George W. Bush & the "Mandate of Heaven"

Category: Americas, World Affairs Topics: China, George W. Bush, Thomas Jefferson Views: 6151

Since at least the epic of Job described in the Bible, humans have tried to understand why their God has inflicted cruelties upon believers. Many years ago, I recall my daughter of almost four, after we had been in an auto accident which injured my year-and-a-half-old son, asking my mother what had he done wrong to deserve such punishment from God?

Empires, such as that here in America, exalted by the neoconservative faithful such as William Kristol, are especially in need of rationalizations to explain the awful things happening abroad such as global "terrorism," as well as the quagmires in Iraq and Afghanistan. Add to that the most unusual hurricane season in decades, where such entities as "Ivan" don't easily die, but are reborn and circle back, and some may ask what has America's fundamentalist leadership under George W. Bush done to make God so angry at this nation?

The Chinese Empire, even as its elite outgrew primitive religion millennia earlier, was still faced with answering this same question. Since they had no intention of doing away with the institutions of empire, their only answer was to regularly replace specific emperors. Thus was developed the concept of the "Mandate of Heaven," which linked nicely with the dominant neo-Confucianism of the Empire.

The Chinese believed that good things happened to the people and their Empire when the leaders lived lives of "truth" and "virtue." When they did not, they had lost the "Mandate of Heaven" and needed to be replaced. Whether or not George W. Bush ever had such a "Mandate of Heaven," even if he believes that he has-perhaps it was "bestowed" upon him by the Supreme Court certifying his election in 2000-he certainly seems to have lost it since then.

Now blathering on by Bush in speeches about virtue, or writing about it by the sanctimonious, compulsive gambler, William Bennett, or praying about it (or is it preying?) as do other U.S. leaders, is not a substitute for virtuous behavior.

These Chinese ideas, having filtered back to Europe in the 18th century Enlightenment, played a role in the discussions by American leaders in the founding of the republic. Thomas Jefferson was especially taken with them, talking about a "natural aristocracy of talent and virtue," and an educational system of government schools which as the sinologist H.G. Creel noted, was clearly borrowed from China. 

As the great economist Lord Bauer once mentioned to me, Alexis de Tocqueville, that insightful observer of America, when he saw these developments in early 19th century France, called it, "la systeme chinois" (the Chinese system), and the Japanese, in the late 19th century, searching for Western models, adopted the French educational system. What irony, Confucianism by way of France! Nations may "clash," but civilizations tend to borrow from each other.

It was the usually dour John Adams, who in their correspondence, questioned Jefferson's verbal constructs. He noted that there were all kinds of talents, not just the intellectual/academic ones favored by Jefferson, even a king's mistress displayed certain talents, but most importantly, "how do you teach virtue?"

There is only one answer to Adams, as Confucius understood. Virtue is taught, or not taught, by the young emulating the behavior of their parents and elders, and by the people observing the actions of their leaders.

In this regard, has the U.S. reached new depths of degradation in pursuing an unprovoked war in Iraq and the declaration of perpetual war globally? Certainly, George Bush has lost the "Mandate" of most of the rest of the world, outside of a few client states and toadies; the President's recent reception before the U.N. made that quite evident.

At home Bush piles on more and more "bread and circuses", combining huge farm, education, Medicare and other pork and corporate welfare schemes with tax breaks mostly for the wealthier (but even a smidgen for the middle classes, as did the Caesars of old) with a paper money inflationary system (also borrowed from China). If one counts Off-Budget Expenditures (OBE) the U.S. government now owes over $72 trillion to its own people and the world, which the government will probably attempt to inflate away in the future if the system itself doesn't collapse in the short run.

Just as with those empires of old, which sought what the historian Carroll Quigley (Bill Clinton's guru at Georgetown University) called "Universal Empire," that is, not just imperial centralization, but hegemony over their existing "Core and Periphery," which today literally means the entire world, I believe that the U.S. has not only failed, but is in decline.

The Chinese understood that imperial states come and go. The great centralized, bureaucratic empires of Rome, China, Spain, Britain, and Russia have broken apart or declined. 

