Tag Archives: Hubris

The U.S. Moral Superiority Complex Is Accelerating Its Decline, by Laura Ruggeri

Tripping over your own ego is a story as old as humanity. From Laura Ruggeri at strategic-culture.org:

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Someone should tell the Biden team.

Soon after the chaotic withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, David Ignatius, Washington Post columnist and Deep State insider, remarked “The reversals in Afghanistan are confounding for a Biden national security team that has rarely known personal failure (…) These are America’s best and brightest, who came to the messy endgame of the Afghanistan war with spotless résumés.

Though his criticism of the national security team is understandably guarded, anyone taking a dispassionate look at the establishment liberals who are deemed America’s “best and brightest” in Washington circles would reach the conclusion that they are stronger on slogans than substance, which leads to a disconnect between ideas and implementation, and lack overseas experience: there is only one career diplomat in a senior position on the National Security Council, the director for Africa.

Their ability to display ideological cohesion at the expense of a reflexive process of dialogical thinking is remarkable but not surprising: establishment liberals do see themselves as the centre of political enlightenment. If they appear vainglorious and self-righteous it is because they are part of a power structure that produces and perpetuates these character traits. Those who entertain the possibility of failure are side-lined as bearers of bad news, the centre-stage is reserved for those who project confidence and a sense of moral superiority. As to considering opposing viewpoints, that is entirely optional.

In the same Washington Post article Ignatius observed “Failure can shatter the trust and consensus of any team, and that’s a danger now for the Biden White House. This group has been extraordinarily close and congenial during Biden’s first seven months. But you can already see the first cracks in Fortress Biden.

Are these the kind of cracks that appear when reality hits delusions, when ‘what is’ collides with ‘what ought to be’, when military logic makes a dent in the fairy tale of a benign power successfully exporting “freedom, democracy and human rights”?

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Why the Wheels Are Coming Off, by Charles Hugh Smith

The wheels would be coming off even if America’s rulers were as smart as they think they are, but of course they’re not. From Charles Hugh Smith at oftwominds.com:

Is that the scent of smoke? What’s that red glare? Must be nothing.

Why are the wheels coming off the American Project? Afghanistan is front and center in the news flow for obvious reasons, but since I have no expertise on that nation or America’s role there, I am stipulating these are general comments from a systemic perspective.

By the American Project I mean 1) global hegemony in both hard and soft power and 2) American Exceptionalism, the belief that America is not just uniquely strong but uniquely right in terms of holding the high moral ground.

1. If you don’t understand the problem, you can’t possibly arrive at a solution. It’s long been painfully obvious that U.S. presidents would be best served by their closest advisors being anthropologists with long in-country experience in whatever nation the U.S. is engaging.

Any anthropologist with experience in Vietnam would have dismissed the idea of an American “victory” by any means as a possibility. The same can be said of Iraq and Afghanistan. Unfortunately, American presidents don’t listen to anthropologists, they listen to advisors with no real understanding of the nation and people the U.S. is engaging. Lacking a grasp of the situation, every characterization of the “problem” will necessarily be completely misguided and the proposed “solutions” cannot but fail miserably.

Rather than seek a deep understanding the nation and its people, U.S. presidents and their advisors see everything through the distorting lens of great-power rivalries, geopolitical juggling, American prestige and power and a profoundly parochial, provincial view of other cultures and societies. The resulting ignorance of U.S. policy is stupefying.

Willful ignorance and blind ambition are fatal siblings.

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To Know You Don’t Know, by Robert Gore

We’re all ignorant; few recognize it.

Aubrey’s deployment order came a week later. A conflict had waxed and waned in Syria and Iraq for the better part of three years. It was the typical Middle Eastern fracas: hapless governments and their armies; not-so-hapless sectarian brigades with colorful names waging guerrilla war, detonating bombs, promoting mayhem; shifting alliances; endless intrigue; diabolical duplicity; rampant disinformation; appearances masking antipodal realities; and machinations by outside string pullers, money honeys, and intelligence agencies who never seemed to realize—or if they did, never acknowledged—that they were the puppets, not the puppeteers. Despite the seeming complexity, the war boiled down to the usual two issues: oil and the centuries-old question of Muhammad’s rightful heir.

Governments couldn’t resist throwing matches on the gasoline. Sunni nations—Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and the rich little monarchies scattered around the Persian Gulf—as well as a variety of sectarian brigades with colorful names, launched massive and coordinated maneuvers to “restore order” (Middle Eastern–speak for replacing a government with one more to your liking) to Shiite Syria and Iraq. The Shiite governments were not without friends. Russia, Iran, and various sectarian brigades with colorful names would not let them go down without a fight. So in a very short time, the corner of the world with the highest per capita concentrations of troops, terrorism, weapons, and warfare saw exponential increases in all four.

