Americans are Powerful & Safe; So why do they feel Like Victims?

By Tom Engelhardt | ( | – –

Given the cluttered landscape of the last 14 years, can you even faintly remember the moment when the Berlin Wall came down, the Cold War ended in a stunned silence of shock and triumph in Washington, Eastern Europe was freed, Germany unified, and the Soviet Union vanished from the face of the Earth? At that epochal moment, six centuries of imperial rivalries ended. Only one mighty power was left.


There hadn’t been a moment like it in historical memory: a single “hyperpower” with a military force beyond compare looming over a planet without rivals. Under the circumstances, what couldn’t Washington hope for? The eternal domination of the Middle East and all that oil? A planetary Pax Americana for generations to come? Why not? After all, not even the Romans and the British at the height of their empires had experienced a world quite like this one.

Now, leap a quarter of a century to the present and note the rising tide of paranoia in this country and the litany of predictions of doom and disaster. Consider the extremity of fear and gloom in the party of Ronald “It’s Morning Again in America” Reagan in what are called “debates” among its presidential candidates, and it’s hard not to imagine that we aren’t at the precipice of the decline and fall of just about everything. The American Century? So much sawdust on the floor of history.

If, however, you look at the country that its top politicians can now hardly mention without defensively wielding the words “exceptional” or “indispensable,” the truly exceptional thing is this: as a great power, the United States still stands alone on planet Earth and Americans can exhibit all the paranoia they want in remarkable safety and security.

Here, then, are three exceptional facts of our moment.

Exceptional Fact #1: Failure Is Success, or the U.S. Remains the Sole Superpower

4 Responses

  1. Mr. Engelhardt raises an important question and one worth pondering – why the “national insecurity?”

    First – Americans were not always this way. But our overall situation as a nation has changed drastically since we were “comfortable with ourselves” after WWII. A number of dramatic events has set attitudes in motion which now shape how we feel about ourselves. Here are but a few –

    • The constant semi-conscious gnawing fear that at any second we could all be blown away in a thermonuclear war. A fear which did not cease with the end of the so-called “Cold War.”
    • The public assassination(s) by firearms of a President, his brother and an iconic civil-rights leader.
    • The onset of a series of pointless and continuous wars which we lost (and are currently losing).
    • The resignation in disgrace of a somewhat deranged U.S. President.
    • The epidemic of pharmaceutical chemical dependency.
    • The orchestrated attacks on New York City, the Pentagon and the downing of Flight 93.
    • The subsequent establishing of the “National Police State.”
    • The resultant abolition of privacy for every citizen and the onset of the current “Surveillance Society.”
    • The decline of quality public education in lieu of “The Test.”
    • The rise of corporate-controlled media.

    Depending on age and overall awareness, ALL of the above-cited factors contribute to our current state of “National Insecurity.”

    Perhaps more heed should be given to a warning issued by the last true Republican President and actual winning General Dwight Eisenhower made in his farewell speech on January 17, 1961?

    A speech which is NOT on “The Test.”

  2. Our national security apparatus, including the CIA, the Pentagon, and their friends and contractors, couldn’t very well let go of the lucrative Cold War paranoia without furnishing us with a replacement, now could it?

  3. But Americans are not safe from each other, and what we say about foreigners is a projection of what we really want to do to each other.

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