Whether in Quigley's terminology our social, political and economic institutions can once again be made into viable "instruments of expansion," is the real systemic question facing us. George Bush did not create these tendencies that go well back into our history, but he has greatly accelerated and exacerbated them. In short, he has clearly lost the "Mandate of Heaven"!

But, who will tell him that he has no clothes? He rejected his father's advice on Iraq. Perhaps, others in his family, which protected and elevated a mediocrity, his mother or his wife, will tell him he has lost the "Mandate"; even if, in a so-called Democracy, the voice of the electorate is considered the "Voice of God"!

But, perhaps it is really the American people themselves who have lost the "Mandate of Heaven," since, after all, it is they who elect U.S. government leaders. Whether the American nation can be perhaps the first in history to eschew empire and return to a decentralized republic will be the great question facing us in the 21st century. Can Americans find leaders with virtue and vision who can restore the "Mandate of Heaven"?

William Marina is Research Fellow at the Independent Institute in Oakland, Calif., and Professor Emeritus of History at Florida Atlantic University.

  Category: Americas, World Affairs
  Topics: China, George W. Bush, Thomas Jefferson
Views: 6151

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Older Comments:
Asalaam alikum,

What is the point? The point is that the leaders of the USA have decided to push our nation to into Empire Building, via unprovoked invasion of a sovereign nation, illegally, and against treaty.
In doing so, these leaders are invoking a global Manifest Destiny policy, but now instead of a continent, it is a world that they seek to subdue. Unfortunately, in this day and age, the atrocities that are visited on the conquered are beamed into a billion livingrooms every day, unfortunately few of them in the homes of the voters that will decide their future fate. Coincidence? Probably not, but I digress.

An Empire can only justify its existence by CLAIMING a mandate from Heaven, a Holy right to exist. If we are so stupid to elect this horse's behind again, we will deserve Allah's punishment for aiding and abetting this administrations crimes, but again, I stray.

When the Emperor does not lead well, he loses the holy right to govern and must be replaced with a new emperor, one that does have the holy authority. This is the Mandate from Heaven.

As an American, I can only say that I did not vote for this administration and will not vote for this adminstration and am doing everything in my power and within the law to replace this potentate with what I consider to be a less offensive alternative. As an American, I see in the not too distant future that this responsiblity may be denied my decendents. I do not know if we can pull back from the chasm that yawns before us. I pray for guidance and strength.

Even though we don't deserve it, please pray for us. Pray that we can take our nation back from the dictator wannabes and the Emperors in waiting. Pray that we can wrest our leaders from the influence of shaitan and be what our best hopes suggest that we could be. If you can't do that, at least pray that our muslim brothers and sisters escape before we get rounded up in camps.



i don't know.... the article seems to me mostly metaphorical and rambling, not to mention speculative, and in the end i'm not sure exactly what is the main point.

It seems as if some Americans seek to bring about for others such conditions as Christians expect will prevail following Christ's return while other Americans seek to bring about for others such conditions as Christians expect will be afflicting Christians preceding Christ's return. Offhand, I am wondering just what conditions Christ will testify to having sought to bring about. I am also wondering if Christ will consider those who seek to afflict their enemies with such mischief as they seek to avoid for themselves to be his friends. In the meantime, perhaps Americans might wish to consider pursuing, serving or otherwise simply observing whatever they suppose would be the "Mandate of Heaven".

Mandate of Heaven!!. Nonesense. US Government is made up of mortal people who produce man-made laws, nothing to do with God. GWBush is trying to create An American Empire; but he is failing miserably. Unfortunately, in the process, he is doing lot of death and destruction in the world, and producing lot of poverty in US and in the rest of the world. A US President has a maximum of 8 years in office, half of which is wasted in campaigning; so no US President has time to create an empire (or even lay the basis of it); empires are not created overnight. And in US, you cannot be favouring one religion over the other; favour one religion and you lose votes of the other religions.

US People do not want any "Mandate from Heaven", because they do not believe in Heaven; if they did, they will not be supporting atrocities by US military. Americans are NOT religious people, just church-going people. If they were religious, they will not be practising fornication (which is widespread in US), love of mammon, cheating (via tax laws), unfair tax laws (rich get richer, poor get poorer), etc.