Read Our 19 December 2014 Issue «

'First Step is Admitting It’s Torture'

. @knappsterdotbiz. @CIA. #TortureReport.

The US Senate’s minimal, partial, heavily redacted summary of its report on the CIA’s post-9/11 torture program is out. That report’s reception by establishment media turns out to be at least as demonstrative of the problem it addresses as the report itself.

As any recovering addict will helpfully inform you, the first step is admitting the problem. The US government and American media (and presumably following them, the America public) still resolutely refuse to do that.

In story after story, we see references to “enhanced interrogation” and “brutal interrogation tactics.” Those are weasel words. They’re not admissions of the problem, they’re attempts to talk around the problem.

We’re not talking about “enhanced interrogation techniques.” Nor are we discussing “brutal interrogation tactics.” The subject in question is torture.

Torture is clearly defined in US law (18 US Code §2340): “[A]n act committed by a person acting under the color of law specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering (other than pain or suffering incidental to lawful sanctions) upon another person within his custody or physical control.”

Torture is clearly defined in international law (the UN Convention Against Torture): “[A]ny act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.”

These summations in the laws of states are informative, but we don’t really need them to conclude that the actions described in the report — waterboarding, sleep deprivation and the forced infusion of substances into victims’ rectums, to name three — are torture, all torture and nothing but torture. There exists no reasonable definition of torture that the described actions don’t conform to.

From that primary conclusion we must inevitably draw a secondary conclusion: The persons involved in the torture, from the operators actually implementing it all the way up the chain of command to the president of the United States, are violent, dangerous criminals and would be recognized as such in any sane society, regardless of whether or not codified law existed to describe their offenses.

The question, of course, is what to do about it. “Mainstream” suggestions range from “nothing” to “hold some Senate hearings and hope it goes away” to “appoint a special prosecutor and let him throw some of the less well-connected criminals under the bus so we can get on with life.”

Even at the radical end of the spectrum, suggestions tend to run to things like putting the US under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court and conducting a wholesale rendition of the gang, from top to bottom, to the Hague for trial.

The second step in 12-step addiction recovery programs involves recognizing a “higher power.” The second step in any torture recovery program is recognition that the existing temporal “higher power” — the state — is in fact the real problem.

The state bestows extreme power upon its agents, especially over prisoners and detainees. That power corrupts, enabling those agents to abuse and torture, as social psychologists observed in the Stanford Prison Experiment.

The state’s structure also protects its agents from accountability, shrouding discussions of state violence in euphemism, turn the debate from torture as a crime to torture as policy. Furthermore, the state’s monopoly on law leaves prosecution and adjudication up to the state itself. Torturers know they’re unlikely to face justice.

If we tolerate the state, we tolerate torture. It’s time and past time we stopped tolerating either.

By Thomas L. Knapp - More articles by Thomas L. Knapp

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'Shutdown Theater'

. @knappsterdotbiz. #antistatism. #govshutdown.

It’s surprising what passes for high political drama these days. After a DC dust-up similar to, but neither as exciting as watching paint dry nor as convincing as professional wrestling, the US House of Representatives passed a $1.1 trillion “Cromnibus” bill to fund the federal government through September 2015, passing it on to the US Senate, which most expect it (as I write this) to pass as well.

Why does the whole thing fail as theater? Two reasons:

First, it lacks the true conflict essential to a good yarn. Protagonists and antagonists. Winners and losers. One side wants one thing, the other wants something not just different, but substantially incompatible. “Cromnibus” fails on that level because all sides transparently want the same thing — to keep things going exactly as they’ve always gone.

Secondly, the stakes are too low. “Government shutdown” just isn’t the bogeyman it used to be. Multiple iterations of invoking it and occasionally bringing it on stage for real expose it as, well, not very scary. “Non-essential” government services will temporarily shut down if we don’t settle this, quick! Woooooh, scary. Pass the popcorn, please. And change the channel.

When even “progressive” Democrats like Elizabeth Warren threaten “shutdown” to get their way, it’s just too obvious that there’s no real shutdown in play. Per Chekhov, “[i]f you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there.” If Warren is willing to pull the trigger, we know that the gun isn’t really loaded.

Inside the Beltway, the big question — passed back and forth between cast, directors, producers, etc. — is never “should we stop doing what we’re doing?” That’s just not on the playbill, folks. The only question of importance to politicians is “how do we keep doing what we’re doing without losing the audience?”

