The title above is a line from the Guns N Roses song Civil War, which was released in 1990 on a Romanian orphan charity fundraising album called "Nobody's Child". They were the biggest rock group in the world at the time; the line was borrowed from a speech made by a South American dictator. Up until this point, the majority of Guns N Roses' songs had been about their hedonistic lifestyle, so to suddenly hear them tap into current affairs and politics was a bit of a shock. I was just 18, but having grown up during 'The Troubles' I had a fair idea that the neatly-packaged evening news broadcasts didn't always tell the full story - whether about events here in Northern Ireland or on the other side of the world.
As ripples of revolution rock the Middle East, firstly in Egypt, now in Libya and Bahrain, there has been some scepticism about the risings, and whether they were spontaneous at all - or whether they might have been carefully co-ordinated with Western assistance. Or maybe that the West has spent years propping up the very régimes which, in the face of sudden, high profile public protests, they now so quickly disapprove of.
In May 1842, the 75-year-old former President Andrew Jackson (1767-1845; pictured left in a photo taken in 1844) whose parents had emigrated from Carrickfergus in 1765, was being lobbied by an Irish-American organisation called the Irish Repeal Association of New York. They were seeking his support for their political objectives back in the "old country".
In a letter of reply to the organisation, Jackson, whilst acknowledging 'the Irish blood which flows in my veins' *, skilfully avoided becoming drawn into overseas issues. He wrote of '... that maxim which teaches us not to interfere offensively with the internal affairs of other nations. The preservation of the principle on which this maxim rests is far more important to the good of mankind than any benefit which can possibly be obtained by a departure from it ...' Jackson went on to say that representative government in Ireland should be achieved 'without violence or civil commotion', based squarely upon 'the will of her people'.
Jackson died before the United States descended into its own civil war; April 2011 sees the 150th anniversary of the Civil War (aka the War Between the States or the War of Northern Aggression). The anniversary has been turned into a major tourism opportunity over the next few years.
We can speculate of what Jackson would have made of the American Civil War, or of present-day American and British foreign policy.
* I would suggest that Jackson was speaking geographically rather than culturally.