There was a book by Charles Bohlen, a former U.S. ambassador and sometime academic, in which he said that when you're studying the foreign policy of most countries, you need to look at the material conditions, but that this doesn't apply when you're studying the United States because U.S. foreign policy is different from other countries' foreign policy in that it's not related to the material conditions of the country. This has been a constant argument among many political scientists and analysts, that somehow the U.S. is special, that the U.S. is different, that - to use the title of a book written in 1981 -- U.S. policymakers were "sentimental imperialists." Not the standard imperialism based on the usual greed and things like that, but this was a book about the U.S. experience in Asia. The United States was motivated by sentiment, by morality, by wanting to do good. Stanley Karnow wrote a book about the U.S. and the Philippines, and it talked about the colonial period, and he keeps on talking about U.S. "benign intentions," "high moral purpose," and -- one word he uses that I'd never heard of, and had to look up but couldn't find except in an unabridged dictionary -- U.S. "benison," which means the U.S. giving of benefits to Filipinos. This was why the United States was there: to help the Filipinos.
   I was officially trained as a political scientist and one of the founders of American political science and the American study of international relations is a guy named Hans Morgenthau, and he has a criticism of U.S. foreign policy. Morgenthau says the thing wrong with U.S. foreign policy is that it's too moralistic and too legalistic. We're just too good. We shouldn't be this way, he says, and his decisive example to prove how good we are is a story from the turn of the century. We are, as you know, now in the hundredth anniversary of 1898, which is when the United States started on its era of global expansion. It, of course, had expanded across the American continent and expanded in Latin America, but in 1898 it went worldwide, and I'm going to try to make a number of references back to that 100-year-ago event.

   The president at the time was William McKinley, and a group of Episcopal missionaries came to visit him, and as they were leaving the White House, he said, in rough paraphrase:

Wait, hold a minute. I want to tell you why I decided to annex the Philippines. I don't mind telling you, he said, that I paced the White House floor tormented by this question: should we annex the Philippines? And then it came to me. I heard a voice, and the voice said, "William, you should annex the Philippines. That's the thing to do because you need to civilize and Christianize the Filipinos."

    Now the Filipinos were 90% Christian already, which might have given McKinley pause, but it didn't. Incredibly, this episode is what Morgenthau takes as proof that U.S. policy is moralistic. Moreover, if you read through McKinley's statement in more detail, he goes to say we could have given the Philippines to France and Germany, “our commercial rivals in the Orient”, but that would have been "bad business and discreditable." So evidently, McKinley's God who speaks to him and tells him what he ought to do is not oblivious to economic concerns, to profit and loss. (Now maybe it wasn't God. Maybe it was the voice of Theodore Roosevelt that McKinley heard instead -- but no matter.) The point is that McKinley's notion of morality included making money, and for Morgenthau to think that this shows the U.S. is to moralistic seems a very peculiar notion. But let me take other examples aside from that turn of the century one.