3/25/2005

One-way planet

Another great one by Tom Engelhardt of TomDispatch.com:
...We're on a one-way planet when it comes to (so many) matters...for instance, Bush administration nuclear policy vis-à-vis any country we dislike (we build ‘em, you don't); occupation policy vis-à-vis Syria and Iraq (we occupy, you can't), and so many other subjects that most of you can probably fill in better than I can. In this way, we find ourselves living in a "category of one" world with an exaggerated version of a mentality that would have been familiar to most great imperial powers. (Until recently, however, even great imperial powers -- with the possible exceptions of Rome, Han China, and perhaps Spain at their heights -- would have found it hard to think of themselves as being in a category of one, given the competition.) The Bush administration embodies, with pride, a sense of what once would have been called imperial impunity; and, when it comes to most of the crucial issues having to do with our "mission" in the world, whatever the criticism in the mainstream, the mission itself and most of our ways of pursuing it now remain remarkably sacrosanct and off limits. There are few doubts about our right to put those CAVs in space, or send out that new generation of Predators to assassinate whomever, and so on. But to really grasp why this is so, I suspect you have to throw in, as a kicker, a deep-seated American sense of national "exceptionalism," a sense of American goodness that can't be matched elsewhere on the planet. This is something most of us grew up with, that lies deep in our nation's history, in that sense of being in a New World, and well rid of an evil European old world. Though this is a deeply honorable (if also in many ways deeply flawed) strain of American thinking -- it's where much of the idea of American "promise" comes from -- it is also a state of mind that the Bush administration has played upon with consummate skill. The combination of imperial impunity and national goodness of a kind not possessed by other lands has, in fact, proved something of a lethal cocktail. It lifts us into a "category of one" mentality in a way that seems to explain why we can possess weaponry and do things that, in others, would horrify us, and it absolves us of thinking about how others might look on us and our acts in the world.

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