Friday, April 21, 2006


Analysis of Odom speech

Thanks to Caro Kay for finding this and Digby for publicizing it. General William Odom, formerly head of NSA, gave a very good speech Reading analyses of it is a striking example of Rashomon. Is it about how disastrous the invasion of Iraq was to American power? Is it about who benefited from the invasion of Iraq? I would argue that it is interesting mostly because of how it shows how the nature of American power differs from most previous hegemons. Odom calls it sui generis, but it's not. The Roman Republic and the Athenian city-state were seen as great benefactors, too, and for similar reasons. The key line in Odom's speech is this (quote approximate): The American Empire is ideological, not territorial and Liberal, not ideological. Countries fight to get into this empire, not to get out... until Iraq." And so we come to the great irony of the modern era. Liberalism, roughly equivalent to "a rising tide lifts all boats" attracts people to your cause (the dictionary definition emphasizes individual liberty, a belief in progress, and a belief in human goodness). American power reached its height under Liberal leaders, from troglodytes like McKinley and Nixon to geniuses like Roosevelt. By contrast, the Manichean worldview, in which We Are Good And They Are Bad alienates potential allies and ultimately destroys American power. We should be glad that Odom is a rare breed of right-winger, one who understands how Liberalism is the essential tool of American hegemony. Most right-wingers, hostile to modernism (cf. intelligent design), tolerance (cf. anti-gay, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim rhetoric), and freedom (cf. NSA spying, Patriot Act, Guantanamo, torture) are happily undercutting the foundations of the monarchy they have founded. I hope others will listen and add what insights they glean from the speech.
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