Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Superpower Syndrome

If you haven't met the good doctor Robert Jay Lifton yet, please go check out his diagnosis of American foreign policy. Will have much more to say on the substance of his assessment later on, as I'm still poring through his latest book, Superpower Syndrome.
From Hiroshima to Nazi doctors, Vietnam to the apocalyptic cult that sarin-gassed the Tokyo subway system, the psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton has explored many of the most extreme moments of our previous century of excess and the people who lived through or enacted them. Now, in a brief, thoughtful "intervention" of a book, he's brought his experiences together and focused them on the first moments of our new century -- trying to make some sense of al Qaeda, and ourselves.


"The confrontation between Islamist and American versions of planetary excess has unfortunately tended to define a world in which the vast majority of people embrace neither. But apocalyptic excess needs no majority to dominate a landscape. All the more so when, in their mutual zealotry, Islamist and American leaders seem to act in concert. That is, each, in its excess, nurtures the apocalypticism of the other, resulting in a malignant synergy."