Fading prowess is one of the most difficult things for humans to cope with – whether it be an individual or a nation.  By nature, we prize our strength and competence; we dread decline and its intimations of extinction. This is especially so in the United States where for many the individual and the collective are inseparable. Today, events are occurring that contradict the national narrative of a nation with a unique destiny. That creates cognitive dissonance.


Our thoughts and actions in response to that deeply unsettling reality conform to the classic behavioral pattern of those suffering from acute cognitive dissonance. Denial is its cardinal feature.  That is to say, denial of those things that cause stress and anxiety. Sublimation methods of various kinds are deployed to keep them below the threshold of conscious awareness. We all do that, to some degree, on a personal level. Collectivities can do it as well. In the latter case, the mechanisms are more numerous and diverse. Even truths that touch on the essence of the collectivity personality can be sublimated because normally they are not experienced immediately and directly by the individual. We are speaking of military actions, abusive state behavior like the conduct of torture, diplomatic deals that are permissive of unsavory actions by others, or studied misrepresentations by government and media which hide unpleasant truths from the populace. At a more abstract level, we repress or minimize perceptions of us by other peoples, relative well-being compared to other societies (medical care, maternity leave, pensions), or national competence as demonstrated by accomplishment in comparison with other societies (constructing mass transportation systems).


The crudest denial mechanism is literal avoidance. If you don’t travel abroad, you don’t see; or you don’t observe when you do travel abroad. You don’t inform yourself about any of the above mentioned matters by abstaining from following the news; by reading only reassuring reports and talking only to equally ignorant/sublimating people; by excluding all contradictory sources as ‘alien” or “subversive;” by declaring the world as too complex to decipher; by appraising serious issues of national policy as “above my pay grade” while ignoring the core democratic precept that as the citizen of a republic, nothing is above your pay grade.


Avoidance is greatly facilitated by the strategies of those who aim to keep your attention off of troubling matters. Suppression of disturbing or negative news (imposed or voluntary); dissimulating public officials; the sowing of fear that critical debate will be harmful; and the fostering of narratives that either render everything in anodyne terms or cast reality in an unnaturally rosy light. Thus, most Americans’ conception of their government’s actions in the Global War On Terror is composed of what they take from films such as American Sniper and Zero Dark Thirty, TV programs such as Homeland, and similarly confected “news” stories.


Another avoidance mechanism is to stress systematically those features of other nations, or situations, that conform to the requirements of the American national narrative while neglecting or downplaying opposite features. Currently, we are witnessing the unfolding of an almost clinical example in the treatment of China. The emergence of the PRC as a great power with the potential to surpass or eclipse the United States poses a direct threat to the foundation myth of American superiority and exceptionalism. The very existence of that threat is emotionally difficult to come to terms with.  Psychologically, the most simple way to cope is to define it out of existence – to deny it. One would think that doing so is anything but easy. After all, China’s economy has been growing at double digit rates for almost 30 years. The concrete evidence of its stunning achievements is visible to the naked eye.


Necessity, though, is the mother of invention. Our compelling emotional need at the moment is to have China’s strength and implicit threat subjectively diminished. So what we see is a rather extraordinary campaign to highlight everything that is wrong with China, to exaggerate those weaknesses, to project them into the future, and – thereby – to reassure ourselves. Coverage of Chinese affairs by the United States’ newspaper of record, The New York Times, has taken a leading role in this project. For the past year or two, we have been treated to an endless series of stories focusing on what’s wrong with China. Seemingly nothing is too inconsequential to escape front page, lengthy coverage.


We read of new satellite cities that remain largely uninhabited due to faulty demographic assessments, of jaded consumers who are turning away from luxury products, or a widespread epidemic of stress among children exposed to the rigors of a Confucian style testing regime, of rural communities losing their sense of  solidarity and common identity as people move to the cities and the stay-at-homes spend hours watching newly acquired televisions, of the uprooting of Beijing’s traditional narrow lanes and houses squeezed out by real estate development. Of course, there is voluminous coverage of the much publicized corruption scandals – indeed, coverage that exceeds what the papers devote to recurrent financial scandals in the U.S. These latter are treated as a sign that the regime itself may be endangered. So, too, the recent turn toward a crackdown on political dissidents is presented as an omen of underlying contradictions in the Chinese system that jeopardizes the viability of national institutions. “Can China’s hybrid autocratic Communism survive?” is a theme that crops up repeatedly and frequently – either boldly stated or sotto voce.


The current signs of economic weakness and financial fragility have generated a spate of dire commentary that China’s great era of growth may be grinding to a halt – not to be restarted until its leaders have seen the error of their ways and taken the path marked out by America and other Western capitalist countries. Editorials go so far as to lambast Beijing for failing to meet in its responsibilities to the global economy as a whole by being so obtuse in its economic management. These judgments are passed without reference to an eight year world slowdown produced by the recklessness of American authorities in creating conditions that led to the financial collapse of 2008; without reference to the lethargic performance of the American economy whose growth rate barely exceeds population increase (and which in Europe and Japan rates than have left GDP still below the 2008 level); without reference to the Chinese leaders’ skillful following of Keynesian logic that maintained robust growth rates; and the exceptional benefits that the United States enjoys from having the dollar accepted as an international reserve and transaction currency – something that allows in the run massive trade deficits without resorting to harsh austerity medicine as does every other country. As    Richard    Fischer, who recently stepped down as President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, pointedly has noted: turbulence in the world’s financial markets should be traced to Washington; “it is not China” – yet, everyone else relishes blaming China,


This latest upwelling of China-bashing could well serve as a clinical exhibit of avoidance behavior. For it goes beyond sublimation and simple denial. It also reveals the extreme vulnerability of the American psyche to the perceived China “threat,” and the compelling psychological need to neutralize it – if only by verbal denigration. There is not the smallest sign of inhibition about ignoring the weaknesses and failings of the American experience according to the criteria so rigorously applied to China. Implicitly, the point of comparative reference is some idealized standard derived from no historical record – much less present realities in the United States. Indeed, if we are to speak of feckless economic policies with deleterious effects on the world economy, it is those of the United States and its partners that stand out in bold relief. Here, we may be seeing a classical example of “projection” behavior.


The “demean China” project is becoming cartoonish. The NYT capped a week of daily stories on the theme of “it’s all over for the Chinese economy” with a splashy story, “China’s Factories Fading” illustrated by a Detroit-like photo of abandoned steel mills. Doubtless, we’ll soon be treated to graphic images of coolies pulling rickshaws. What’s happening is simple: the creators of propaganda begin to assimilate their own fabrications and editors come to believe that the audience is so fully indoctrinated that subtlety can be dispensed with.


There is a similar pattern of denial in the systematic disparagement of Russia’s intervention In Syria – by official Washington, by the media and by the commentariat. The remarkably effective air campaign, coupled with the Russian coordinated ground campaign, has transformed the situation both militarily and politically. Yet, one would hardly notice that salient truth by limiting oneself to American sources. There has been a virtual blackout about those accomplishments. Instead, we are submitted to a steady drumbeat of criticism that Russia has not concentrated on ISIL (as if al Qaeda were now a “good guy” and as if Moscow has not taken the initiative in striking at its critical oil commerce in collaboration with Turkey which for a year American forces studiously have avoided). Dubious claims are made daily about civilian casualties from Russian air strikes (without reference to the tens of thousands killed by the US in its military interventions in the region – included its full backing of Saudi Arabia’s homicidal assault on Yemen). Putin’s diplomatic efforts are derided although they are more realistic and promising than anything the Obama people have undertaken. And Washington spokesmen trip over themselves to make insulting remarks about Putin personally.