Here are my big questions for the audience:

1)  A government “shutdown” applies only to “non-essential services.” If the services aren’t essential, why are they provided by the state in the first place? Or to elaborate a bit, if we’re going to tolerate a coercive monopoly like the state at all, shouldn’t that monopoly at least be limited to things that are absolutely, positively, beyond a shadow of a doubt, essential?

2) If something is absolutely, positively, beyond a shadow of a doubt, essential, why would we trust that thing to a coercive monopoly either? Lacking incentives to deliver the goods — since it forces us to pay for them whether they’re delivered or not and forbids us to seek them elsewhere — such monopolies invariably degenerate into the kinds of amateur theatrical productions we’re talking about here.

Barack Obama, Harry Reid, Elizabeth Warren, John Boehner et. al concern themselves constantly with how to keep the show going. Time for the rest of us to start thinking about lowering the curtain on it.

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Belem: Siege, Drug War & Police State

. #Belem. #drugwar. #Brazil. #policestate.

The night of November 4th in Belem, capital of Brazil’s Para state, was terrorizing. After the death of Corporal Figueiredo, from the Tactical Ops (Rotam) of the Military Police of the State of Para, at 7:30 PM, there was a violent retaliation, killing nine people, according to the official numbers, six of whom were undoubtedly executed. The victims appeared concurrent to the Rotam operation intended to arrest those responsible for the death of Corporal Figueiredo. Despite the official number of deaths, most people believe many more were killed during the night.

Rumors, audios, and videos were widely shared though WhatsApp and Facebook while the executions happened, showing what was happening on the outskirts of Belem. There was an unofficial curfew in several places on the periphery, given the expectation that there would be a violent retaliation to the death of the policeman and that the death squads that was wreaking havoc (presumably made up of military policemen) did not intend to take any prisoners. This group supposedly was covered by the official Rotam operation and they intended to kill any suspects.

It is important to highlight here that the deaths did not occur due to gunfights or resisting arrest. They were outright murders. The state government itself recognizes in an official statement that they were homicides, even though it does not conclude that the Military Police took part in them. Luiz Fernandes, Secretary of Public Security of Para, also admits that investigators are working on the hypothesis that death squads were acting there.

However, the sequence of events cannot be understood unless we comprehend their context: The local drug war dynamics.

In Belem, 66% of the population live in irregular buildings, favelas (slums) or the like, which, first, sprouted up near the center of the city (such as neighborhoods Guama, Jurunas, and Terra Firme — the last one being the stage of the murders) and, more recently, in the suburbs. They are very dense areas, with very little space between houses, allowing for the settlement of a large number of migrants from the state’s countryside and from the neighboring state Maranhao.

These areas, however, not unlike many others in Brazil, are marked by precarious access to basic utilities, like sewage disposal, and poor protection of the dwellers’ property rights (despite expropriations and evictions being uncommon in Belem). Moreover, as a result of drug prohibition, they end up under the rule of violent dealers.

Some time ago, it became known that the drug warlords were financing the militias. According to a report from the beginning of the year about the actions of militias in Guama and Terra Firme, these groups were formed by criminals and policemen (generally who are no longer formally affiliated with the Police) for the protection of drug dealers against other dealers and the police. They also regularly extort the local population. According to a Terra Firme dweller, who was quoted on the above report:
They ask people for money and kill whoever gets in their way. It is criminals killing criminals, but there are several honest citizens who are victims as well. When they are bothered by someone, they create a situation for a crime to happen.
The group which acts in the Guama neighborhood, made up mainly by retired police officers, is supposedly involved in the murder of young people, those “who walk around the streets at the wrong time, thieves and drug users,” as a local put it. Out of fear, silence prevails.

The story also tells that the police usually work on the hypothesis that these are hired gunmen, who are paid to enforce debts or murder the borrowers, denying the existence of militias and death squads that are financed by stolen money from the local populations. The events of the 4th seem to have changed that perception, since the government itself has admitted that death squads have been involved.

The general fear after the death of Corporal Figueiredo illustrates how real police, militia, and drug violence is in these areas. This fear has, for the first time, reached the richer areas of Belem, areas unfamiliar with the day to day uneasiness that the poor suffer through. Like never before, the night of November 4th made people, from very different social backgrounds, share the same fear.

