What gives power its bite is its naïve belief that it is grounded in realism when it is actually a supreme act of self delusion. Take, for example, the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) that was certain we would fill the vacuum left by the collapse of the Soviet Union, thus enabling us to impose a pax Americana on the world. That was when the expression “sole surviving superpower” became the cliché de jour.
The PNAC underscored another characteristic of power: a complete ignorance of history. Since the Peace of Westphalia, international politics has been characterized by a constantly shifting balance of power. Once one power center threatens to monopolize the scene, other powers, or combination of powers, rise to challenge it. So it is that this balance is being restored by the ascendency of both Europe and Asia.
This shift reveals another characteristic of power: the moment power comes to believe in its own invincibility is the moment it begins its slide into irrelevance.
There are those who claim that both globalization and multinationals have rendered the nation irrelevant. This delusion arises out of a failure to make a clear distinction between power and influence. Multinationals wield influence because of the liberality of their bribes. However, power still resides with the state. The difference between the two is that a political leader can legally execute a CEO. The best a CEO can do is to illegally assassinate a political leader.
Firmly ensconced in its fantasy world, power proceeds to develop its own vocabulary to sugar-coat its malfeasance. Decency is relabeled as appeasement, social justice becomes Neoliberalism and freedom is defined as feral corporatism.
To court power is to court fear, for power ascends only when it leaves enmity and anger in its wake. Kill a man and you live in fear of his children. So you must break and oppress them because with the death of their father they become a potential threat. The more you break and oppress, the more you fear and, consequently, the more you must break and oppress.
This is why the oppressors are such great wall builders. Our contemporary outbreak of wall building represents an unprecedented act of historical regression. Walls are so medieval, yet they are necessary because the industrial warfare that peaked with World War II has descended into irrelevancy. To its horror, the American military has discovered that its industrial war machine is impotent against a popularly-supported insurgency.
This means every dark-skinned “other” is a potential threat and can only be kept out by a wall.
This brings me to power’s greatest paradox: the more powerful a nation becomes, the weaker it becomes. This is why great powers need a constant stream of bullshit and bombast to pump themselves up, and the easiest way for a waning power to pump itself up is to initiate a string of unnecessary and futile wars that can never be won.
A dying power accelerates its self-immolation when it has a simpleton at the helm. So, you were right, George, God did called you to lead America at this time and in this place in history.