This type of avoidance behavior smacks of wishing thinking. That is most evident in the repeated forecasts by American officials and pundits that Putin will be unable to sustain his intervention in Saudi because of the negative political fall-out domestically. They affirm with confidence that Russia’s wobbly economy, weakened by sanctions and the drop in oil prices, will suffer from the outlays for military engagement in Syria with intolerable consequences for Russians’ standards of living. The expected outcry of protest would be aggravated by the spectacle of coffins arriving from the battlefront a la Afghanistan. So we are told by Samantha Powers at the U.N., Deputy National Security Adviser (and failed novelist) Ben Rhodes, and numerous others. Scenarios of this sort, of course, have no grounding in reality. Facilitated by the ignorance of even senior policy-makers about Russia and Putin, they do serve the purpose of postponing the moment of reckoning with uncongenial realities. “The sky is falling” motif applied to Moscow as with Beijing is immature, irresponsible – and ultimately costly. But those in high office who habitually resort to avoidance devices are indeed immature.


Taken together, these reactions to Putin’s move into Syria form a pattern of behavior reflecting insecurity and anxiety about the appearance of an unexpected rival. That party’s display of military capabilities thought to be an exclusive American asset, in particular, undercuts the air of superiority so central to the nation’s self-image and prowess.


An ancillary trait exhibited in avoidance behavior is to define problems in ways that are intellectually and emotionally convenient. The Russia-in-Syria situation provides one example. A level-headed interpretation would focus on these elements: the failure of Washington to prevent violent jihadist groups from exploiting the rebellion against Assad to advance their own program hostile to the United States; the absence of a countervailing force ideologically acceptable to us; the threat posed to Russia by the expansion of terrorist groups that have Russian affiliates and that have recruited large numbers of fighters from Chechnya and elsewhere; and the opportunity that Putin has opened to find a resolution that squares the circle of our opposing both Assad and the Salafists. That attitude, though, would entail an agonizing reappraisal of the foundation stones of American policy set in place over the past five years. It also would require modifying the prevailing view of Russia as an intrinsically aggressive state challenging the West from Ukraine to the Middle East, and Putin as a thug. Finally, it would mean facing down Republican leaders and the neo-conservative/R2P alliance that agitates fiercely for escalating a confrontation with Moscow. The Obama White House recoils at the very thought of this last but promotes the narrative.


So instead of a sensible, realistic assessment we get hostile rhetoric, denigration of the Russian effort, and the indulgence of dreamy scenarios dissociated from anything actually happening in the real world.  This is married to a problem definition that emphasizes: Russia’s alleged nefarious intentions; its interest in seeking military bases in the Eastern Mediterranean; and its dedication to foiling the American design for its global hegemony, The last point is correct; however, adherence to so unrealistic a goal in the presence of overwhelming evidence that it is unrealizable – and that its pursuit is counter-productive -  avoids the need to come to terms with the question of how to engage with Russia.


To return to China, the same tendency to respond to the rise of a new power by instinctively reducing the challenge to a conveniently one-dimensional one is manifest in the Obama administration stress on the military aspect. It increasingly concentrates on the expansion of China’s military forces – especially its navy, the steps that Beijing has taken in the dispute over islands in the South China Sea, and the tensions generated by a similar dispute with Japan. These issues are genuine, but they are being played up out of all proportion to their intrinsic significance in shaping the long term Sino-American relationship. China undoubtedly aims to become the dominant power in East Asia while exerting more and more influence world-wide. It is not in the business of military conquest, though. Historically, it never has been. The goal has been to extract deference from rather than to rule other peoples. That is exactly what it now is doing, in Asia as well as in other regions, through the use of its economic strength and vast financial reserves.


The American response is been to replace a calibrated, well-balanced strategy with one that increasingly gives precedence to containment. Thus, we see Washington forging an array of alliances with other countries in Asia, and establishing new bases, in tacit emulation of SEATO in the 1950s when the enemy to be contained was the Sino-Soviet bloc. We have gone so far as to ‘send a message” by deploying a Marine brigade on the North Coast of Australia whose practical value is nil. These steps might make some sense in the light of anxieties felt in regional capitals were they simply secondary elements in a sophisticated long-term strategy designed to fashion a viable relationship with China. They increasingly, though, look like stand-alone measures that accord with a security focused view of the challenge.


Probably the most extreme example of this propensity is Obama’s decision to budget $1 trillion to develop and deploy a new generation of nuclear weapons. Mainly of small caliber designed to be delivered as precision guided munitions, their only potential value is as first-strike weapons against non-nuclear countries. They would add nothing to the deterrent effect of the American nuclear arsenal – assuming that there is anyone to deter; to could encourage commanders to press for their use in circumstances of convention war; they could tempt use to destroy the nuclear facilities of states suspected of harboring nuclear ambitions; and they contradict the President’s early proclamation of his dedication to reducing nuclear arsenals. Above all, their very existence contravenes the principle of no-first use that has been a stabilizing factor in great power nuclear relations for the past 40 + years – thereby, increasing the chances that the world will witness the employment of nuclear weapons for the first time since Hiroshima and Nagasaki.


What this represents is not cool strategic judgment. It is the national equivalent of ostentatious iron-pumping by body-builders worried about declining prowess. Those worries never disappear, though, even as the muscle-bound strive ever more energetically to reassure themselves. More important, they fool themselves into the false belief that other, more relevant adjustments to reality are unnecessary.


At the psychological level, this approach is understandable since it plays to the United States’ strength – thereby perpetuating the national myths of being destined to remain the world’s No. 1 forever, and of being in a position to shape the world system according to American principles and interests. President Obama declaimed: “Let me tell you something.  The United States of America is the most powerful nation on Earth.  Period.  It’s not even close. Period.  It’s not even close.  It’s not even close!”  So?  Is this meant as a revelation? What is the message? To whom?  Is it any different than someone shouting ; “ALLAH AKBAR!” Words that are neither a prelude to action nor inspire others to act – nor even impart information – are just puffs of wind.  As such, they are yet another avoidance device.


Avoidance is easier than resolution. Its mechanisms are devices for pushing away discomforting, complex realities.
Reiteration plays an important role in this strategy for coping with cognitive dissonance. Constant reaffirmation of presumed verities serves as the recitation of a liturgy. We thereby reassure ourselves that nothing basic has changed. Cherished notions of who we are, of what we are capable, of our primordial virtue, of our exceptionalism are preserved. In the United States nowadays the examples of a compulsive reiteration of the American creed are profuse.


There is the obligatory Stars & Stripes lapel pin. There are the outsized flags that proclaim Old Glory wherever we look. There are the uber-patriotic pageants at sporting events. There are the endless declarations that America’s greatness still has its best days ahead of it. President Obama, in his State of the Union Address, confided that while composing it he felt the powerful conviction that there was more reason to be “optimistic” about America than ever before. That statement may express the spirit of these speeches which have become ritualized ceremonies for administering a dose of uplifting tonic. He might actually believe it.


That would be stunning against the backdrop of sharpened racial tensions, the takeover of the Republican Party by the angry and haters who detest him personally, of a world reaction to our degenerate presidential politics that alternates between dread and mockery, of rampant economic inequality undercutting standards of living, of unabated and unpunished financial criminality, of declining life expectancy, of floundering in the Middle East punctuated by the emergence of grave new terrorist threats – among other worries. Such stark incongruity suggests that what we are witnessing is not considered appraisal of the nation’s health or a calculated message intended to lift American spirits. For there is something compulsive about the exaggeration and overblown rhetoric. Rather, it is the emotional reaction to circumstances of a profound dissonance between the fundamental elements of the collective national self-image and reality.


We are close to a condition that approximates what the psychologists call “dissociation.”  It is marked by an inability to see and to accept reality as it is for deep seated emotional reasons. Those you are dissociating are not aware that they are sublimating on a systematic basis. “Dissociation is commonly displayed on a continuum.[5] In mild cases, dissociation can be regarded as a coping mechanism or defense mechanisms in seeking to master, minimize or tolerate stress – including conflict.[6][7][8]  Conflicts of purpose, conflict of aims, conflict of ideas, conflict between idealized reality and actual truth. Dissociation can involve dissociative disorders. Dissociative disorders are sometimes triggered by trauma (9/11?).


