Juan Cole says America’s inclination to turn to the military started with Manifest DestinyHistorians in the News
tags: Manifest Destiny
History Prof. Juan Cole examined the rise of Islamophobia in the Western world in response to recent waves of anti-Muslim sentiment following a series of attacks attributed to Islamic extremists. At the event, which was attended by about 50 students and hosted by the University's Muslim Students' Association, Cole kicked off the talk by defining the “American identity.” The identity, he said, truly began with the idea of manifest destiny — an ideology asserting that Americans in the 19th century were destined to expand the United States to the western coast — and the subsequent expansion into Western frontier. He also said he felt the centrality of the frontier in America’s identity was responsible for the centrality of the military.
“I think there was a 19th century sense,” Cole said, “that there was turbulence out there on the frontier, and it was important to the wellbeing of the nation that that turbulence be dealt with militarily.”
The new frontier of today, Cole said, is no longer the American Southwest but the Middle East. He noted the so-called frontier has shifted many times in American history, encompassing groups such as Native Americans, Roman Catholicism, communism and still others at different points at time.
He then made a point he would return to throughout the lecture, that there are two ways for politicians to motivate voters: promising things and making them afraid.
Cole said following the Camp David Accords of 1978, which led to a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, the next biggest threat to Israel was Iraq, he said. As a result of this threat — which Cole noted he felt was exaggerated — neoconservative groups put pressure on the U.S. government to take military action against Iraq, culminating in Operation Desert Fox, a four-day bombing campaign in Iraq in 1998. ...
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