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The Widening Gyre

America has not managed to break free from its policy of global domination. Under Obama even more so than under Bush, we seem to assume the right to intervene anywhere, or meddle in the affairs of any government, in the name of the fight against terrorism. As many have demonstrated, any restraint compared to Bush is on the level of rhetoric, not of policy. In fact, the war is widening—to Pakistan, to Yemen and Somalia. The underlying assumption has not been questioned, that “national interests” give America the right, even the duty, to police the world. When Obama went to Oslo to claim his Nobel Peace Prize, he called it a war of necessity. In fact, it is an endless war of imperial domination and policing frontiers, with those frontiers potentially being any rural hamlet or urban slum capable of producing a few disgruntled young men willing to stand up to American interests.

The tactics for prosecuting this war are deeply immoral. Increasingly, robot aircraft and assassination squads are used in place of the regular army. Much of this activity is put in the hands of private contractors working with the CIA, or equally secretive groups within the Defense Department. Decision-making is compartmentalized, with no oversight from Congress. Civilians are routinely killed in much higher numbers than the intended target, or the target is missed completely. A tip comes in from some informer, and the order is given to take out the enemy. Who makes these decisions? What controls are there? No one really knows. The results are largely hidden from public view by a complacent media, but they aren’t hidden from the victims on the ground. Still, those places are far away and of little concern to the American public, except that we’re told they breed terrorists. There is no moral outrage, none, at our death squads and robot planes. No one questions the right of America to behave in this way, defending its interests against the entire world.

History teaches that this is how empires fail. “What can’t go on forever, won’t.” Eventually, other nations or groups will claim the same privileges, and America’s dominator impulse will prove self-defeating. “The widening gyre…the center cannot hold” —that is where we are now. For America, it may be too late to turn back, because the mentality of assumed privilege is deeply rooted. What sickens me is that Obama was elected in large part because he promised a more humane and moderated view of global affairs. He still claims to be guided by the limits of American power, an awareness of what America can’t do. But he is using his logical gifts to defend American exceptionalism. This is an inherently irrational concept, which can’t be squared with the interests of humanity as a whole. Attempting to use reason to defend unreason leads to moral bankruptcy. America is no longer the force for good it perhaps once was, it is a military dynamo and spreader of chaos. Subtle reasoning won’t change that. Only repentance can change that, and America shows no signs of repenting anytime soon.


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