By Professor Paul Eidelberg
April 29, 2009
As everyone knows, Barack Obama’s campaign slogan was “change.” As I pointed out at the time, Obama’s goal was nothing less than “regime change.” He made this crystal clear in his January 20 Inaugural Address when he rejected, in effect, the Judeo-Christian foundations of the American Republic.
Professor Edward Alexander points this out in an April 10 article published in Commentary Magazine, “Obama Demotes the Jews”:
Obama jettisoned the long-established locution that embodies the generally-accepted notion of the Judeo-Christian tradition. That tradition, in America, mandates the phrase “Christians and Jews, with Christians in first place for the good reason that the roots of this country and most of those who founded it are Christian. Obama, however, said on January 20 that “We are a nation of Christians and Muslims,” and then, after a slight pause, “Jews and Hindus,” another slight pause, “and unbelievers.”
Later, in an interview with Al-arabiya, “Obama demoted the Jews still further, calling America a country of “Muslims, Christians, Jews.” Note the order: Muslims first.
Actually, it would be more correct to say that the roots of America are Jewish ideas and values rendered in Christian terms. I will illustrate this report and in subsequent reports on George Washington’s “Farewell Address.” I will use material extracted from my 1977 book Beyond Detente: Toward an American Foreign Policy, a book that may have influenced the foreign policy of Ronald Reagan when he was elected president in 1980. We shall see that. Reagan’s foreign policy was based, essentially, on Washington’s Farewell Address.
Unfortunately, the American people, miseducated by their academic elites, know virtually nothing of the political philosophy—one might almost say the “Torah”—of their Founding Fathers. Hence they are ignorant of the revolutionary change which their current president is in preparing for them. Let us begin their reeducation with President Washington’s Farewell Address, which opens with these refined words:
In looking forward to the moment, which is intended to terminate the career of my public life, my feelings do not permit me to suspend the deep acknowledgment of that debt of gratitude which I owe to my beloved country, for the many honors it has conferred upon me; ... If benefits have resulted to our country from [my] services, let it always be remembered to your praise . . . the constancy of your support was the essential prop of [my] efforts, and the guarantee of the plans by which they were effected. Profoundly penetrated with this idea, I shall carry it with me to my grave, as a strong incitement to unceasing vows that Heaven may continue to you the choicest tokens of its beneficence; that your Union and brotherly affection may be perpetual; that the free Constitution, which is the work of your hands, may be sacredly maintained; that its Administration in every department may be stamped with wisdom and Virtue; that, in fine, the happiness of the people of these States, under the auspices of liberty, may be made complete, by so careful a preservation and so prudent a use of this blessing as will acquire to them the glory of recommending it to the applause, the affection, and adoption of every nation which is yet a stranger to it.
Notice first that Washington identifies the good of America with the good of mankind. Rightly so, because America was the first and only nation that was explicitly founded on the Seven Noahide Laws of Universal Morality. In fact, in 1991, the Congress of the United States incorporated the Seven Noahide Laws in Public Law 102-14, which established March 26 as “Education Day”! Hugo Grotius (1583–1645), the Dutch jurist who laid the moral foundations for international law, cited the Noahide laws as an early source of international law.
The Noahide Laws make it possible for a nation—say the United States—to pursue its “own” interests without impairing the interests of mankind. Assuredly, the United States would have to understand what constitutes its "own" interests (which is why "its administration … m[ust] be stamped with wisdom and virtue"). But how are we to explain this supposed identity between the interests of the U.S. and mankind? What are the assumptions of this identity?
The first assumption is that mankind constitutes a single species.* The second assumption is that the principles of American government are conducive to the perfection of that species, that is, to the fullest development of that which distinguishes the human from the sub-human.
