Monday, August 23, 2010

Super Duper

Lest anyone forget, the United States is a superpower. “Superpower” is a term coined by a strategy wonk named Nicholas Spykman in 1943, and then picked up by every think tank parasite since then. It might seem odd at first that the Marvel comic book perspective would take on such geopolitical gravitas, but when you look more closely you notice that United States foreign policy since the end of World War II has closely resembled the power fantasies of an adolescent weakling.

When politicians and their media toadies talk about how they love America, they’re not thinking about the Constitution or John Adams or any of that crap. To them, America is big battleships and jet fighters, pounding the rest of the world into dust. It’s also oil rigs and luxurious mansions and piles of money. And for the people, the luckiest people in the goddamn world, it means strip malls and TV and a McDonald’s at every exit. But above all this looms the superpower, the bald eagle, Captain America, the indispensable busybody who keeps the world from spinning off its axis by exporting freedom in the form of aid, especially guns—lots and lots of guns.

Most of us were raised with the superpower belief drummed into us. It was the status quo. It was just assumed that if the United States didn’t take a “leadership” role in the world, unimaginable chaos would ensue. There was always the Soviet Union and China to keep us on our toes. Curiously, the end of the Cold War did not inspire the Captain to take off his star-spangled suit and retire to private life. No, sir. Now we were the only superpower left standing, and the neoconservatives believed that this was the moment when America could be king of the world. We could reshape the Middle East in our image. All we needed was a terrorist bogeyman, and off we went. Operation Iraqi Freedom!

That turned out to be Operation Destroy an Entire Country, but has that made our leaders question the superpower ethos? Not at all, for we still need to win in Afghanistan. Iran, of course, is always a threat. And don’t forget to staunchly support Israel no matter what crazy things it does.

I suppose this might be some kind of a thrill ride for a small portion of the ruling class. But for the rest of us, superpower status hasn’t been that great. With most of our money being soaked up by the military or the spook agencies, squandered in foreign adventures, and looted by our duly elected criminals for their private gain, there’s not much left for us, our schools, our hospitals, our roads, our cities, or our homes. Some of us are beginning to think it would be nice to live in just a normal country rather than a superpower—a country that wasn’t in charge of everything, just there to help its actual population seek life, liberty, and happiness.

However, there are a lot of us who still think that the world will collapse if we don’t have military bases in every corner of the globe. There are a lot of us who won’t love their country any more unless it acts like an overweight bully with a trigger finger like them. There a lot of us still addicted to comic books featuring fights between pure good and pure evil, and dialogue featuring words like “Pow!” and “Splat!”

I don’t know what it will take for Americans to get tired of all this supercrap that impoverishes us, makes us stupid, and leaves the field of government vacant for the most vicious among us to rule. The irony is that if we pulled out of the Middle East, got rid of our military bases, and concentrated on our own welfare, and used what strength we had to set an example of peace, the world would not fall apart. It might even flourish.