These alterations can include: a sense that self or the world is unreal (torture as official policy approved in the Oval Office; other countries surpass us; we are widely disliked; Russia has risen Phoenix-like from the ashes of the Cold War; Chinese claims of being superior and exceptional show signs of being grounded in reality. Derealization is one variant: a loss of memory (that we pledged to stay in Afghanistan until the Taliban were eliminated, and then that Obama declared it over); that the Iraqis would garland us; that we are responsible for killing tens of thousands; that there were no terrorists in Iraq when we overthrew Saddam). Or, a loss of logic: al-Qaeda is the Evil One/al-Qaeda in Syria is not the bad guy, only ISIL; ISIL is evil incarnate/we should not criticize those allies who provision and finance them because Turkey/Saudi Arabia are good guys; Russia is killing al-Qaeda and ISIL jihadis, but they are bad guys.


Depersonalization is another variant: I am completely disconnected from all of these actions and their consequences. Therefore, it makes no difference whether I remember any of this; whether I swallow the illogic that 5 – 2 = 8; that I’m all confused between virtual reality and what actually is. Anyway, it’s all above my pay grade. Where’s my flag – I’m going to watch the Olympics.


`                                               USA! USA! USA!

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109 Responses to AMERICA AT BAY – EVADING DESTINY by Dr. Michael Brenner

  1. Thank you very very much Dr. Brenner for this amazingly insightful post perhaps most recently documented by the Presidential debates–what I would characterize as AVOIDANCE e.g. foreign policy!

  2. Elanecu says:

    Thank you for this detailed and lucid exposition of the way we are; and where.

  3. Norbert M. Salamon says:

    Thank you for the excellent analysis of the present ailment of the Borg.

  4. 505thPIR says:

    Well put!
    Climate Change isn’t real, Creationism is just fine for public schools, Corporations are People and we can in one man, find the keys to Making America Great Again…Our official world-view and foreign policy are a reflection of our inner-selves folks.

  5. doug says:

    Well said! I’m from the business sector and nothing kills a business faster than first having the good fortune to be beating the hell out of your competitors. An organizational mindset entrenches that “we” are special. It’s an entitlement of sorts and sets one up for the fall. New competitors arise and are discounted (cognitive dissonance at work!). After some time reality sets in and the blaming occurs, usually by the more powerful against the less influential. “Lessons Learned,” should be a regular process in any endeavor but it’s hard to do, being human and all.

  6. Ex-PFC Chuck says:

    An awesomely penetrating piece of writing. Thank you!

  7. Old Microbiologist says:

    Kudos on this article. I look forward to your opinion as to where you think this kind of desperation is heading. To me it is reminiscent of the traditional model of a dying empire.

  8. SmoothieX12 says:

    Taken together, these reactions to Putin’s move into Syria form a pattern of behavior reflecting insecurity and anxiety about the appearance of an unexpected rival. That party’s display of military capabilities thought to be an exclusive American asset, in particular, undercuts the air of superiority so central to the nation’s self-image and prowess.
    Even today, technological dimension of strategy continues to dominate American military views. As Michael Howard noted:” We appear to be depending on the technological dimension of strategy to the detriment of its operational requirements, while we ignore its societal implications altogether”. As Jeremy Rifkin observed:”Technology became the new secular God and American society soon came to refashion its own sense of self in the image of its powerful new tools.” Airplane, historically, is one of such tools, that is how American views, often grossly distorted, on air power emerged.

  9. a reader says:

    exceptional post.
    Thank you so much for your insight and effort in sharing it in such a clear and straightforward way.

  10. FB Ali says:

    An excellent and timely analysis!

  11. cynic says:

    What is likely to happen when these aspects of reality become too obvious to deny? A swing to Isolationism? A collapse into third world conditions? Nuclear blackmail of the rest of the world? Jonestown style mass suicides? Decline into incoherent irrelevance, ignored by the serious part of the world?

  12. SmoothieX12 says:

    A swing to Isolationism?
    Late Samuel Huntington thought that US path is with Latin America. That is not exactly how I would envision America’s fate, but, as a man who lived (or, rather, survived) through the collapse of the Soviet Union, I would say: any US “collapse” should be avoided by all means. Soft “landing” must pursued at all reasonable costs. US, most likely, will retain the status of global player but multipolar world is emerging as I type this. I wouldn’t be THAT pessimistic on US account, but, reality, of course, will (if not already) leave some deep bite marks.

  13. Just Sayin' says:

    FWIW. You are the most insightful purveyor of what is and why that I’ve ever read. Sadly both Sanders and Clinton demonstrated the woeful opinions of the Borg (tip of the hat to our moderator) during their most recent Q&A session.

  14. Trey N says:

    One of the best analyses I have ever read, on this or any other site. Now I will have to research how extreme cases of denial/cognitive dissonance are eventually resolved: how does someone react when the much-dreaded reality finally overcomes their mind’s coping mechanism?
    I imagine the results aren’t pleasant….

  15. Jack says:

    I’m much more optimistic about the future of America.
    While Prof. Brenner describes well the current state, when one looks at anecdotal evidence like the exit polls from the recent primaries and top rated comments on Borgist aligned articles in the media you can see that the American people are slowly catching on that they are being hoodwinked.
    Despite the unprecedented and massive interventions by government in our economy; faith-based policies based on free lunch unicorn theories; outsized role of “utopian” academics and think-tanks and brazen corruption among our political and financial elite – there is a core resilience and ability to adjust much more dynamically to changing circumstances. IMO, the US economy when freed from the oligarchy who can only thrive through the use of state power will rebound quickly. I also believe that US foreign policy will follow then with a less interventionist stance. It may take a few generations but the current path of increasing interventions by government is not sustainable and when the pendelum starts swinging back the inherent dynamism of the US where the most creative and driven people from around the world want to pursue their dreams will shine.

  16. Jackrabbit says:

    We’ve been sold a bill of goods by a corrupt elite that we came to trust too much. OK. But I take issue with a few points:
    1) “… foundation myth of American superiority and exceptionalism.”
    “Exceptionalism” is the neocon code word FOR superiority. It is often coupled with the neocon code word for US hegemony: “indispensable nation”.
    As I noted on Richard Sales’ last post, exceptionalism is NOT a “foundation myth” – as in a myth dating from the foundation of USA. Neocons have tried to co-opt the historical recognition of American uniqueness so as to transform it into a sense of NATIONAL PURPOSE – which can be molded to achieve neocon goals.
    2) “the failure of Washington to prevent violent jihadist groups from exploiting the rebellion against Assad to advance their own program hostile to the United States”
    PREVENT??? Washington is complicit. Seymour Hersh described the USA-KSA-Israeli agreement to use extremists as a weapon in “The Redirection” (2007).
    And many have taken note of:
    1) ISIS leaders were held in US custody;
    2) the sudden rise and quick success of ISIS;
    3) the DIA report that our allies wanted see the creation of a Caliphate;
    4) the USA failure to stem the flow of money and other support for extremists;
    5) the failure of USA bombing (also: defense analysts claimed their intel was distorted);
    6) and more…
    Lets not compound the problem with a poor understanding of how we got to this point.

