BTRIPP (btripp) wrote,

Bully! ... or just "bull"?

Here's another book “snagged” from the Early Reviewers program. I was somewhat surprised when I “won” this (see details here), as I really haven't read that many political history books recently, so the LTER's “Almighty Algorithm” must have been digging into the older levels of my library when it matched me up with this book.

It's hard to know where to start on James Bradley's The Imperial Cruise: A Secret History of Empire and War. The author certainly has credits to his name, including the book on which the movie Flags of our Fathers was based, but this book is such “a shock to the system” in relation to standard-issue American History, that one has to wonder how solid this is, or how wildly spun … or not. There has been a lot of hostility towards it (check out the couple of hundred reviews of it on Amazon, where a plurality, at 40% of the total, give it only one star!), with the general consensus being that the author had a particular (somewhat leftist) axe to grind,and that the resulting book is more of an attack piece than an actual “history”. Against this perception are the over 800 citations pointing to source materials from the time.

What time, you ask? Who is being attacked? This is a book about Teddy Roosevelt, his life, his personality, his rise to power, and what he did when he got it. And, it's a book about race and racial theories, especially those of turn-of-the-century America (notably, there is nothing directly commenting on just how radically changed the question of race has become over the past 50 years, which may indicate a certain “blind spot” of the author's). According to this book, Roosevelt was driven by a view of race that was prevalent in the Universities and halls of government at the time, based on a vision of the Teutonic Aryan sweeping away “degenerate races” as they followed the Sun westward around the planet, reflected in books such as Types of Mankind, which appears to have been a standard scientific text at the time.

According to the author, Roosevelt also had little respect for the structures of a democratic republic, as much of the book is about him running assorted secret negotiations (and campaigns) in which every effort was made to keep Congress “out of the loop”. The central piece of the book (and source of the title) was when he sent his daughter, Alice (sort of the Princess Di of her day) as the “star” of a massive outreach featuring William Howard Taft and several other dignitaries, on a “cruise” to Asia in 1905.

The central thesis of The Imperial Cruise is that Roosevelt created the conditions in the Pacific Rim that later “bore fruit” in an aggressive Japan in World War 2 (indeed, the author suggests that the attack on Pearl Harbor was a copy-cat ploy based on our own first moves on the Spanish in the Philippines), a destabilized Korea, leading to the Korean War, and even Vietnam, with Ho Chi Minh initially believing that America would come to the aide of a native revolution. Bradley argues that Roosevelt's unwavering belief in White destiny would allow him to sweep into country after country and simply eliminate the populations, much like earlier generations and leaders (going back to Jefferson) had done with the Native Americans.

The picture painted here was that there was no shame, no doubt that a genocidal policy was not only justified (in the “superior culture” eradicating the “inferior culture”), but RIGHT, being the course of a Natural Law no less “obvious” than gravity. If this was what Roosevelt believed, he used the vision of a “benevolent and fair” American government “coming to the aid” of various native peoples being oppressed by the Colonial powers (particularly Spain) as the premise for “following the Sun”. According to this, Roosevelt was careful to never have his emissaries make any promises in writing, all negotiations were done “on his word” as that of the American people, which provided, time and again, a convenient way to simply have his way once the U.S. was in place. After all, “Victorious American Aryans had no intention of handing a state to [an] inferior race.”, and in every case, Cuba, Central and South America, Hawaii/Polynesia, the Philippines, each except that of Japan, it was “meet the new (White) boss; same as the old (White) boss” or a new level of rapacious Christian Missionary plantation developers which brought worse conditions that the previous colonial rule.

Very little of this has, obviously, filtered into the “standard history” taught to us in school, and I found myself wishing that this was all an over-the-top polemic by an “internationalist” Leftist with a Michelle Obama-like view of America. However, if even a portion of this is true, it's quite a shocking eye-opener to how we've conducted foreign policy.

The Imperial Cruise is, as one would take from the above, not a particularly pleasant read, although it's written engagingly enough. While this would certainly appeal more to the anti-American Left, it's also a book that conservatives should also read, if just to see something of themselves reflected in a none-too-complimentary mirror. Personally speaking, I'm as “Teutonic” a W.A.S.P. as they come, and I was mortified by this book, as against the grain of “Mayflower Society orthodoxy” as it is. It also shows just how far the country has moved in the direction that it has moved over the past century.

This book is “new” in the paperback, being a “reprint edition” of the previous hardcover. Due to this, it's probably more affordable to pick up than most of the “Early Reviewer” books. At this writing, Amazon has this new at 43% off, putting it down to the level that the used copies of the previous release are (with shipping). I don't know what the brick-and-mortar places have this at, but it should be out there. Again, this is either going to horrify you or confirm your political views, but on either side of the question, it's an interesting look at a very different time in our country.

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Tags: book review
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