Whole Brain Catalog

America's Identity Crisis

Coming to terms with imperial decline.
America's Identity Crisis

In the aftermath of the trauma suffered by the American psyche on 9/11, the United States lashed out blindly and irrationally in fear and anger, deploying its military to the corners of the world and weakening itself in the process. Now, over eight years later, with the economy in shambles and the military overstretched, the sun is setting on the American empire and experts say it’s time for the US public to accept their country’s declining prowess, pressure their government to reduce its global military footprint and prepare for a looming national identity crisis.

Political psychologists believe that the shock and horror of the 9/11 attacks damaged the collective American consciousness, causing the country to stumble forward with a misguided and self-destructive foreign policy intended to destroy an exaggerated enemy.

Dr. Deborah Larson, a political psychologist at UCLA, explains, “9/11 removed a sense of invulnerability that Americans had felt, and fear sprang from the uncertainty. We overreacted and tried to gain control of the world to eliminate even a small probability of being attacked. It was totally irrational.”

Dr. Richard Hermann, Director of the Mershon Center for International Security Studies at Ohio State University, says, “A weird combination of fear, panic, anger and crude patriotism made us obsessed with an exaggerated threat. The administration’s leadership watched this with excitement and believed it was their chance to shape the world.”

Though the United States has maintained a massive military presence around the world since the end of World War II, the reach of US forces expanded quickly after 9/11. Besides the huge undertakings in Iraq and Afghanistan, the military also established US Africa Command, expanded its presence in Latin America, began launching constant drone attacks in Pakistan, recently approved the sale of over 13 billion dollars in arms to Taiwan and is currently setting up missile defense systems in Romania, Poland, the Czech Republic, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait among other countries.

With upwards of 800 bases in 120 countries, the United States continues to spend almost as much on its military as the rest of the world combined at a time when the economy is plummeting and many Americans are struggling.

Wayne Madsen, an investigative journalist and former Navy intelligence officer, believes that military overreach is eroding American power rather than projecting it: “The extension of US influence abroad is unsustainable and unaffordable and it weakens us politically, militarily and financially. We’re trying to be the Roman Empire and we’re going the way of them.”

Dr. Hermann worries that the money spent on military engagements will hurt America’s competitiveness in the future: “We’re spending 100 billion a year in Iraq alone. You could take the top 20 universities in America and fund them, make them free for everybody every year we’ve been there. It’s a terrible opportunity cost that we’ve paid.”

A psychological shift is underway in the United States as the evidence mounts and there is growing public awareness of the detrimental costs of maintaining such a large military. Dr. Hermann explains that a public suffering through the recession is more concerned about its financial well-being than its physical safety: “If you’re unemployed and you’re getting foreclosed on, you’re a lot less worried about al Qaeda.”

Nevertheless, political psychologists believe that guilt keeps the average person from speaking out against the economic effects of imperial overreach. “Only a small fraction of the public is willing to serve in the military and I think the rest of the people feel guilty that they aren’t enlisted and essentially get a free pass. They might not like it but they feel if they have to pay tax dollars its okay,” explains Dr. Hermann.

It is perhaps ironic that the American public still fears terrorism despite being bled dry maintaining the strongest military in human history. “It’s absolutely ridiculous,” says Madsen, “These are ragtag people living in caves.” Hermann is frustrated by the contradiction in military spending and the threat faced: “There is a big disconnect here. There is huge spending on the military but at the same time an understanding that the military can’t protect us against the most likely attacks.”

Guardian columnist and London School of Economics professor Martin Jacques is an expert on the rise of China. He feels that many Americans hold on to delusions of grandeur to keep their pride afloat, denying the reality of waning US power.

“The decline of American power will entail the progressive reduction of American overseas military commitments,” he says. “But a nation in decline finds it extremely difficult to let go. It’s a reluctant process and a form of retreat.”

Jacques watched his own country go through the painful ordeal. “Britain was very reluctant to let go, not just the political elite but also the people. They lived an imperial role and didn’t like losing it. It gave them status, it gave them power and the knowledge that it was our role and responsibility in the world.”

“The military enjoys a very privileged position in the American mind, and the same experience will be had in the United States.”

Military superiority is very closely tied to the American identity and many believe that continued public support for imperial overreach stems from a desire to maintain prestige rather than from pragmatic security concerns.

“It’s very disorienting to lose your national identity. Part of being an American means knowing that you are part of the most powerful military state,” explains Dr. Larson, “If the US were to withdraw from various parts of the world, people would fear that we were declining and were no longer a hegemon. We would lose a lot of our national pride and prestige.”

It is time for the US public to accept that the military cannot maintain a global monopoly on violence and that rather than protecting and enriching them, imperial endeavors invariably become costly, never-ending counterinsurgency campaigns against dedicated, dug-in enemies.