  17. Valissa says:

    Great evaluation of current Borg psychology Dr. Brennan, thanks!
    This sentence stood out to me and triggered a few thoughts…
    “The American response is been to replace a calibrated, well-balanced strategy with one that increasingly gives precedence to containment.”
    Instead of competing to be the best through accomplishments and earning the “title” of hegemon, the US is attempting to suppress/weaken the opposition in order to maintain the illusion of US competence and supremacy. This strategy is itself a sign of weakness and the eventual diminishment of int’l influence, which no doubt both China and Russia recognize and await the natural course of events as patiently as possible.
    Tangentially, but similarly, both establishment political parties in the US are attempting policies of containment on their relative upstarts: Trump and Sanders. This is akin to the elites practicing “containment” on the demands of the rest of the citizenry this election cycle. It will remain to be seen how well this tactic works in this arena as well.

  18. J says:

    Dr. Brenner,
    The current Presidential race seems to be narrowing between two individuals who both evaded military service in Vietnam, which strikes a nerve with a lot of us. Seems that Sanders filed as a Conscientious objector who I have been told briefly went to Canada when his status was denied till his age (26) made him no longer a prime number in the draft and he came back to the states. The second individual Trump (who most likely used his family’s power and influence) obtained a college deferment.
    How can I trust either one to do the right thing when it comes to our military personnel and our nation’s foreign policy? Hillary has shown she has no truth or honor in her. The rest of the Republican brood are spoon fed brats who I wouldn’t trust to run a frat party beer run let alone lead our nation.
    What’s a person to do?
    Also Congress (Senate leader McConnell) is doing its best to give the President Congress’s war power responsibilities which would border on complete Authoritarianism if its allowed to go through the Senate. The President could then wage war anywhere on the globe with no checks and balance, and invoke Martial law globally if it meets the individual’s whim.
    Unbridled power breeds contempt for those whom they are sworn to protect. That’s why our nation’s founding fathers gave the war powers to the Congress and not the President as the Congress were the body of government closest to the people, and a check and balance on Presidential Authoritarianism. Now the people will loose that connection if McConnell and his cohorts succeed in their betrayal of trust.

  19. Cortes says:

    Agreed, Doug.
    Minor comment about US exceptionalism. In the memoirs/diaries of John (Jock) Colville, Churchill’s private secretary during much of WWII “The Fringes of Power ” a US serviceman simply could not believe that any nation other than his own could have built the magnificent vessel (Queen Mary IIRC) on which they were crossing towards yet another Allied summit. The roots of exceptionalism thus are very, very deep in the USA psyche. Dr Brenner’s incisive article gives hope that sentient beings can prevent true believers in said exceptionalism from bringing the whole Earth to destruction rather than acknowledge reality.

  20. MRW says:

    Great piece. Thoughtful, and as FB Ali wrote: timely.

  21. MRW says:

    There’s a wonderful book that lays this out: “Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts” by Caroll Tavris, Elliot Aronson
    It is particularly trenchant.

  22. YT says:

    Americans (mostly) have no inkling of History – or related context – due to ‘Exceptionalism.’
    The belief that they are free from similar Sins that their European predecessors commited…
    “Manifest Destiny” continues to be the mantra uttered to themselves as well as their ‘frenemies.’
    “All of y’all oughta be like us.!”

  23. Tel says:

    Ohhh, running an empire is easy!
    All those other empires that came crashing down, must have been run by stupid people. This time will be different. I’m no dummy.

  24. jld says:

    Yes, easy:
    “Governing a large country is like frying small fish.”
    Hmmm… “frying small fish”, that sound a bit ominous…

  25. Any Mexican-American candidates for President on the horizon to match 2016’s battling Cuban-Americans?

  26. By August 2045 it will be painfully clear that the USA was never up to EMPIRE status IMO! Even the Mongols could argue for traces of their Empire [perhaps even now?] during a four century span. Rome and the Incas close to a 1000 year stretch. The British–1765-1945?

  27. Wiki Extract:
    An imperial political structure can be established and maintained in two ways: (i) as a territorial empire of direct conquest and control with force or (ii) as a coercive, hegemonic empire of indirect conquest and control with power. The former method provides greater tribute and direct political control, yet limits further expansion because it absorbs military forces to fixed garrisons. The latter method provides less tribute and indirect control, but avails military forces for further expansion. Territorial empires (e.g., the Mongol Empire and Median Empire) tend to be contiguous areas. The term, on occasion, has been applied to maritime empires or thalassocracies, (e.g., the Athenian and British empires) with looser structures and more scattered territories. Empires are usually larger than kingdoms.
    This aspiration to universality resulted in conquest by converting ‘outsiders’ or ‘inferiors’ into the colonialized religion. This association of nationality and race became complex and has had a more intense drive for expansion.

  28. Ingolf says:

    The key insight of your most interesting piece may lie in one brief sentence: “Dissociative disorders are sometimes triggered by trauma (9/11?).”
    As I see it from the outside, prior to that day hubris had taken hold, and the elements you detail were in place but mostly latent. Remnants of good sense, prudence and perspective still put a brake on things (George Bush’s humble foreign policy and compassionate conservatism, for example, seem to hail from a different age). The shock and subsequent rage born that morning set the demons free. While the hot fires of righteousness have burned down somewhat since, the bad habits remain.
    There’s little in your diagnosis I disagree with. As to how it will play out, I don’t know. Perhaps Jack is right and the American people will in time and in some fashion reimpose a measure of commonsense. Or perhaps not; perhaps America has to suffer true catastrophe before reacquainting itself with reality.
    My only real quibble is with your rosy characterisation of China in particular. It seems to me you may be adopting there a variant of the exceptionalism you decry in the US. No doubt its rise has been remarkable and it will almost certainly continue to rank amongst the great powers. One can acknowledge that much of America’s criticism of China is self-interested and at times delusional without, however, falling for the opposite trap. Whether time will endorse the notion that “the Chinese leaders’ skilful following of Keynesian logic [. . .] maintained robust growth rates” is, to my mind at least, very much in doubt. Many, perhaps most, also believed the US, through judicious policies and native talent, had attained a sort of economic nirvana in the late 90s. The sting in these matters is often in the tail.

  29. geoffrey gray says:

    I would say fetischism not reiteration. Consider: Americans know and think they are good human beings because they deplore the holocaust. In fact, we have a holocaust museum next to the capital. Ride down 95 to Richmond and you will see a holocaust museum in the downtown in the heart of dixie. Interesting we don’t have a slavery museum in downtown Richmond or a native indian museum next to the capital.No matter: a people against the holocaust are a good people and are absolved of all other crimes. Similarly in the Catholic Church. Being against abortion purchases cheap absolution. Catholic Churches now resemble VFW halls festooned with American flags, walls of photos of our heroes “who protect us all.” No thinking about America’s crimes in the Middle East. Why not? We are against abortion! I think the psychological mechanism is a kind of fetischism that can be invoked to ward off intrusive thoughts, thinking itself. What does this say: American is likely going over the waterfall.

  30. BabelFish says:

    Dr. Brenner, your prose caused me a great deal of reflection. It is very powerful indeed.
    I have internally reflected before on an upbringing in the 50s and 60s, where I was taught that I was a citizen of the best country in the world. I was taught that this was manifest by our military and industrial prowess, our standard of living, our ‘anyone can be president’ society. And we were also given the mantle of ‘policeman of the world’.
    I like my country, served in our military with pride and consider myself patriotic. I never miss a vote. I also consider our 1945 to present FP to be an unrelenting disaster, guided by colossal hubris. And now we are ruled by the oligarchs and the citizens who are being raped by the oligarchs and plutocrats blindly cheer for them at political rallies and believe they are on god’s own mission when they conduct an armed takeover of a bird sanctuary.
    I offer no plan to turn this around other than the dread that it will take a lemming charge off an economic cliff to finally get our fellow citizens to see the truth.

