Selected Papers from the IAUPE Malta Conference in 2010
Historical Humanist, American Style: Paul A. Bové
Historical Humanist, American Style Paul A. Bové University of Pittsburgh In 1897, Alfred Thayer Mahan, the so-called “Father of the American Navy,” published the most important in a series of his essays in Harper’s Magazine, entitled, “A 20th-Century Outlook.” In this influential and now classical expres- sion of US imperial ambition, Mahan urged that US intellectual and political leaders accept the task of discouraging Americans from any belief that peace is a good. Among the standard means of this sort of vulgarity – self-interest, Manif- est Destiny, et cetera. – sits an important variation on a common nationalist to- pos: the US is the new Rome and must accept its role as the modern hegemon needed to order an advanced world. In many ways, Mahan met the standards of historical scholarship and derived from European humanism ethically appropriate grounds for a militant geo- and national politics. Bad enough that he theorized US strategy so successfully that we still feel his influence in the US and saw it at work in Japan and elsewhere over the last century; worse that he convinced others that US greatness required that the State order economy and society in and through a science of logistics to support state primacy and national ambition. Perhaps worst of all in his advocacy of war and violence was a direct defense of exterminating entire populations in the name of the civilizing mission – the legitimacy of which he draws from the great German historical humanist, Theodor Mommsen. In 1902, Mommsen won the...
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