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The Peace Problem: Is America Saving the World or Destroying It?

Christopher A. Preble
Reuters

Christopher A. Preble

Security, Americas

Christopher Preble's latest book takes a deep dive into the past and examines the impact that America's foreign policy tactics have had abroad and at home.

The Peace Problem: Is America Saving the World or Destroying It?

Christopher Preble, “Chapter 3: The Anti-Imperial Empire,” Peace, War, and Liberty: Understanding U.S. Foreign Policy (Washington, DC: Libertarianism.org Press, 2019).

Many in America’s founding generation believed that the United States would eventually achieve greatness. How it would go about doing so was often in question.

The Founders expected to do great things in the New World. A few even believed that God willed it. Though they arrived in what would come to be known as North America, some saw the territory as a New Israel, God’s new chosen land.

They took their cue from the New Testament and their words from Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount: “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.” The Puritan leader John Winthrop invoked the phrase “city on a hill” in an address to his congregation sometime in 1630 while en route from Southampton, England, to New England in North America. Over the ensuing few centuries—but mostly in just the last few decades—the idea has transitioned, notes Hillsdale College’s Richard Gamble, “from biblical metaphor to nationalist myth.”

Myth or not, the idea that God had bestowed his grace on the United States and its people was widely believed. His chosen people, popular belief also went, had a special obligation to spread ideas about good governance and justice, not merely within North America but ultimately throughout the world.

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