William Pfaff wins a free screening tape of Souvenir (November 2001) for his column in the Int’l Herald Tribune
American commentators like to think that the “Jacksonian” frontier spirit equips America to dominate, reform and democratize other civilizations. They do not appreciate that America’s indefatigable confidence comes largely from never having had anything very bad happen to it.
The worst American war was the Civil War, in which the nation, North and South, suffered 498,000 wartime deaths from all causes, or slightly more than 1.5 percent of a total population of 31.5 million.
The single battle of the Somme in World War I produced twice as many European casualties as the United States suffered, wounded included, during that entire war.
There were 407,000 American war deaths in World War II, out of a population of 132 million – less than a third of 1 percent. Considering this, Washington does not really possess the authority to explain, in condescending terms, that Europe’s reluctance to go to war is caused by a pusillanimous reluctance to confront the realities of a Hobbesian universe.