Tuesday, April 13, 2004


We Americans don’t have much of an army. What we do have is an expensive but rather fragile SWAT team. Which is probably a sufficient explanation of our choice of enemies. We noisily engage the small fry while carefully avoiding anybody with real power, a pattern of behavior the French writer Emmanuel Todd calls theatrical micromilitarism. But it would be more accurate to say that we don’t fight wars at all, even miniature ones. We police.

It takes a tremendous amount of self-righteousness to invade other countries and arrest their leaders. The practice presumes that our law has a universal or at least undefined jurisdiction and that we possess a monopoly of force so absolute as to allows us to treat the citizens of Panama or Iraq like the hapless drunks and junkies on Cops. We don’t simply kill our enemies. We infantilize and degrade them. We’re like the LAPD in other ways that are certainly not lost on the rest of the world. For example, we treat Muslims, Hispanics, and Blacks (Iraq, Palestine, Panama, Venezuela, Haiti) with special contempt and yet imagine we aren’t racists because we’re quite willing to treat over class Arabs, Hispanics, and Blacks as equals.

Our highhandedness is cowardly and cruel. Granted the national impotence it conceals, it is also ridiculous.

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