Written February 2014
With the civil war in Syria overflowing with accounts of horrific violence, the world has repeatedly asked President Obama what he plans to do about it. Last September America threatened to intervene militarily when Bashar Al Assad crossed the imaginary red line drawn by the U.S. on chemical weapons. Obama argued, “when … we can stop children from being gassed to death and thereby make our own children safer in the long run, I believe we should act. That’s what makes America different. That’s what makes us exceptional.”1 Soon after, television screens across the country were covered with photos of nameless Syrian children without limbs, accompanied by the telephone numbers of government-run charity organizations accepting monetary donations on their behalf.
Since the onset of World War II, similar tales could be recounted for many different countries and continents across the globe: it was benevolent America’s duty to save Western Europe during the second world war, and it was again America’s duty to save Africa from Kony in 2012. The United States has accepted the privilege and the burden of being exceptional and has used this exceptionality to dominate the globe.
Therein lies the magic of American hegemony. On the one hand lies the façade of America as a beacon—the unattainable identity that must be shared with the world; on the other hand comes the reality of its military superiority and imperialism. America claims to be the source of all things good—democracy, Christianity, and Michael Jackson—and in a world at risk of being drowned in the evils of socialism and female oppression, who else has the proper qualifications to save the world?
Forrestral, a policy-maker of the Truman Administration, described the strategy of American preponderance of power: “As long as we can outproduce the world, can control the sea and can strike inland with the atomic bomb, we can assume certain risks otherwise unacceptable in an effort to restore world trade, to restore the balance of power—military power—and to eliminate some of the conditions which breed war.”2 Since these telling words were published, America has increased its defense expenditure above all other countries; it has become the biggest nuclear power in the world; it has the most powerful military on land, air, and sea on the globe; and it has become the top provider of military equipment in the industry.
Thus the United States has developed a subliminal war mentality that has been sustained throughout the changing Administrations. Its military dominance has forced the weaker nations around the globe into submission while simultaneously offering its soft hands for protection. “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things” (Isaiah 45:7 KJV).
1 Barack H. Obama, “Full transcript of President Obama’s remarks on Syria,” NBC News (September 10, 2013), http://www.nbcnews.com/politics/politics-news/full-transcript-president-obamas-remarks-syria-v20427421
2 Found on pg.43 of Perry Anderson’s “Imperium,” cited there as the following: “Letter to Chandler Gurney, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, 8 December 1947: Walter Millis, ed., The Forrestal Diaries, New York 1951, p. 336.”