A crucial element in the worldview of American radicals is the belief in American omnipotence – the ability of America’s leaders to control the circumstances of their international policies without regard to the interests of allies or the threats of adversary powers or the constraints imposed by domestic political forces. Radicals never see America as reacting to a threat that cannot either be subdued or ignored, or to a set of circumstances whose outcome it cannot determine. A typical expression of this assumption is a statement made by James Weinstein in his recent book The Long Detour, about the re-emergence of the American left. A Communist in the 1940s, a founder of the New Left in the 1960s and of the socialist newspaper In These Times, and an advocate of the idea that socialists should work within the Democratic Party to achieve their ends. In his book, which was published two years after 9/11, Weinstein wrote: “The realistic military threat to the United States from any other nation, of course, is near zero.”
A corollary of the view that America is the master of world events is the idea that America has no worthy enemies, only rebellious subjects. America’s perceived adversaries are actually only reacting to America’s own aggressions. In an interview on March 31, as U.S. troops entered Iraq, Noam Chomsky posed a rhetorical question to himself, “Has Saddam ever posed a threat to the US?” and answered it: “The idea verges on absurdity.” Three months before the Iraq war, Daniel Ellsberg, leaker of the Pentagon Papers on Vietnam and a protester against the impending conflict had been asked: “What threat does Iraq now pose or could pose in the future to essential US objectives in the Middle East or globally?” Ellsberg’s answer: “No threat at all, so long as Saddam is not faced with overthrow or death by attack or invasion.” In other words, Iraq posed no dangers to American security that America itself did not provoke. This is the perfectly circular and self-validating logic of the anti-American cause.
Even a backward and impoverished nation like Afghanistan under the Taliban had shown it could pose a serious threat to American security through its support for terrorists. Estimates of the economic damage caused by 9/11 range as high as $600 billion; whole industries, airlines and travel in particular, were threatened with bankruptcy. If 9/11 had been followed by similar terrorist attacks in the United States and Europe, the possibility of global economic instability with attendant civil and political disruption was a real and daunting prospect.
The assumption of America’s omnipotence, unanchored in fact, is a function of the religious element in the radical worldview. It is, for example, as evident in the left’s understanding of the Cold War with the Soviet bloc as it is in the war with Iraq. A favored reference of activists opposed to the Iraq war is the book, Rogue State by William Blum, a former State Department employee and a featured speaker at university “teach-ins” against the war on terror after 9/11.
The “rogue state” in Blum’s title, as in his campus presentations, is the United States. The book itself is subtitled, “A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower,” and comes with encomiums from authors as disparate as Gore Vidal and Noam Chomsky on the one hand, and Thomas Powers and former New York Times bureau chief AJ. Langguth on the other. This is the way Blum opens his text: “This book could be entitled Serial Chainsaw Baby Killers and the Women Who Love Them.” In the author’s view the chainsaw baby killers are American officials and their agents and the women who love them are supporters of American foreign policy.
In fairness to Powers and Languth, their praise for Blum was based on a volume published prior to Rogue State called Killing Hope: US Military And CIA Interventions Since World War II. But while the tone of this book is more dispassionate, the irrational animus towards the United States remains the same. Blum begins his introduction to the 1995 edition of Killing Hope with these words: “In 1993, I came across a review of a book about people who deny that the Nazi Holocaust actually occurred. I wrote to the author, a university professor, telling her that her book made me wonder whether she knew that an American holocaust had taken place, and that the denial of it put the denial of the Nazi one to shame…. Yet, a few million people have died in the American holocaust and many more millions have been condemned to lives of misery and torture as a result of U.S. interventions extending from China and Greece in the 1940s to Afghanistan and Iraq in the 1990s.” In other words, America is worse than Nazi Germany.
— Unholy Alliance
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