  31. LeaNder says:

    I like this too, Dr. Brenner, and it no doubt deserves deeper reflection.
    “Dissociative disorders are sometimes triggered by trauma (9/11?).”
    One of my favorite German filmmakers treated 9/11 as trauma, looking in his own way not on the larger sphere of politics, no matter if domestic, international or economic but on the response of Americans on the ground.
    I added economic, since the question on my mind, after I finished reading was, to what extend the “Keynesian logic” could be applied in both the US and Europe?
    This reminds me both of Harper more vaguely, since he once addressed the financial politics of the Obama administration, and lately surfaced with the topic China, in which the “Keynesian logic” surfaces in your essay.
    If it was at all possible, what results would his have for larger public in the diverse countries adopting Keynesianism? Maybe it will break down anyway, but would it work for the Eurozone? Would this have results for non-Eurozone members? Nevermind Grexit for now. Focusing only on the ones that can neither save or as it is today invest everywhere? Since saving, I understand for Keynes ?should/can? only result through investment.
    I haven’t read his book on Russia yet, admittedly.
    I watched the Munich security conference this morning from about 9 am to 1 pm.
    And it left me pretty pessimist. Not least, since for me it started with Stoltenberg, followed by Valls (France) and Medvedev Russia.
    The military, political and financial angle surfaced in the “Presidential Debate” that concentrated on Eastern fears and strong support of European and NATO transatlantic partnership along the Stoltenberg lines. The financial angle that surfaced in this context was reduced to Northstream.
    I’ll leave out German controversies in this context. But here comes Wikipedia:

  32. LeaNder says:

    Thanks, Ingolf, it apparently was my starting point in addressing some meditative mental meanderings. 😉

  33. turcopolier says:

    We are 1st cousins. All of your ancestors and half of mine were recent immigrants from Canada, a country in which they and theirs had been oppressed literally for centuries by the Anglo dominance that resulted from British rule after 1759 and by the tyranny of the Roman church exercising the massive coercive powers given to it by the British government in the Quebec Act. Our French ancestors in Quebec resisted Anglicization so steadfastly that they gradually sank into the status of a peasant class ruled by the Anglos, the small French bourgeois class and the Church. When our people came to the US seeking economic improvement for their lives in Yankee owned and managed textile mills and shoe factories they quickly discovered that the old Canadian societal paradigm and its rules did not apply here. With a rapidity that astonishes when viewed in the rear view mirror of memory, they “gringoized” themselves with a vengeance. Part of that process was the adoption of a virtually unlimited US nationalism as a personal and community creed. The Roman Catholic church in parishes that were French Canadian in nature tried to resist the rapid Americanization of their “flocks” as they had successfully resisted cultural integration in Quebec. It did not work here. I knew your parents very well. they were fine people. your father was a Seebee in WW2 but there still was a lot of French Canada remaining in them. In your generation of our extended family the genes are spread far and wide, nobody seems able to speak French and there are few Catholics. IMO the fervent nationalism of your upbringing was a necessary consequence of the process of emergence as fully American. pl

  34. Jane dope says:

    Fade away into the mist.

  35. Fred says:

    The first Hispanic to win a presidential primary was not the headline of the news because he was not a Democrat. That event was less than a fortnight ago.

  36. Superb. Many comments too. Print. Put in “Memory box” for my children.

  37. Jack says:

    Prof. Brenner
    I’m not as sanguine as you are with respect to Chinese finance.
    There’s no dispute that China has made massive progress economically and it plays a dominant role on the global economic and strategic stage. However, it’s still an open question if it can break through the middle income trap and generate median household incomes like other Asian countries like Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore.
    Don’t underestimate the potential financial instability in China. Yes, their “keynesian logic” did create GDP growth at a high rate over many decades. But GDP as a metric masks malinvestment. China quadrupled it’s credit outstanding over the past 7 years and no one knows the extent of leverage in it’s shadow banking system. There is a reasonable probability that it’s banking system is insolvent and will have to be recapitalized by socialization of losses. Clearly Chinese elites are concerned as capital flight is running at the rate of hundreds of billions of dollars over the past year. Their forex reserves are dropping despite trade surpluses as their capital account is bleeding.

  38. mbrenner says:

    A cynic wrote to me from Munich that listening to the speeches of our allied leaders was like listening to a Castrati Chorus.

  39. turcopolier says:

    Yup, with Kerry standing in for Farinelli in the better counter-tenor parts. pl

  40. SmoothieX12 says:

    Americans (mostly) have no inkling of History – or related context – due to ‘Exceptionalism.’
    This is largely due to the lack of historical conditioning by the continental warfare. Even Civil War, while devastating, was Civil for a reason–no foreign occupying power, no violent imposition (that is what invasions are) of the radically different and hostile culture. And then, of course, there is a mainstream “narrative” on WW II, which has as much in common with strategic and operational realities of this singular event as I am an alien from planet Zoltar. That is why, while spectacular in the worst meaning of this word, tragedy of 911 left such a disproportionately deep scars on a national psyche and led to inconceivable responses to that event.

  41. rjj says:

    one of the things on the NE town screening checklist is to look for signs of French Canadian “leavening.” Without it they tend to be G-R-I-M.
    First trip up through Quebec to Montreal was startled by the layout of the towns on the way to Montreal and what that implied about the status of the British versus the French. Was unaware of the 900 Year War (1066).

  42. turcopolier says:

    “the layout of the towns” ???? Before the quiet revolution in the 60s the French towns in Quebec were awful, priest-ridden, etc. Now the Quebecois are joyfully godless. Try watching their soap operas. a Roman emperor would feel at home in them pl

  43. LeaNder says:

    I am not sure, if they are Castrati or “sing-the-tune-or-else”.
    I was referring to this article by Harper.
    It feels to me that Eastern Europe provides an exquisite leverage via it’s “Russia-is-as-evil-as-Deash” tune to keep the rest of Europe in line. What is happening now is also quite in tune with American demands from the late 90s onward. Only it’s not anymore about protecting “their own backyards”, which they failed to do in Yugoslavia.
    It’s painful to watch to what extend Russia is humiliated. Never mind, Western hesitations about its system and/or Putin.
    Post Harper’s 2012 linke above:
    In the end it may all be a struggle between Russian and American plus firmly with America aligned financial interests …
    German parliamentarians are now allowed to take a look at the TTIP documents in a specific securely guarded reading room. They aren’t allowed to make copies or take notes, though. And I assume you realized how complex matters are.
    Double standards, selling democracy while slowly abolishing it?

  44. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I read something similar in a war reminisce by a US Marine; that the Marines in the Pacific Campaign attributed the effectiveness of Japanese artillery to non-existent German commanding officers.

  45. turcopolier says:

    Soldiers always do that. In VN rumors were rampant of Soviet advisors. pl

  46. rjj says:

    layout was the wrong word for who lives on what side of town. it was 1969. won’t watch their movies and can’t get their soaps.

  47. turcopolier says:

    1969 is a world away. People of French Canadian descent in the US are all gringos now. pl

  48. SmoothieX12 says:

    Drawing historic analogies should be (must be) done with extremely cautiousness. US is nothing like Mongols or Rome. In fact, drawing these parallels is the sign of complete detachment from real history. Hyperbole, on the other hand, can work as a descriptive tool. US is no Rome, nor has it anything in common with Mongols. US has its own historic rhythm and life-span.

  49. MRW says:

    Just so you know. French Canada isn’t just Quebec. Alberta was completely French until 1870. Of course, Alberta didn’t become a province until 1905. A look at the map will tell you the French nature of Alberta, some parts of which remain to this day; you’d hardly find an English-speaking person if you tried.

  50. MRW says:

    Jack, the Chinese issue their own currency.

  51. Lars says:

    Betting against the US and expect the demise of the republic has been a losing proposition for a long time. I don’t expect that to change anytime soon, no matter how much “noise” is considered.

  52. crf says:

    Well, there is an aboriginal museum in Washington, and it is actually right next to the capitol (couldn’t be closer). The National Museum of the American Indian.