Therefore, the murders were not a simple “isolated case,” but a perennial reality for the poor people of Belem, many of whom know or are related to someone who was murdered, were evicted from their homes by drug dealers, or just generally avoid staying out late (always!), afraid of what might happen to them.

These people, who suffer in every imaginable way, are denied the most basic and elementary way to reduce violent crime in Brazil: the end of the war on drugs. There is no reason, at all, that Brazilian cities should top the rankings for “most murders” in the world besides the failure of prohibition. Many cities are even more dangerous than Belem, but the causes of violence are similar. Most murders in Belem and elsewhere are related to drug feuds.

One of the main libertarian causes is the end of this abhorrent policy that takes away individual rights, puts behind bars many thousands of peaceful people and kills more than any substance addiction.

People who live in poor areas (and in other places, naturally) are sold the idea that only more repression will be able to solve the problem of public security. The drug user is the scapegoat and their frequent summary executions by the police are often welcomed.

Due legal process seems to be a burden to the police in Brazil, and its very existence seems to provide them with an even broader license to kill. We lose sight of the deep connections between the police, drug dealers and militias. The poor are the ones most exposed to the resulting police state, and the naive faith in the police as a guardian of order can only worsen their condition.

Belem shows vividly the monstrosity that the war on drugs is and its consequences to the urban dynamics in poor areas, marked by violence everywhere.

The main cause of all these deaths is not the lack of police repression or more executions, but the state itself and its criminalizing impetus, that enriches warlords and makes peripheral communities ever more vulnerable.

Translated by Erick Vasconcelos.

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Read Our 16 December 2014 Issue «

Transhumanism and Religion

. @hjbentham. @hplusmagazine. #transhumanism. #longevity. #faith.

How does the futuristic drive to enhance humans beyond their most worrying biological limits using technological means relate to faith-based approaches to humanity’s worldly limits?

Transhumanist aims have an undeniable appeal for religious and non-religious people alike, but the commitment to defeat death using medical science and technological augmentation may entail admitting a lack of any faith in an afterlife. This fact seems to present a clash between transhumanism and faith-based approaches to humanity’s future, which is considered here.

One could also easily present the judgment that transhumanism is a kind of alternative to religion, with the same kind of push to create hopeful “forecasts” against death – although this time with technology as the panacea. Could the transhumanist approach be like a religion, or contain some of the same facets of a religion wrapped in apparent secular clothing?

In the acknowledgement that the above is certainly a valid question, one must anticipate and remedy some differences between transhumanism and faith-based approaches to the mortal problem always spotted in our biological nature. There is a plethora of other philosophical questions that the transhumanist approach has raised, and will continue to raise, but for now let’s focus on possible clashes and comparisons between transhumanism and religious philosophies.

Why is death bad? I would argue that there are two “problems” of death that make humans despise it so much. First, there is our animal fear of death, or at least retreat from death, which is common to all living things from bacteria to the most disciplined humans. Wanting to live is intrinsically bound up in being alive, simply because the present state of life is the evolutionary result of past organisms competing to survive to their maximum. This has imbued every animal with a profound fear of death, which is overshadowed only by the inability of even the smartest humans to fully comprehend and face death. Terror Management Theory (TMT) even holds the view that the whole obsession with attachment to cultures, groups and worldviews among humans stems from innate terrors at the inevitability of each person’s own eventual nonexistence.

Despite how “death” can be understood very well as a biological process and can even be reversed before our eyes if medical science can act in due time, the fear of death is confounded when we add its second major problem for us: it is unknowable. This is tied to what some (such as David Chalmers) have called the “hard problem of consciousness”. That enigma of seemingly continuous inner experience arguably led to the formulation that there may be a “soul” – and from that idea countless religious approaches that are still accepted by so many people. It might be impossible for anyone to really come to terms with the idea of experiencing no continuity beyond death, and therefore most people easily accept a theological explanation or ignore the problem of consciousness and death as an irrelevant, irresolvable exercise.

A good contention from an atheist perspective would say that our stance on death and possible afterlives is not consequential, because our will to avoid death remains just as potent no matter what we believe, and nothing can be done to change the fact that we will eventually cease to exist. There is nothing we can really do to change the final fate of our bodies as mortal pieces of flesh. In this regard, atheists and theists are alike in their acceptance of the inevitability of death. Both overwhelmingly accept this body as something that will eventually be gone, no matter how much effort is put into maintaining it.

