121 CHRONICLESnup too often in our ventures abroad. Sometimes moralismncoexists with national interest, but the difference is neverthelessnvast, and moralism often has an antithetical effect uponnwhat is best for the US.nIt is very much in the spirit of moralism that Congressnmakes diplomatic, economic, and psychological war onnSouth Africa. We are unabashed by the fact that we were thenlast civilized nation to abolish slavery and held blacksnafterward in a state of caste-segregation for a hundred years.nWe are undisturbed that by punishing South Africa, wenpunish a valuable ally, thus flouting our own nationalninterest. This moralism is not even a general consensus; it isnonly, as is usually the case, the moralism of a minority—nblack leaders and students.nIn Nicaragua, had Reagan presented solid evidence, thenresponse would surely have been what it was when Sovietnmissiles were planted in Cuba. As it is most Americans arenstill dubious. In Reagan’s Nicaragua all one can say is that ifnthere was, and continues to be, an analogous Soviet threat,nthe Great Communicator has failed abysmally—mixingncries of “wolf” with Epworth League lectures on thendangers of Marxist-Leninist principles taking root in ournhemisphere.nWe should take comfort. If there is no true Soviet threatnto us concealed in Nicaragua, if there is simply Marxism-nLeninism, we are indeed fortunate. Such states and peoplesngenerally fall into desuetude with wonderful alacrity. Thenwhole world by now knows of the grim contrast betweennCommunist states and the Pacific Rim capitalisms of Asia.nMoralism in foreign or domestic policy usually generatesnan altogether inappropriate evangelical zeal. The languagenof eternal absolutes, of vivid millennialist symbols, is soonninvoked. T.R. declared once: “We stand at Armageddonnand we battle for the Lord.” I do not recall whether he wasnspeaking about farm prices or the gold standard, but Inbelieve it was only shortly after that the famous handbill wasnpublished in Chicago in which his opposition announced:n”On Tuesday next at precisely 9:30 A.M. TheodorenRoosevelt will walk on the waters of Lake Michigan.”nHumor is the most effective weapon against armies of TruenBelievers.nBut most moralism in domestic and foreign politics doesnnot contain the spirit of charisma and pentecost. It reflects,nrather. President Kennedy’s celebrated promise “to pay anynprice, bear any burden, meet any hardship … to assure thensuccess and survival of liberty.” Arthur Schlesinger insistsnthat only two months after saying this, Kennedy disavowednthat orgiastic excess of moralism. Perhaps. But it was thenKennedy White House that created an American army ofnclose to 20,000 in South Vietnam under the command of anfour-star general, and that egregiously deposed Diem, thusnmaking America inescapably our Vietnamese brothers’nkeeper—for six years and at heavy cost.nThe roots of American moralism, and also exceptionalism,nare deep in our history. The American religion thatnTocqueville and Bryce identified was and is, to the extentnthat it still exists, a compound of Christian millennialism onnthe one hand, and complacent geopolitics (two broad oceansnand a plethora of natural resources) on the other. The imagenof America the Redeemer Nation was a vivid one throughoutnthe 19th century. It was deservedly a proud image.nnnThink of the immigrants who, after settling down in thisncountry, wrote everything from lapidary letters to the oldncountry to significant autobiographies about the transfigurationnof their lives in the American Garden. In this century,nmillions of Eastern Europeans and Asians have justifiablynseen their experience as a modern Exodus.nBut however touching and noble, the moral and spiritualndo not necessarily translate into good public policy and law,nor good foreign and defense programs. When, after repeatednincidents. President Wilson asked and got from Congressna declaration of war against Germany, the sound reason tongive was that already in the minds of most congressmen: thenkilling of American citizens and violation of their propertynrights on the open seas. But Woodrow Wilson was unable tonlive with so pragmatic and commonsensical a reason. Henwas already disgusted with England and France for theirncrass view of the war with Germany: that is was a matter ofnmere survival. It was with special eloquence, then, that henannounced the purpose of the war was to make the worldnsafe for democracy—American-style, naturally.nWilson failed, of course, paralyzed. Vast must have beennthe floods of self-righteousness that coursed through thatncrippled body, first in the White House, then in the housenon S Street. His posthumous reward was canonization by anlarge number of Americans. Throughout the 20’s and 30’s,nWilson was sanctified by ever-widening numbers of people.nRepublican as well as Democrat. It was Wilsonianism thatnsaved Franklin D. Roosevelt from defeat in 1940;nWilsonianism and, of course, the useful Second World War.nRoosevelt was in the direct Wilson tradition when he wadednin gradually, first affirming neutrality, then declaring fornquarantine, then discovering in January 1941 that the realnobjective of the war—whether Churchill and others fightingnit knew this or not—was the global establishment of thenFour Freedoms, and then months later wrapping the wholenwar, including Stalin’s participation from June on, into thenAtiantic Charter. It was not a very long step from the charternto the infamous Declaration on Liberated Europe composednat Yalta.nThe moralistic urge in American foreign policy hasnremained strong throughout the four decades since Yalta.nNational interest and security were quite enough justificationnfor Truman’s agreement to give protection to Greecenand Turkey in 1947. But it was probably foreordained thatneven the man from Missouri would clothe the action innwords of cosmic righteousness. Kennedy’s brief presidencynwas all moralism. There was the promise to go anywhere,nbear any burden, the decision to rescue Cuba with ancorporal’s guard, and the fatal immersion in South Vietnamesenpolitics.nRonald Reagan, political child of the Democrats Wilsonnand FDR, has carried the banner of righteousness regularlynduring his two terms, never hesitating to gloss a Lebanon, anGrenada, or a Persian Gulf with the hues of eschatology. Hisnfondness for the two kingdoms or cities suggests descent toonfrom Zarathustra. These traits did not, however, prevent thenfeckless utopianism of the Reykjavik summit, and thendecision to deprive Western Europeans of their utterly vitalnmissiles.nEspecially within this century, the American republic’snmoralism in foreign matters is linked if not anchored ton