  53. BabelFish says:

    Pat, thank you for the insights. They mean a great deal to me. I am aware of much of the history but not at the level of expertise you have.
    To support the forward progress of Americanization, I can state that my first years of schooling featured the singing of “Oh Canada”, in French, right after the Pledge of Allegiance. The Baltimore Catechism was provided in both languages.
    I would have placed the threshold of fully American with my Dad and Mom, rather than with myself but that is a matter of time. I do want to say that I never heard the mantra of best country and world policeman uttered by my parents. The love of being American was deep in both of them, particularly in my Dad. But I heard these messages in the general concourse of our culture as well. Movies, TV shows, press, it was continuous.
    There was no doubt of my serving either. My father and uncles and their peers had served, some in direct combat units. I had cousins to follow as examples, as well. I never thought of myself as anything else but a citizen.
    I also want to say that as I served, traveled and became a young adult, I did continue to hear the mantra of best country in the world and world policeman. I came to understand that this was not just part of life in a small Maine town but a cultural current that was everywhere.

  54. YT says:

    Lucky Americans…
    Seperated by 2 vast oceans, away from many deadly foes.

  55. rjj says:

    that’s too bad. Worked a few years in Burlington (2000). Aaargh. Lived on Grand Isle, so did most business in St. Albans in order to maintain a sense of hope + promise.

  56. Trey N says:

    Major correction: the 1861-1865 war in North America was NOT a “civil war.” Such a conflict occurs when two parties are fighting to gain control of a central government to rule over a country. The Confederate States of America were not seeking to capture Washington DC and rule over the Northern states — they were fighting to escape political control and economic exploitation by those Northern states.
    When they lost that struggle, the Southern states did indeed suffer rule by a “foreign occupying power” trying to impose a “radically different and hostile culture” — for over a decade an invasion of northern carpetbaggers was supported by the bayonets of a Federal army of occupation in the Southern states. Their goal was clearly stated in the term used to describe this effort: “The Reconstruction Era.” The Southern culture was to be uprooted and remade in the image of the damnyankees.
    And you state that all this occurred without a “violent imposition.” What do you call entire cities burned to the ground (Atlanta GA, Columbia SC, Richmond VA) and states destroyed economically (LA was the richest state per capita in the US in 1860; it’s been listed among the poorest ever since)as well as entire regions (the Shenandoah Valley burned out by Sheridan in 1864)?
    Trust me, many Southerners today are not “lacking historical conditioning of continental warfare.” We remember how our grandfathers died defending their homes from foreign invasion, leaving their widows and children to starve after yankee vandals swept through the countryside burning and looting everything in sight (Sherman’s March to the Sea and Meridian expeditions only exceeded in devastation by Sheridan’s torching of the Shenandoah Valley).
    I don’t know where you’re from, Smoothie, but you have a major misconception of the facts concerning the War for Southern Independence (also appropriately known as the War of Northern Aggression). There was absolutely nothing “civil” about it, in any sense whatsoever of that word.

  57. rjj says:

    “too bad” refers to “all gringos now.”
    hope for + promise of the new generations.

  58. rjj says:

    what replaces priest-ridden?

  59. turcopolier says:

    Yes. That kind of nationalism was universal across the land and French Canadians accepted it as part of their assimilation. pl

  60. MRW says:

    Just for the record . . .
    You took me to task severely about a year ago for my saying there’s no goddam way that the French outside of Quebec would allow Quebec to secede without a fight. I have a lot of relatives in Alberta. I go up there all the time. I also speak French, as luck would have it. There are towns you can drive through that don’t have a single sign in English. (Most of them surround the capital, Edmonton, widely, but it’s the small French towns that I’m talking about, mainly east and south of the capital, out in the sticks.) Everyone speaks French. All government services are in French; they don’t even bother with English. Ditto the government service handouts. Renoir’s (the French painter) descendants moved to rural Alberta four+ decades ago to make artisanal cheese, and another, the famous French Belgian chocolatier Callebaut, settled in rural Alberta first in the 60s or 70s before expanding their business throughout western Canada. The Renoirs and Callebauts didn’t go to Quebec; Quebec isn’t the only historically French area in Canada. It’s just the biggest. And most concentrated. And (was) most oppressively religious.
    The instant Quebec secedes, it would mean all these municipalities will revert to English-only and the indigenous French are screwed, so they actively resist it. (Not to mention that hundreds of thousands of bilinguals in Alberta and BC, many of whom are Quebec transplants, will lose their jobs, government, resort, marketing, etc.) These are people who have occupied the province and the west for centuries, since the time the Jesuits first developed it starting in the 17th C. Some of these municipalities are French, some are Indian (woo-woo Indian) AND French. But they’re French Canadian and damn proud of it. (The province also has a history, since 1900, of Doukhobors and Mennonites, mainly in the southern half. Seeing entire families of Doukhobors protest in the nude is a kick, something this sect does; the Dukes are Ukrainian.)
    I was told that before Trudeau Père legalized English and French as official languages there were almost as many French elementary- and high-schools in Edmonton as there were English to service the needs of the community. Alberta didn’t have the suffocating Roman Catholic Church government heavy-hand that Quebec had. In Quebec, the church-controlled govt gave 40 acres of land free to any couple who produced 14 kids. That’s how Céline Dion’s family got to be that large: Maman pumped them out like clockwork. And this continued through the 1950s IIRC until women said pho-cue. It’s how the RC Church kept a lock on the people, and grew the flock. Alberta historically had no such restrictions, and land was dirt cheap, sometimes free for the taking, and plentiful.
    Apart from the Acadians (we call their brethren Cajuns here) in the eastern provinces, another pocket of French Canadian population is in the Northwest Territories (if they still call it that, dunno’). They are fiercely wedded to their land, and they, too, actively resist the idea that Quebec should secede because they don’t buy the idea that Quebec is the only French part of Canada, and 350-plus years of recorded history bears that out.

  61. Jack says:

    Duh! Not cowrie shells??
    So what. If the Chinese don’t trust their government and currency, they’ll get out of it. That’s what capital flight means. Capital controls is how governments try to gate their citizens from bailing their failed policies.
    “Companies don’t want renminbi and individuals don’t want renminbi,” said Shaun Rein, the founder of the China Market Research Group. “The renminbi was a sure bet for a long time, but now that it’s not, a lot of people want to get out.”

  62. Chris Rogers says:

    Whilst China has made great strides since 1979 one cannot deny that it has come at great environmental cost, never mind the human cost associated with speaking out against Beijing’s leaders.
    As for the Middle Class in two countries you have named, namely Hong Kong and Singapore, at this juncture in time economically speaking many are howling and find themselves in the same condition as peers in the USA, essentially inequality extremes are large and many now cannot afford a roof over their heads. both Hong kong and Singapore – well ordered societies by any definition – have witnessed riots and public outcries the middle classes ability to put a roof over its head all but disappears.
    By way of example only last week – Monday evening during the Chinese Lunar new year holidays – we had a major disturbance in Hong Kong where shots were fired by the police. It certainly does not look rosy where I sit in Hong Kong, its difficult for small businesses to make a buck and much of our incomes are eaten away by highly inflated mortgages and rentals.
    Indeed, when i first arrived in Hong Kong prior to the change of sovereignty in 1997 there was visible anti-British sentiment, that has vanished with many now speaking fondly of British Rule, which for many, especially the poor, was more favourable than what we have today – indeed, many now desire a Hong Kong independent of China and on par with that other Chinese dominated City State Singapore.
    As a Brit, I’d favour the independent route as its far too easy for locals to blame Beijing rather than its own oligarchy which profits greatly from the power and wealth it extracts from HongKongers.
    Singapore presently has its own economic woes, its property and Real estate bubbles popping about two years ago.

  63. Fred! Who is Hispanic is always an interesting question for me! Note that 90% of those fleeing Cuber after 1959 could pass as culturally white in the USA or Canada. Hispanics are truly a rainbow culture.