In order for the American psyche to forge a new identity in the face of shifting realities, the US public must demand the change that their president promised, must urge leaders to scale back overseas military commitments, focus on education, technology and innovation and embrace a global leadership role rooted in soft power and diplomacy.

–Blake Sifton

34 comments on the article “America's Identity Crisis”

Displaying 11 - 20 of 34

Page 2 of 4

Anonymous

The overreaction was there, but it was hyperinflated, exacerbated, and baited by Bush administration lies and exaggeration and obfuscation. THEN, the media constantly megaphoned the otherwise limited mania to an absurd degree, giving the impression that "the American people" insisted we invade someplace immediately and not stop until all the terrorists were dead and we could sleep in our safe American beds again without duct tape over our noses.

You could tell from the mammoth protest marches before the Iraq War, with many millions in the streets across the country (and more around the world), that the truly crazed paranoid Americans may have been large in number, but that there were at least an equal or greater number of Americans who had seen this absurd drama before, or intuited that it was propaganda, and were not having any part of it. We just didn't have our sane view reflected on TV or other news media. In fact, the corporate media pretty much banned any countervailing views, and the few views they allowed on the air were outnumbered and attacked. It was a staged show, and it made you feel crazy if you didn't agree with it.

Just because the media is screaming fire in a crowded country doesn't mean the country's on fire. The country at large was shocked and nervous for sure, but it was definitely not some monolithic wall of warmongering in the country itself. Honest sane leadership would have reflected that view instead of stirred the crazy warmongering pot like the Bushies did.

When we pay attention to our reasoning and what's in our own hearts (and to each other), the cacophony of the propagandists and the propagandized can be seen for what it is - a staged drama meant to convey what you became convinced of.

Anonymous

The overreaction was there, but it was hyperinflated, exacerbated, and baited by Bush administration lies and exaggeration and obfuscation. THEN, the media constantly megaphoned the otherwise limited mania to an absurd degree, giving the impression that "the American people" insisted we invade someplace immediately and not stop until all the terrorists were dead and we could sleep in our safe American beds again without duct tape over our noses.

You could tell from the mammoth protest marches before the Iraq War, with many millions in the streets across the country (and more around the world), that the truly crazed paranoid Americans may have been large in number, but that there were at least an equal or greater number of Americans who had seen this absurd drama before, or intuited that it was propaganda, and were not having any part of it. We just didn't have our sane view reflected on TV or other news media. In fact, the corporate media pretty much banned any countervailing views, and the few views they allowed on the air were outnumbered and attacked. It was a staged show, and it made you feel crazy if you didn't agree with it.

Just because the media is screaming fire in a crowded country doesn't mean the country's on fire. The country at large was shocked and nervous for sure, but it was definitely not some monolithic wall of warmongering in the country itself. Honest sane leadership would have reflected that view instead of stirred the crazy warmongering pot like the Bushies did.

When we pay attention to our reasoning and what's in our own hearts (and to each other), the cacophony of the propagandists and the propagandized can be seen for what it is - a staged drama meant to convey what you became convinced of.

Scott T.

This article touched upon a great many points that cannot be ignored for much longer.

When I see the history of American foreign policy & the ridiculous meddling in other lands under the guise of bringing "Democracy" & "The American Dream" to their peoples, I think of my poor father who worked his ass off in a dirty mill for 36 years before they moved it to Canada because it was cheaper to operate there.

I think of how he suffered & died from being exposed to harmful toxins that his employers willingly knew were unhealthy and lied to everyone about it while they made millions in profits.

I think of the shitty ass hospital system that didn't have enough nurses working to have helped him go to the bathroom & not shit himself in bed.

I think of him dead in the ground for nearly 2 years & ask myself "What was his American Dream?"

Our government doesn't give a rat's ass about "democracy" in our own country let alone all these foreign lands.

It's all about monied interests. That's who will benefit.

The "dream" is just something to shovel to keep the rest sleeping through the charade.

Scott T.

This article touched upon a great many points that cannot be ignored for much longer.

When I see the history of American foreign policy & the ridiculous meddling in other lands under the guise of bringing "Democracy" & "The American Dream" to their peoples, I think of my poor father who worked his ass off in a dirty mill for 36 years before they moved it to Canada because it was cheaper to operate there.

I think of how he suffered & died from being exposed to harmful toxins that his employers willingly knew were unhealthy and lied to everyone about it while they made millions in profits.

I think of the shitty ass hospital system that didn't have enough nurses working to have helped him go to the bathroom & not shit himself in bed.

I think of him dead in the ground for nearly 2 years & ask myself "What was his American Dream?"

Our government doesn't give a rat's ass about "democracy" in our own country let alone all these foreign lands.

It's all about monied interests. That's who will benefit.