While theistic philosophies try to assure people that death is not the end, with a supreme being holding the answer to eternal life, atheistic philosophies are not able to comfort people regarding death as easily. The Buddha, who rejected deities, taught that the world is full of suffering and nothing can really be done to solve this. Even worse, suffering and deterioration are sufficiently part of the very nature of existence that we should blame our own struggle against them as the cause of suffering. A similar view of the individual as the root cause of suffering is shared by some modern spiritualists who take inspiration from Buddhism.

The human mind can be conditioned to not care about death when it arrives, but this conditioning often comes at the cost of a lot of life’s pleasures. The idea of being tranquil in the face of death is a little like telling people not to become rich, simply because being rich will burden you with the fact that you now have more to lose. It is true that if you have nothing to lose, the weight of death will seem lighter – therefore, one way to overcome the fear of death is to make sure you have nothing to lose at the time of death (or perhaps welcome death) when it arrives. A more absurd application of this kind of thinking might say that we should be as evil as possible, so we at least deserve to die when death actually arrives and can accept death that way.

For the immortalists, physical death can and should be cheated using science and technology for as long as we are still alive. Even if immortality is not coming soon, people can at least hang onto their chances to have it, with exponentially improving medical technology coupled with crynonics to keep at bay the afflictions currently impossible to heal. This could be a stop-gap, buying time for the wonders of science to come up with even more brilliant defenses against one’s ageing and bodily limits in decades or centuries to come. One might enlist to have his body frozen in the present day, once dead, it in the hope that medical technology will advance sufficiently to revive the frozen body (even if the freezing process is irreversibly harmful to the brain according to current medical science).

While the idea of body preservation would seem to offer a substantive remedy to the fear of death by old age, it does not alleviate the fear of one’s eventual death by some accident, futuristic war or even the heat death of the universe itself (supposing the immortalist actually evades the violence of humanity for billions of years enough to witness the final “end of everything”). Many violent specters can be guaranteed to eventually catch up with even the maximally successful immortalist. Just as future repairs and cures can be expected, we must also expect new weapons of mass destruction and crisis situations beyond our current comprehension to sneak up on humanity in the distant future.

Medical “immortality” also would not actually remedy the unknowable nature of death. We would still be no closer to knowing “what happens when we die”. Reuniting with others who have died (often more appealing than one’s own everlasting life, for a lot of believers) would be rejected as impossible in even the most outlandish transhumanist speculations. Medical “immortality” is not really a substitute for “Heaven” because it leaves two significant nagging problems of death unresolved – how to bring back deceased family and friends, and the mind-boggling problem of what really happens in your inner experience, if by some accident you do eventually die.

Even if immortalists met their most ambitious goal of perpetuating a generation of “post-humans” to the furthest limits of time, voids left by deceased loved ones and the continued problems of consciousness and looming eventual death would remain unattended. These remain areas occupied by religion and spirituality, and they seem unlikely to ever gain any counsel from the fields of science and technology yet. It is important to add “yet”, because science and technology do have a habit of failing to cover certain areas of human concern, yet can suddenly swoop in and give all the best answers, expelling religion and spirituality entirely from the discussion. One might be able to posit a science-fiction scenario in which all the big and typically religious questions are answered via advanced machines in the future, but it is difficult to imagine how answers alone could alleviate the distress that typically arises in the face of mortality.

Transhumanists waiting for the technological singularity, so vague and yet so wonderful, may appear to be following their own techno-utopian eschatology quite similar to a religious eschatology. Is the ultimate stage of human progress, the singularity, really approaching or is that simply equivalent to Christians repeatedly proclaiming signs of the “End of Days” at many junctures throughout history? In that regard, some transhumanist approaches might not be compatible with rational thinking at all. Belief in our compulsion towards an inevitably noble and good fate is a facet normally associated with religion. Does transhumanism have this facet? Perhaps it does. However, not intentionally, because transhumanists also devote a lot of effort into thinking about risks and ethics and do not simply have “faith” in a good outcome.

Even if the ideas described by transhumanists do not deserve to be included among the religious kind, the habit of optimistic forecasts of future events can easily degenerate into an almost religious way of thinking. However, in spite of similarities between religious and transhumanist goals, fanatical belief is certainly not part of transhumanism, which merely promotes overcoming as many traditional human limits as possible with technology.