  64. See today’s NYTimes [2/14/2016]! Agreement with your analysis!

  65. turcopolier says:

    “You took me to task severely about a year ago for my saying there’s no goddam way that the French outside of Quebec would allow Quebec to secede without a fight” I don’t remember that discussion. Do you have a date? BTW, after watching the GOP food fight last night, the young Trudeau doesn’t look too bad. pl

  66. YT says:

    IMHO Americans seem to favor “the chosen ones” more than the Red Man.
    After all, what has the latter “contributed” to modern-day ‘progress?’

  67. Jonathan says:

    I just posted a link to this post on the Members email list of the American Psychoanalytic Association. Along with the link I wrote:
    One could call it an excellent piece of “applied psychoanalysis” but I don’t much like that term. I prefer ‘extra-clinical PsyA’ or ‘extra-mural PsyA – in any case, I think of it as work in which PsyA explicitly encounters culture and history.
    Dr. Michael Brenner is Professor Emeritus of International Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh and Senior Fellow at the Center for Transatlantic
    Relations, SAIS-Johns Hopkins (Washington, D.C.). He was the Director of
    the International Relations & Global Studies Program at the University of
    Texas until 2012.

  68. Fred says:

    “That’s why you’re getting out of the ME and pivoting to where the population and growing middle class is. ”
    Meanwhile our middle-class is shrinking. The only thing not shrinking for it is the bills to help out foreigners. Enough already. Raise taxes on your own people and give the defense burden to your own military.

  69. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I think England has been the best in the world in making money for centuries.

  70. See Kagan’s DANGEROUS NATION!

  71. SmoothieX12 says:

    Major correction: the 1861-1865 war in North America was NOT a “civil war.” Such a conflict occurs when two parties are fighting to gain control of a central government to rule over a country. The Confederate States of America were not seeking to capture Washington DC and rule over the Northern states — they were fighting to escape political control and economic exploitation by those Northern states.
    I am Russian. It seems this melody has no ending. No, US Civil War was as civil as any other civil war is (Spain, Russia)–same people, same culture, same language, same behavioral matrix, just different vision of its own statehood fighting each other. No foreign powers involved in invasion and imposition of external control or rule is not in play–that what Civil Wars are. In this sense US Civil War is absolutely not unique. Somebody tries for secession other disagree–bang. Russian Civil War anyone (granted, of course, that Russia saw the whole collection of foreign occupiers)? What about both Chechnya Wars? Totally Civil and totally, with their own twist, anti-secession wars. What you described is within the limits of a definition of generic civil war. Spanish Civil War, apart from “delivering” same scale of victims and casualties as US Civil War and having major powers (Germany, USSR) being involved in it, still remains civil war. Having said all that: United States didn’t face any serious external force in war on its territory since, frankly, ever. Of course, there was the War of 1812, but compared to actual War of 1812, which saw slaughter and destruction on unprecedented scale (Just Battle of Borodino alone, in 8 hours 37 000 French and 51 000 Russians KIA) it was a backwater of sorts.
    Now, neither US elites nor American public are conditioned by the continental warfare, since United States last time saw it precisely in 1861-65, that is 150 years ago. This was one off and no living memory remains of it. Now we take a look at Europe and the picture changes dramatically, starting from Coventry and London, which were bombed to sh.t and going to the East, the more we move to the East the more the scale of destruction and atrocity grows, more to the East–more of that. Most importantly, this all happened 70 years ago, many people who saw it, experienced it, fought in it are still alive, the memories of that are as vivid today as they were 30 years ago. Most importantly, this was NO civil war. It also conditioned (with different outcomes) even West European political elites and public. I will omit here what it lead to. These are all experiences which has no ground in the US. It is a historic fact and we see today how it plays out. Now, if you want to see the difference, this is Moscow 2015, the Immortal Regiment March on the 70th Anniversary of Victory–this is how real impact of the war looks in the peaceful times.
    All that, as Richard Pipes wrote, is beyond comprehension for most Americans and that is the fact of life. Nothing for or against, just simple obvious fact. Will Atlanta march like this? You know the answer.

  72. SmoothieX12 says:

    Seperated by 2 vast oceans, away from many deadly foes.
    This is America’s massive win in the geopolitical lottery–an incredible location. It could also be her downfall since both Sea Control and foreign military bases are not simple arithmetic, it is a very complex doctrinal calculus in the emerging multi-polar world.

  73. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I agree with you, the March of the Immortal Regiment cannot have any analogue in any European state – save perhaps England. By the way, I heard some Englishmen marched in Moscow.
    I also think that excepting myself and a few others, no one in Western states has any grasp of the emotional and historical content of the idea of “The Rus” to the Russian people. That lack of knowledge and appreciation will be one of the causes of World War III.

  74. H says:

    And my father, S/S US Army Air Corps, stationed in Connington-on-Tyne during WWII, told of the British officer who was impressed by my Dad’s knowledge of British history. My father explained that he learned it in college, and ventured to ask if the British studied US history. The reply was. “What history.” If Americans feel ‘exceptional’, I guess they come by it honestly.

  75. turcopolier says:

    When I was an undergraduate, I took a cheapo charter flight back to DC from California after visiting my parents. I was seated next to a young Englishman. We talked and like your “British officer” he was puzzled by how much I knew about British literature and history. He asked and I told him that before 1775 their literature, history and law was ours as well. He was shocked that I would have such an outrageous idea. He was met planeside by a limo from the UK embassy. This was, for me, the beginning of the end for an old romance. pl

  76. SmoothieX12 says:

    That lack of knowledge and appreciation will be one of the causes of World War III.
    “The real gap between two camps is one of knowledge…irresponsible criticism is generally self-confident: but no one cares to be told:”I am holier than thou”, especially by anyone who does not know their facts…. And knowledge alone is not enough without understanding, which is much more hardly won. To no country does this apply more than to Russia. This gap has to be filled, or it will cost us dear.”
    Bernard Pares, pages 571-573, “The History Of Russia”. New York, Alfred Knopf (AMS Press), 1966
    I concur, sadly contemporary field of “Russian Studies” in the West, with some few exceptions, is dominated by people who are utterly incompetent or pursue their own (or somebody’s) agendas. This “academic” disaster has global ramifications. The results are in already. For the most party “elites” have no situational awareness when it comes to Russia. Actually, those “elites” did buy their own narrative of American exceptionalism (US is an exceptional country but for a very different reasons), especially in military field and they are not ready to face strategic reality–this may lead to a catastrophe. Remarkably, it could be up to Russian and US military professionals, through their channels, to try to resolve some important issues. After all, remember Mike Jackson, British paratroop general who exhibited true professionalism, leadership and common sense during events in Kosovo.

  77. SmoothieX12 says:

    I heard some Englishmen marched in Moscow.
    Not only they marched, together with Americans, Serbs, French. But British veterans of the Allied Convoys were seated during parade next to President Putin in a place of David Cameron, who chose to ignore the invitation. No worries, British heroes were way more important for Russians than some scumbag of a politician.

  78. YT says:

    RE: “not simple arithmetic,” “a very complex doctrinal calculus”
    Reminds me,
    Col. Lang, what think you of this, sir?
    Machiavellian ‘genius’ or mere (self-promoting) old windbag?

  79. YT says:

    Aye, to the Veteran soldiers of Great Britain: from the Second World War to the likes of Mike Jackson,
    God bless them all…

  80. YT says:

    Merci beaucoup, Monsieur…

  81. Fred says:

    “Who is Hispanic…” That’s the political understatement of the decade. The democratic party seems to be taking Nixon’s observation about political party affiliation trends after 1965 as a recipe to change the definition of “American” in an effort to win this presidential election.

  82. Fred says:

    Yes we’re not having a civil war now only a revolutionary one in that the leftists of the ’60s and sundry successors is still trying to fundamentally transform America, much to the Republic’s detriment.