The "dream" is just something to shovel to keep the rest sleeping through the charade.

Anonymous

Agree with you completely. Good people suffer, ail, and die needlessly at home, so that the U.S. can go abroad and make people suffer, ail, and die needlessly elsewhere. It's just crazy and cruel, so much so that it seems at some level that must be the goal, or at least the cost of "doing business".

Really sorry for your dad and family's suffering.

Anonymous

Agree with you completely. Good people suffer, ail, and die needlessly at home, so that the U.S. can go abroad and make people suffer, ail, and die needlessly elsewhere. It's just crazy and cruel, so much so that it seems at some level that must be the goal, or at least the cost of "doing business".

Really sorry for your dad and family's suffering.

Anonymous

And the Democrap Party has borrowed more money then the entire spending of all other countries on planet Earth COMBINED -- yet outside of the government jobs (with their benefits and retirement plans 3 times the civilian workers) growth -- jobs or wealth is not being created because the government does not create jobs, it creates the regulations, spending patterns, and taxes that allow businesses to invest or grow -- or fail.

Without cheap energy, the status of all poor would only grow worse, not better, in fact all the benefits of choices in competition are largely possible to cheap energy being able to produce the manufactoring environment that allows choice in the first place.

While there appears to be some resentment against military spending, nothing in the article addresses the real threat that military spending addresses -- and the response to 9/11 was neither blind, or a stretch of the US power base.

North Korea and Iran still pose significant international threats, and China still practices population control measures, jailing dissidents, and other "human rights" issues that have no relation to tresspassing the borders of another country.

The Democrap party has also adopted a new media empire based on the promotion of racism, which of course is doing nothing to disguise their blatant failures. Did we mention the fact that Chavez and South American citizens are investing in arms, rather than higher math education?

This empty rhetoric of the article is clearly just another brick in the wall of false utopian socialist agendas where they never have a plan for anything, everything is a crisis, and either invent excuses or blame others for their clear imcompetence?

But of course, hard recreational drug use and smoking Marijuana destroy the brain's higher math functions, so that instead of pursuing a career in engineering, they right stupid essays on blogs that only demonstrate that they have been robbed by the educational system that they probably owe small fortunes to?

Perhaps capitalism is not the problem, but the university system who ignores the basic fact that half the rent money paid by poor people goes towards high school educations that they largely drop out of, because they don't want to violate the privacy of students who abuse drugs, and get lost in an apathetic system?

Oh, and we forgot about the environmental nutcakes who will rant and rave about the WTO, but say nothing to big tobacco?

Whatever, this generation ain't nothing but a bunch of lazy, spoiled brats, who don't study history, and are bound to repeat the misery of their great grand parents, who were also lazy and gullible?

Anonymous

And the Democrap Party has borrowed more money then the entire spending of all other countries on planet Earth COMBINED -- yet outside of the government jobs (with their benefits and retirement plans 3 times the civilian workers) growth -- jobs or wealth is not being created because the government does not create jobs, it creates the regulations, spending patterns, and taxes that allow businesses to invest or grow -- or fail.

Without cheap energy, the status of all poor would only grow worse, not better, in fact all the benefits of choices in competition are largely possible to cheap energy being able to produce the manufactoring environment that allows choice in the first place.

While there appears to be some resentment against military spending, nothing in the article addresses the real threat that military spending addresses -- and the response to 9/11 was neither blind, or a stretch of the US power base.

North Korea and Iran still pose significant international threats, and China still practices population control measures, jailing dissidents, and other "human rights" issues that have no relation to tresspassing the borders of another country.

The Democrap party has also adopted a new media empire based on the promotion of racism, which of course is doing nothing to disguise their blatant failures. Did we mention the fact that Chavez and South American citizens are investing in arms, rather than higher math education?

This empty rhetoric of the article is clearly just another brick in the wall of false utopian socialist agendas where they never have a plan for anything, everything is a crisis, and either invent excuses or blame others for their clear imcompetence?

But of course, hard recreational drug use and smoking Marijuana destroy the brain's higher math functions, so that instead of pursuing a career in engineering, they right stupid essays on blogs that only demonstrate that they have been robbed by the educational system that they probably owe small fortunes to?

Perhaps capitalism is not the problem, but the university system who ignores the basic fact that half the rent money paid by poor people goes towards high school educations that they largely drop out of, because they don't want to violate the privacy of students who abuse drugs, and get lost in an apathetic system?

Oh, and we forgot about the environmental nutcakes who will rant and rave about the WTO, but say nothing to big tobacco?

Whatever, this generation ain't nothing but a bunch of lazy, spoiled brats, who don't study history, and are bound to repeat the misery of their great grand parents, who were also lazy and gullible?

Pages

Add a new comment

Comments are closed.