What transhumanism and faith-based approaches to the human condition have in common is their goal to “overcome” the human experience and conquer what are our current earthly vulnerabilities. Both share hopes that humans can remedy their dissatisfactions about their own nature. Since religion asks for faith while transhumanism asks for scientific efforts, the two may disagree on the efficacy of each other’s approaches. However, both share the same end goal of bettering humanity in some way. This makes it possible for the secular transhumanism to be perfectly compatible with religious approaches to the problem of mortality.

By their use of secular terms such as “life-extension” and “longevity”, immortalists tend to decrease their chances of ever being mistaken for pseudo-religious personalities. However, the smuggling of religious language into science is a commonplace problem (“god particle” for the Higgs Boson?), so people advocating the technological “transcendence” of humanity ought to avoid infiltration by such religious language.

To conclude, it is likely that all faith-based approaches to the human condition can be reconciled with the transhumanist approach, simply because both sides have the same end goals of happiness and overcoming humanity’s limits. Faith-based approaches already have no qualms about humans transforming into something more than human, by professing a belief that our fate will ultimately be good. All the religions are already transhumanist by definition – they just believe in an unverified transhumanism that has no science to back it up or any guarantee of being real.

Where any two systems or movements have the same ultimate goal or preference, mutual tolerance is possible even if the two movements pursue radically different approaches.

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'Ukraine is a US-made military dictatorship'

. @hjbentham. @PressTV. #Ukraine. #TortureReport. #Novorossiya.

As the US supports warlords in Ukraine, its absurd theories of democratization collapse into folly.

In all International Relations (IR) classrooms throughout the English-speaking world, there is taught something called the democratic peace theory. The theory holds that countries are less likely to go to war if they are democracies, and that installing democratic regimes is therefore the path to peace and security in the world. Paradoxically, the theory is more often applied to justify wars than to end them.

Democratic peace theory is a large part of the underlying rhetoric behind the United States’ commitment to “democratization” in the world’s conflict zones, particularly the Middle East and the former Soviet Union. While the US supplies arms to dictatorships it falsely labels “democracies”, it works to overthrow governments that were actually democratically elected. Hurling feeble accusations that truly elected rulers are sliding into autocracy, the United States continues on a slippery slope of its own by arming some of the world’s most sordid military dictatorships. It is astonishing that anyone can really be convinced by their reasoning.

In Ukraine, the United States proved its hypocrisy more clearly than in any other relationship it managed to strap together. Its initial cause for involvement in Ukraine was about “democratization”. Accusing the democratically-elected President Viktor Yanukovich of sliding into autocracy, the United States favored violent protests to overthrow this regime in the name of US-guided democracy.

Yet, for all its theories about democratization, look what the US did to Ukraine. Now, we have a good part of the country in a state of insurrection against the central government, and a military dictatorship using tanks, and even white phosphorous and cluster bombs against its own people. The US “democratization” of Ukraine has failed, achieving the opposite of the values it claimed to be spreading. Rather than valid elections, we have this absurd tin-plated dictatorship in Kiev, reliant on foreign military support, desperate to silence critics, beat up any political opposition, and ban all valid opposition parties. Such actions are a true slippery slope to autocracy, worse than anything that the United States ever accused the previous regime of committing.

In Ukraine, the United States has carried out a total U-turn from supporting democracy to justifying military dictatorship. If nothing else does, this should prove to everyone that the United States is concerned least with democracy or freedom and most with installing dictatorial strongmen to back up its military dominance in each region.

If the best that billions of dollars allocated for “democratization” in Ukraine can produce is a dictatorship, it is hard to see why anyone could accept liberal foreign policy theories justifying this dictatorship. For all its talk of democracy and stability, the US-led NATO alliance is unwilling to grant either principle even in Europe, and is solely concerned with protecting despotic rulers and the presence of its armies.

Just examine how quickly the United States changes its mind about which country is a democracy and which country is a dictatorship. If they bring a dictatorship to power, they call it a democracy. If a country elects leaders they disapprove of, they call it a dictatorship. Arbitrary reasoning is used, in either case, to suggest the US-backed dictatorship is on track to democracy, or the elected regime is on a slippery slope to autocracy. In certain cases, the US insists democratically-elected rulers have to step down or be removed because of their alleged autocracy. Meanwhile, the same US defends far more explicit dictatorships around the world and insists they are necessary.