The US government urged all parties to come to the negotiating table. No parties came to the negotiating table. The US government consulted with its European allies. A resolution was submitted at the United Nations. The war intensified. The war lobby screamed: this was World War III, and the United States was not there! It was like missing your senior prom! The Europeans screamed. Refugees were streaming to Europe. Despite welcoming gestures, the only assimilating they seemed to be doing was slurping up government benefits. It was getting expensive. Some Europeans didn’t like their new guests. Some of their new guests didn’t like the Europeans, but they did like blowing people up. Voters were getting mad. Something had to be done!

The US government ultimately did what the US government does best: came up with a catchy name (Operation Restoration of Peace, Freedom, Hope, Democracy, and Dignity in the Middle East), parked aircraft carriers in the Mediterranean and Persian Gulf, dropped bombs, and deployed thousands of troops to “advise and assist” without a clear idea of whom they would be advising and assisting. It implored the Europeans to join its efforts, to staunch the refugee flow by making war, blowing things up, and creating more refugees. Back in the States, the groups that reflexively cheered every war distributed more Support Our Troops bumper stickers.

Prime Deceit, Robert Gore, 2016

This is satire, although not obviously so. Prime Deceit is dedicated To all those grown bone weary of the bulls**t. The novel’s main shortcoming is that it isn’t satirical enough. Only brutally savage satire is within field goal range of capturing the reality of the Middle East. Almost all of the mountain of journalism and propaganda focused on or emanating from that part of the world is pure twaddle, bulls**t that bone wearied most of us long ago. You can instantly recognize those who don’t have the first clue about the Middle East by their claims to understand it, especially if they claim they’re experts.

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Peak Hubris, by Paul Edwards

Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall. It’s a pretty good bet that proverb, as it applies to our rulers, will be borne out yet again. From Paul Edwards at counterpunch.org:

Illustration for John Milton’s Paradise Lost by Gustave Doré (1866) – Public Domain

“Hubris” is defined as rash and foolish pride, a dangerous overconfidence, manifested with arrogance.  The Deep State vaunts our “exceptionalism”, and since Reagan’s “City on a HIll” trope Americans have been assured by all succeeding Presidents that ours is the “indispensible nation”. The word describes the way America sells itself to the world, and has for generations.

The yawning cognitive gap between our nomenklatura’s relentless self-promotion and its pathetic history of botched, humiliating failures in every single act of Imperial overreach, demands examination.  Are we at Peak Hubris?  When exactly should the hubris of a vicious, lying, sloganeering criminal state be identified as what it is, a cover for unhinged stupidity?

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He Said That? 5/30/15

There have been doubts about US hubris, about the idea that smart Americans with Ivy League degrees can manage not just the US, but the entire world, since even before Vietnam served as comeuppance, but did not, regrettably, occasion repentance.  From The Best And The Brightest, David Halberstam’s history of Vietnam:

It would not be the last time Riesman [Harvard sociologist David Riesman] was prophetic: In 1961, when the Kennedy team was already on board and there was great enthusiasm over the new theories of counterinsurgency…and Vietnam had been chosen as a testing ground, Riesman remained uneasy. In mid-1961, he had lunch with two of the more distinguished social scientists in the Kennedy government. On the subject of Vietnam the others talked about limited war with the combativeness which marked that particular era, about the possibilities of it, about the American right to practice it, about the very excitement of participating in it. All of this smacked strongly of the arrogance and hubris of the era, and Riesman became more and more upset with the tone and the direction of the conversation, until finally he stopped them and asked if they had ever been to Utah. Utah! No, they said, not Utah, but why Utah, had Riesman ever been there? No, Riesman answered, but he had read a great deal about the Church of the Latter-day Saints, and it occurred to him that his friends did not know much about America, about how deep the evangelical streak was. “You all think you can manage limited wars and that you’re dealing with an elite society which is just waiting for your leadership. It’s not that way at all,” he said. “It’s not an Eastern elite society run for Harvard and the Council on Foreign Relations.”

He left them after lunch, uneasy about the direction the country was taking. He had made a hobby of studying the American Civil War and he had always been disturbed by the passions which it had unleashed in the country, the tensions and angers just below the surface, the thin fabric of the society which held it all together, so easy to rend. They were, he thought, provincials. Brilliant Atlantic provincials.

Nothing has changed.