That mankind constitutes a single species is implied in the Genesis account of man’s creation in the image of God. This is implied in teaching of the Declaration of Independence that all men are created equal. In the order of nature, men do not stand to each other as they stand to beasts, as superior to inferior creatures. This is why all men are endowed with the unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
As for that which distinguishes the human from the subhuman, the answer may be clarified by asking: What kind of being is man that he, unlike all other creatures, should be endowed with the unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? I have elsewhere written:
Surely a being thus endowed must be potentially capable of governing himself without impairing the unalienable rights of others. Presumably, such a being would have the capacity to distinguish between his immediate wants and his long-range interests. He would have to understand how the pursuit of his own interests may affect the well-being of others and how the wants and interests of others may affect his own. To this end he would have to be considerate of the claims advanced by others. . . . Finally, he and his fellows would have to know how to bring into mutual adjustment their competing claims and interests if the so-called rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are to be something more than a facade for foolishness and petty egoism. This requires wisdom and virtue.
Two basic qualities distinguish the human from the sub-human. One is the discriminating and synthesizing power of reason. The other may be called "civility." Civility enables us to appreciate diverse points of view. It presupposes moderation or self-restraint, the power to control those passions which sometimes obscure the differences between men and brutes. Thus, only if man is understood as homo rationalis et civilis, and further, only if American government is rooted in these two qualities of human nature, can there possibly be an identity of interests between the United States and mankind.
Now it goes without saying that every government, like every individual, is fallible, or more or less deficient in wisdom and virtue, and will often pursue policies discordant with the interests of mankind as a whole and even to its own true interests. Just as the individual may mistake his apparent for his real interests, so too may a nation.
Conversely, just as one individual is more civilized than another—more considerate and moderate in his dealings with others—so may one nation be more civilized than another. This is but to acknowledge the palpable truth that just as there are small-souled and large-souled men, so there are small-souled and large-souled nations.
Let us put away relativism and sentimentalism and admit that magnanimity is not possessed equally by all nations, no more so than by all individuals. What allows us to make such invidious comparisons is the principle that mankind forms a single species comprehensible in terms of some standard of perfection against which one can evaluate individuals as well as nations, a standard that is immanent in human nature and that distinguishes men from beasts.
Given the unity of human nature and the definition of man as homo rationalis et civilis, a nation may indeed be magnanimous, such that in pursuing its "own" interests it cannot but promote the good of mankind. At the same time, however, unless this definition of man is implicitly understood by the American people, then Washington's declared wish "that [their political] union and brotherly affection may be perpetual" was without rational foundation.
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Here I have only touched on some basic Judeo-Christian principles of the American heritage. I shall elaborate on them from week to week and relate them to the principles of George Washington’s American foreign policy, principles now being subverted by Barack Obama.
© 2009 Paul Eidelberg - All Rights Reserved
Internationally known political scientist, author and lecturer, Eidelberg is the founder and president of The Foundation for Constitutional Democracy with offices in Jerusalem.
Prof. Eidelberg served in the United States Air Force where he held the rank of first lieutenant. He received his doctoral degree at the University of Chicago. He designed the electronic equipment for the first brain scanner at the Argonne Cancer Research Hospital.
Before immigrating to Israel in 1976, Prof. Eidelberg wrote a trilogy on America’s founding fathers: The Philosophy of the American Constitution, On the Silence of the Declaration of Independence, and a Discourse on Statesmanship.
In 1976 he joined the faculty of Bar-Ilan University in Israel. He has written several books on the Arab-Israel conflict and on Judaism. Demophrenia: Israel and the Malaise of Democracy analyses the mentality of Israel’s ruling elites. Jewish Statesmanship: Lest Israel Fall, which has been translated into Hebrew and Russian, reveals the flaws inherent in Israel’s system of governance and how they may be remedied. A Jewish Philosophy of History investigates the world-historical events leading to the rebirth of Israel in 1948.
His latest publication, The Myth of Israeli Democracy, provides an abbreviated version of a Constitution which shows how to make Israel a genuine democracy based on a Jewish conception of freedom and equality.
is on the Advisory Council of the Ariel Center for Policy Research,
which has published many of his policy papers. In addition to writing
more than 1,000 articles for newspapers and scholarly journals in the
U.S. and Israel, he has a weekly program on Israel
Prof. Eidelberg has been lecturing throughout Israel and the United States. He conducts seminars on constitutions, diverse parliamentary electoral systems, Jewish law, and related topics at the Jerusalem center of the Foundation for Constitutional Democracy.
Web site: Foundation for Constitutional Democracy