  83. MRW says:

    “If the Chinese don’t trust their government and currency, they’ll get out of it.”
    Can’t “get out of it” if renminbi required in China for taxes, and all goods are priced in Yuan (renminbi), which they are.
    Capital controls are to protect China’s USD holdings, which as of Nov 2015 stand around $1.3 trillion. They haven’t changed much since 2009. If anything up since Nov 2014.

  84. Thirdeye says:

    Quebec’s secession bluff got called over the Meech Lake accords. Better to be the largest and best organized, if resented, single political constituency in a large and wealthy state than a much smaller and poorer independent state.

  85. Thirdeye says:

    It’s amazing that the zombie idea of a unipolar world continues to be entertained. 150 years ago it was understandable on the part of the Brits. It was their historical experience. The neocon advocates of unipolarism since 1990 don’t have that excuse. Its artifice and contrivance should be obvious. The conditions that fostered unipolarity – great disparity in social and political organization, technology, and economics fostering the unstoppable power of one state – are long gone. Britain’s blindness to the inexorable nature of the challenges to their position towards the end of the Nineteenth Century put the world on the path to war. Precious few are heeding that lesson as it applies to the US.

  86. SmoothieX12 says:

    I am keenly aware of what is going on–I live in the US and, sometimes, am taken aback by what is going on. But, believe me, you don’t want any real war, revolutionary or civil.

  87. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Ancient Iranians invented the idea and practice of the Universal Empire – to which US as well as USSR eventually became inheritors.
    Empirically, such an empire usually decays and dies in a relatively short period of time – say about 200 years or even less.

  88. LeaNder says:

    “Mike Jackson”
    Interesting. Smoothie, I vaguely recall that Pristina airport was still an unreliable departure place when it forced me into overtime in a successful attempt to get a colleague back to Germany in time nevertheless.
    Wasn’t aware of Russian troops there earlier. The German and English account of events on Wikipedia is slightly different. But in both versions he looks like the type of Machos I respect.

  89. LeaNder says:

    Jonathan, I don’t think this was a good idea.
    I disliked the psycho-analytic method in one my field in the humanities, when I encountered it immediately. I suppose I still have rigid defense mechanisms against it. Which doesn’t mean the passage does not deserve attention.
    The only time I adopted it was from a changed perspective. I worked with a prof in the psychology department and with his support created something like a psychological profile of the interpreter, in other words me.
    Existence determines consciousness or the other way round? Of course these are only the extreme poles.
    I was grateful to Lacan for explaining to me my own defensive reactions (anger?) while reading the no doubt great writer Freud. And this statement is not meant to devaluate the work of the man. 😉

  90. turcopolier says:

    “my field in the humanities” What field is that? pl

  91. The environmental movement and doctrines of sustainability IMO!

  92. IMO subtracting atomic weapons, the ignorance of Americans in how close run the war was in fact in 1940-41 [before the Americans entered] and credit to be given the U.K. and Soviet Union was the starting point for Americans misunderstanding.
    What I never will really will get is why those FP realists, Nixon and Kissinger, continued the fight in Viet Nam for five long years.

  93. turcopolier says:

    They could not figure out how to get out suddenly without admitting defeat. pl

  94. LeaNder! I always enjoy your comments. IMO German and US elections may be the “tipping point” [Malcome Gladwell’s concept] for global chaos the rest of this Century. November 8th in the US. Not sure about Germany.
    The Germans clearly understand FP is their outcome determnative grasp on world events. The Americans have yet to understand that almost $12 Trillion spent on the GWOT [Global War on Terror] largely mispent.
    And while most politically astute observers are unwilling to predict it or announce it, neither HRC or Bernie will be the next US President.
    Political contributions now flowing to Joe Biden astounding now IMO! But if he runs predict he will not be the next President either.

  95. The English Bill of Rights [1689?] foreshadowed our Bill of Rights!

  96. I agree and they will admit defeat. Wasn’t Upton Sinclair the first Presidential SOCIALIST candidate in US history?

    Wiki Extract:
    Upton Beall Sinclair, Jr. (September 20, 1878 – November 25, 1968) was an American author who wrote nearly 100 books and other works across a number of genres. Sinclair’s work was well-known and popular in the first half of the twentieth century, and he won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1943.
    In 1906, Sinclair acquired particular fame for his classic muckraking novel, The Jungle, which exposed conditions in the U.S. meat packing industry, causing a public uproar that contributed in part to the passage a few months later of the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act and the Meat Inspection Act. In 1919, he published The Brass Check, a muckraking exposé of American journalism that publicized the issue of yellow journalism and the limitations of the “free press” in the United States. Four years after publication of The Brass Check, the first code of ethics for journalists was created. Time magazine called him “a man with every gift except humor and silence.” He is remembered for writing the famous line: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon him not understanding it.”
    He attacked J. P. Morgan, whom many regarded as a hero for ending the Panic of 1907, saying that he had engineered the crisis in order to acquire a bank.
    Sinclair was an outspoken socialist and ran unsuccessfully for Congress as a nominee from the Socialist Party. He was also the Democratic Party candidate for Governor of California during the Great Depression, but was defeated in the 1934 elections.

  98. sillybill says:

    Professor Brenner,
    “as the citizen of a republic, nothing is above your pay grade” is a great response to avoidance and apathy.
    The other side of the coin is another illness we are afflicted with – the idea that any incompetent blowhard (politician or talk show host) can solve all the world’s problems with ‘common sense’.
    Thank you for writing this.

  99. Wiki Extract:
    Norman Mattoon Thomas (November 20, 1884 – December 19, 1968) was an American Presbyterian minister who achieved fame as a socialist, pacifist, and six-time presidential candidate for the Socialist Party of America.

  100. Fred says:

    Of course not but some folks in leadership in the US don’t seem to understand that point.

  101. HotFlash says:

    Heh! I now live in Canada, since 1969, and thank you so much for the back-history on Quebec and French Canada/Canadians. I have had an inkling of such from stories of French Cdn friends and relatives, but I am now, thanks to your info, curiouser and curiouser. My Uncle was a LeFeve from Temagami, he and three of his brothers were ‘adopted out’ during the depression when the family could no longer provide for all those kids. Mu uncle went to a childless couple in Michigan, another brother to a couple in the upper peninsula, a friend of mine was placed in a Catholic orphanage when her mother died (father was a travelling salesman). She relates that the local priest dictated length of skirts and sleeves along with much else the community and *totally* forbade shorts for girls. Thank you for the context, this seems like an iceberg tip of something like maybe the ‘residential schools’ for First Nations people. I will pursue!

  102. SmoothieX12 says:

    Of course not but some folks in leadership in the US don’t seem to understand that point.
    These are not, sadly, “some folks”, these are the ones who constitute a majority of the contemporary American “political class”. This majority does not understand the nature of military force, its application, consequences of this application, etc. It is impossible for some Ivy League educated lawyer or some journo to comprehend what happens when your family is robbed, raped, killed, when you house is burning and you have people shooting at you in anger, when you neighbors are dead, when hundred of thousands of people simply going insane. US political class simply lacks those inhibitors.

  103. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Neither German nor US elections are that important to cause global chaos for rest of this century.
    You flatter yourself, Sir.
    If Germans grasped the world events they would not be in the predicament that they are now.

  104. IMO the DEMS will lose with whomever nominated by them!

  105. IYO do any elections matter?

  106. Bernie will not be nominated by the DEMS IMO but he might have gotten closer by identifying himself as a democratic progressive instead of a democratic socialist.
    And Wall Street and sitting members of Congress terrified so far by the campaign dialectic of most of the candidates. Status Quo is the fundamental desire of incumbents and Wall Street!

  107. gaikokumaniakku says:

    “to could” is probably a typo for “they could.”

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