A regime that clings to its military might and its ability to sanction, threaten and blackmail other states has no principles. The US government’s consistent failure to observe any principle, its unparalleled penchant for breaking its promises and shirking the values and peace guarantees it clams to uphold, shows the true face of a regime that can only survive by placing the whole world in shackles.

Even in recent times, the US is accused of sliding into autocracy and police state structures by its own people, as the protests and unrest in recent days demonstrate. Will the world be lectured about laws, principles and human rights by a regime that lacks even the most basic appearances of democratic legitimacy on its own soil? Will we be informed about our “security” by this capricious band of thugs, killers and dictators who call themselves the “world’s only superpower”?

The reason the democratic peace theory has failed is that it has no scholarly merit. The theory is not democratic, peaceful, nor is it even a valid “theory” of International Relations. It is a propaganda package, designed to justify US-led wars and coups around the world on so-called news networks, bringing the new wave of dictators to power on the back of a tank from Benghazi, to Cairo, to Kiev. In each of these cases, the United States sang a hollow song of democracy, before changing tune to speak of the sovereignty, international recognition and military backing of the dictatorship.

There are limitless criticisms of the so-called democratic peace theory, although none of them can compete with the evidence in recent years of this theory’s ultimate failure. Throughout the world, the democratic peace and liberal national development models are but the newest iteration of what Kipling called the “White Man’s Burden”, simply dressed in new political clothes to avoid the obvious racist overtones. The French also called this the mission civilisatrice, or civilizing mission. Whether done in the name of spreading Christianity, or the more modern idol of “democracy”, it remains as dangerous, arrogant, and destabilizing as its racist origins betray. No matter its pretext, cultural imperialism does not export peace to anyone’s shores, but war.

The idea that America’s militancy and aggression for “democracy” restores security is the great lie of our time. It is the one that must most be challenged, as we revise the structures of knowledge. The rhetoric of power and cultural supremacy must be ousted, that we may be free to pursue intercultural understanding and peace between civilizations.

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US capricious policies demonstrate decline

. @iwallerstein. #Iraq. #Iran. #Syria. #TortureReport.

American historical social scientist Immanuel Wallerstein, best known for his analysis of the crisis of the modern world system, i.e. of postindustrial capitalism, has responded aptly to one New York Times piece that declared the US problem in the Middle East to be its conflicting policies.

Immanuel Wallerstein sees the US's growing capriciousness, signaled by conflicting policies in the Middle East, as further evidence of its precipitous decline as the hegemonic power since it first achieved that status in 1945. Writing in a commentary titled "US Standing in the Middle East" from his widely syndicated column at his website, Wallerstein states that America's 2003 aggression against Iraq was a failure that "transformed a slow decline into a precipitate decline". What we are seeing now is still, in many ways, fallout from the catastrophe of the US regime's failed aggression in Iraq.

In what appears to be a reference to the United States' repeated rhetoric about the need for its global leadership role, Wallerstein states that "U.S. public opinion is torn between the glories of being the “leader” and the costs of trying to be the leader". The United States fails to meet the costs of its aggression and capricious actions, relying on other countries to pay for "90% of its costs" in the examples of the two Gulf Wars. The donors mentioned by Mr Wallerstein are Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Germany and Japan.

In Wallerstein's assessment, the United States was not happy with the end of the Cold War but "dismayed" by it, as it destabilized the bipolar world order that it formerly balanced its credibility on to justify control over its two-thirds of the international community. This is a striking point, considering the apparent return to Cold War-mode relations between the US and Russia (also China?) over the American-induced crisis in Ukraine. Further, Wallerstein describes the US's penchant for military intervention around the world not as a manifestation of its supreme military or moral position, but as evidence that the US is aware of its declining status and is desperate to restore (the appearance of) its global primacy.

All of this points to an increasingly geriatric superpower, rather like Senator John McCain himself, who is arguably the personification of what Uncle Sam has become since it attained the nuclear status needed dominate the world in 1945. Indeed, as Wallerstein points out, the United States is no longer a special power but simply a nostalgic, crumbling regime whose confused leaders seek to bathe in past glories but know not how to begin.

In their confusion, the present regime in Washington lashes out at the world - at anyone - in hope that its next battle might be the one to restore its appearance of dominance. Such efforts are futile. From dust, this super power emerged, and to dust it will return.

Visit Immanuel Wallerstein's website for further commentary.

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