifferent to the fate of freedom.”These august words are easy to follow. Their logic is clear. God is freedom’s fount. His desire is that all nations be showered with it. History’s God recruits the U.S. to share freedom with those in bondage. Take courage. Show determination. Good will win in wars over evil. Why? Because God planned the world’s destiny this way. This epic tale of freedom is not new. It is embedded both in the Bible and in our national identity. Bush’s “Corollary on Sharing Freedom” piggybacks on the Theodore Roosevelt Corollary. In turn, Roosevelt piggybacked on the Monroe Doctrine to legitimize his policy of protecting freedom in the Americas and promoting it to the ends of the earth.President James Madison in 1823 warned European powers showing grasping colonial ambition not to set foot in South America. The United States would battle their evil ways. A stern challenge to freedom arose in 1904. Germany threatened to unleash military force against the Dominican Republic, awash in debt to the Huns. This small Latin American country asked Roosevelt to defend its borders. Not only did Roosevelt vigorously defend the Monroe Doctrine, he magnified freedom’s advance. Political pundits call this manifesto for freedom “the Roosevelt Corollary.”TR did not limit freedom’s domain to the Western Hemisphere, as did the Monroe Doctrine. Roosevelt, like Bush after him, championed the right of the U.S. to intervene, light the torch of freedom, and let it glow wherever it shone.”If a nation shows that it knows how to act with reasonable efficiency and decency in social and political matters, if it keeps order and pays its obligations, it need fear no interference from the United States,” asserted TR, defining his Corollary to Congress on December 6, 1904.Then he warned, impelled by freedom’s goodness and decency, that “Chronic wrongdoing, or an impotence which results in a general loosening of the ties of civilized society … may force the United States, however reluctantly, in flagrant cases of such wrongdoing or impotence, to the exercise of an international police power.”Roosevelt assured his worldwide audience that the United States would militarily intervene “only in the last resort.” TR didn’t want to admit that freedom does have limits. Our nation must not force itself on another. Only after an attack or proven threat from weapons of mass destruction must freedom’s military force respond. Otherwise, stay home. Freedom doesn’t play the aggressor in the battle between good and evil.Some South American nations did not admire Roosevelt. They interpreted his Corollary as macho condescension. Outrage set in. Most of South America did not want their cultures conquered by U.S. imperialism. “Yankee go home” they shouted.What if democratic elections are held and freedom’s enemies win? Are we willing to accept such a rocky political mess? Israel left the Gaza Strip because the Palestinian Israeli citizens who control a majority vote would win the democratic election against the Jews. Now the militant Islamic political party Hamas, seething to destroy Israel, gets a landslide victory in democratic elections. Freedom cuts both ways. It gives the vote to both good and evil electors. Bush fails to understand that we can not control freedom’s way at the ballot box. When we try, freedom degenerates into imperialism. Doc:trcorollar The Rev. Jack R. Van Ens is a Presbyterian minister who heads the tax exempt, non-profit Creative Growth Ministries, enhancing Christian worship with lively storytelling and dramatic presentations. Van Ens’ book, “How Jefferson Made the Best of Bad Messes” is available in local bookstores for $7.95. Vail, Colorado