Answering the Armies of the Cheated (But No Questions about War Please!)Roundup
tags: war on terror, war, militarism, Protest
Andrew Bacevich, a TomDispatch regular, is president of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. His new book, After the Apocalypse: America’s Role in a World Transformed, has just been published.
“The thirty-year interregnum of U.S. global hegemony,” writes David Bromwich in the journal Raritan, “has been exposed as a fraud, a decoy, a cheat, [and] a sell.” Today, he continues, “the armies of the cheated are struggling to find the word for something that happened and happened wrong.”
In fact, the armies of the cheated know exactly what happened, even if they haven’t yet settled on precisely the right term to describe the disaster that has befallen this nation.
What happened was this: shortly after the end of the Cold War, virtually the entire American foreign-policy establishment succumbed to a monumentally self-destructive ideological fever.
Call it INS, shorthand for Indispensable Nation Syndrome. Like Covid-19, INS exacts a painful toll of victims. Unlike Covid, we await the vaccine that can prevent its spread. We know that preexisting medical conditions can increase a person’s susceptibility to the coronavirus. The preexisting condition that increases someone’s vulnerability to INS is the worship of power.
Back in 1998, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright not only identified INS, but also captured its essence. Appearing on national TV, she famously declared, “If we have to use force, it is because we are America. We are the indispensable nation. We stand tall. We see further into the future.”
Now, allow me to be blunt: this is simply not true. It’s malarkey, hogwash, bunkum, and baloney. Bullshit, in short.
The United States does not see further into the future than Ireland, Indonesia, or any other country, regardless of how ancient or freshly minted it may be. Albright’s assertion was then and is now no more worthy of being taken seriously than Donald Trump’s claim that the “deep state” engineered the coronavirus pandemic. Also bullshit.
Some of us (but by no means all Americans) have long since concluded that Trump was and remains a congenital liar. To charge Albright with lying, however, somehow rates as bad form, impolite, even rude. She is, after all, a distinguished former official and the recipient of many honors.
Trump’s lies have made him persona non grata in polite society. Albright has not suffered a similar fate. And to be fair, Albright herself is not solely or even mainly responsible for the havoc that INS has caused. While the former secretary of state promoted the syndrome in notably expansive language, the substance of her remark was anything but novel. She was merely reiterating what, in Washington, still passes for a self-evident truism: America must lead. No conceivable alternative exists. Leadership implies responsibilities and, by extension, confers prerogatives. Put crudely — more crudely than Albright would have expressed it to a television audience — we make the rules.
More specifically, Albright was alluding to a particular prerogative that a succession of post-Cold War presidents, including Donald Trump and now Joe Biden, have exercised. Our political leaders routinely authorize the elimination, with extreme prejudice, of persons unwilling to acknowledge our indispensability.
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