After reading this report by Nicole Belle at Crooks and Liars, a thought occurred to me. I can’t remember if it’s something I read in a comments thread somewhere else, or if it is just popped up on its own. Anyway, I can’t help but think that this nation is now divided into three basic groups when it comes to how we think about the current state of our foreign policy. There are many degrees within these groups, and a great deal of overlap between them.

The first group is the largest. It is made up of citizens who are woefully ignorant of our nation’s history of foreign intervention, and are therefore ill-equipped to critically analyze the tidbits of brain candy disguised as international news that are fed to them through the corporate media. These folks can not invest too much emotion or thought into foreign policy, because they do not have an adequate frame of reference. Unfortunately, the available abundance of imperial wealth (and its requisite cocoon of comfort and distraction) and military might gives most in this group a false sense of security that tends to preempt any significant self-education.

The second group is almost concentric with the first group. It is comprised mostly of self-identified conservatives, libertarians, and ‘centrists’. This group tends to embrace our government’s imperialist policies, because it has bought into the concept of “American exceptionalism.” Even though most people in this group have little in the way of a working knowledge of the history of our nation’s foreign policy, they tend to wave the flag and repeat the “my country right or wrong” mantra.

The third group is the smallest and least influential of all. It is the group that considers itself progressive, or at least pragmatic, and sees the inherent problem of a democratic society conducting itself in imperial fashion. This group, to varying degrees, expects more constructive, neighborly policy decisions from its government since it sees the U.S. as part of a world community.

The second group is the one that seems to get all hot and bothered by any public recognition that our current foreign policy behavior might not be very constructive. They probably vote overwhelmingly Republican, and therefore refuse to accept that the nation’s current foreign quagmires (Iraq and Afghanistan) are primarily their responsibility. Instead of humbly facing the reality that they have repeatedly voted for the disasters that are referenced (even obliquely) by the wreath shaped like a peace sign or the field of crosses representing the nation’s Iraq war dead, these people lash out in anger at the symbols. They don’t want to face the concept that their limited, reactionary world view might be the cause of massive death and suffering, so they rail against those who dare to shed light on that death and suffering. In the most fundamental sense, these people are guilty of moral cowardice.

As long as they are able to keep the worst effects of their ideology overseas, this group will likely continue to vote and behave as they do. These people respond all too well to the politics of fear and hatred, and it was to them that the Bush administration pandered after 9/11. The resulting foreign and domestic policies have been, to say the least, disastrous. If the U.S. (as we think we know it) is to survive the century, the third group will have to grow in number and influence post-haste.

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