Monday, September 7, 2009

The Emperor's Nekkid!

The article's title: A Balanced Strategy: Reprogramming the Pentagon for a New Age

Article written by: Robert M. Gates

The quotation: "The United States cannot take its current dominance for granted and needs to invest in the programs, platforms, and personnel that will ensure that dominance's persistence."

Okay. This quote is out of context, I realize. But it is reflective of the mindset behind the entire article. I encourage you to read it in its entirety here:

Robert Gates is the man Obama has chosen to retain from the Bush regime as Secretary of Defense. While I appreciate a shift in thought from regime change in places like Iraq to nation building expertise for the US military, what I don't understand is the utter absence of capacity on the part of our government (and many of us) to look homeward in its search for why the "terrorists" of the world hate us so much. Still, Gates' candor is refreshing. The Pentagon's job while he is in charge will be to ensure America's dominance in the world, apparently with Obama's blessing. But ensuring America's dominance will cost an awful lot. Are you ready for more of the same?

Does anyone outside this country really believe that the US occupies some position of world dominance anymore? America's actions betray our ridiculousness. If anyone still says America is the world's only super power, Americans are the only ones who believe it. Today, lame duck George reiterated that ridding the world of Saddam Hussein was a good thing, despite the mistakes we've made in Iraq. So America's real reason for invading a sovereign nation unprovoked was not to secure natural resources and establish regional hegemony in a part of the world otherwise hostile to our influence, but rather to spread America's idealistic notions of democracy, development, peace and prosperity... truth and light. Just stop already.

As Chris Brazier says, "Those least prepared to own up to bias are often those with the loudest, most omnipresent voices - and they tend to see the 20th century as a battleground in which the forces of truth and light triumphed."

Time Magazine summed up the 20th century as "The American Century". I quote Time Magazine: "Some countries base their foreign policy on realism or its Prussian-accented cousin, realpolitik: a cold and careful calculation of strategic interests. America is unique in that it is equally motivated by idealism. Whether it is the fight against fascism or communism, or even misconceived interventions like Vietnam, America's mission is to further not only its interests but also its values. And that idealist streak is a source of its global influence, even more than its battleships. As became clear when the Iron Curtain collapsed in 1989, America's clout in the world comes not just from its military might but from the power and appeal of its values. Which is why it did, indeed, turn out to be an American Century."

The scale of hubris implicit in this delusional description of the last hundred years boggles the mind of anyone who reads history, much less keeps up with current world affairs as presented through lenses other than those of corporate-run US media outlets. People all over the world struggle day in and day out in ways you and I can scarcely imagine for control over their own lives, for decent standards of health, education, nutrition, for social justice, for peace and civil rights. But if Time Magazine is your source for information, you wouldn't ever know this. Time and Newsweek and US News and World Report and ABC and NBC and CBS and, yes, even PBS and NPR would reduce people's struggle for control over their own lives as the ultimate victory of the particular model of democracy and capitalism patented and promoted by the United States of America. In short, it's insulting.

And most of us still believe it's true. If you do, you're a moron. And life's too short for me not to tell you so.

Ensuring America's dominance cannot be our national goal during the Obama presidency. "Power over" carries the seeds of its own destruction. Unmitigated free market capitalism and an aggressive, imperialist approach to foreign relations gets us where we are today: the Western democratic equivalent of standing on the ground floor of the World Trade Center as it collapsed.

Remember that event? The idea of American dominance has long since faded. So-called terrorists around the world hate us not because of our freedom. They hate us because we fuck with their lives and, in doing so, demand their gratitude and adoration. They hate us because we are assholes and motherfuckers on the world stage. We have been for a couple of centuries now. Don't believe me? Travel abroad and ask other people why terrorists hate America. But don't limit yourself to the lobby of your Hyatt hotel. Go into the slums. If you're in any major city in the developing world, they're easy to find. Ask people who don't live like you why "terrorists" hate America. Then be ready for their answers. They won't be easy to hear.

If America's light is bright, it's shadow is equally as dark. And we never see our own shadows as clearly as others do. In fact we'll do anything to keep from seeing them. We deflect, complicate simple truths, blame everyone and everything around us for our suffering. True power, not dominance, but POWER lies in our ability to recognize and accept our responsibility for our lot in this world. True power lies in our ability to atone for our actions. It lies in our capacity for humility.

Persisting American dominance... it's a bullshit notion. It's a lie that the rest of the world has seen through. America is wearing the emperor's new clothes. Obama's election was a triumph for rationally thinking people everywhere. But one man alone can't get an entire nation to wake up. America's idealist streak is not the source of its global influence anymore, if it ever was, despite what Tom Brokaw might believe. Our influence is military and it is aggressive and it is violent. It brings chaos, suffering and death more than it does any kind of fantasy idealism rooted in American values of a shining city on a hill. The rest of the world has its own brand of idealism. It doesn't need ours. It has its own values, too.

We can choose to become humble ourselves or we can be beaten into submission. Either way, the result will be the same. This doesn't have to be hard. The American dream is over, but waking up doesn't have to be a nightmare. It can be an enlightening experience. That's an idea I can have hope in.

No comments:

Post a Comment