Bill Totten's Weblog

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Comment on "Diagnosing the US national character"

After I posted "Diagnosing the US national character" on another list the same day (April 27) that I posted it here, I received the following comments that I think worthy of your attention. Bill

I'd say that Americans are addicted to picking fights with people in a weaker position than they are (cf the so-called Powell Doctrine, which makes this explicit). It doesn't really matter what the fight is about, as long as they win ("Winning isn't everything; it's the only thing"). The drama after the Vietnam War had little to do with what the fighting was about, but with the fact that Americans lost a war.

The sad thing about this mentality is that a lot of American lives have to be damaged or lost, before Americans know when to stop ("operation accomplished, the patient died").

Americans are not especially known for understanding the morals of other peoples. What they understand is brute force. And money. It's a harsh society, which thinks sensitivity has to do with sex. That's their functionalist culture.

As far as I am concerned, Americans lost any moral high ground when they provided Israelis with a gigantic killing machine, so that Israelis could be like Americans, that is, pick fights with people in a weaker position than they are. The murder of Iraq is "merely" a new low point of American morality.

Thankfully there are still plenty Americans - and Jews - for whom this cynical approach to human beings is utterly repugnant. So there is still hope for the American character, what's left of it.

But it will take more than a baseball coach to sort it out.



NB - I left out one important aspect, namely the connection between winning and (moral) truth in American ideology. What I mean here, is that the American belief is that "if we win, we are right", and the fact that they win, seems to prove practically "our way is right" or superior. In the historical sciences, they say "history is typically rewritten by the victors to reflect their path to victory" and indeed insofar as American pragmatists are at all interested in history, it often focuses very much on who won and who lost, with the suggestion that the ideas of the winners "must" have been better, otherwise they wouldn't have won. Alas, historical processes are more complex than that, since "you might win the battle, but lose the war".


Bill Totten


  • (I couldn’t find the list with Jurriaan’s message, so I post my comment here)

    First I should stretch out that I agree with Jurriaan about the Powell doctrine and the “… as long as they win” (another similar example were the comments before the last election like “I will vote Bush, unless I can feel that Kerry can win”).

    On the other hand I refuse the idea that “… picking fight … What they understand is brute force”. Even Fox news is not filled with enough cynicism. I tend to see more of a very childish need of feeling control. “Whatever business, it is US business”. Kind of a need to feel needed. (so you can have Tucker Carlson arguing over “ Canada need the US, the US does not need Canada!”). Just like a child, the worst thing you can do to the USA is to ignore it. (a corollary being the semi conscious enjoyment of being hated for being so “good”).
    The first rush comes from the desire to be sure that everything works fine in the world, it is only afterward that “fine” comes to mean “in our interest”.

    Unfortunately, combine this with American military/economic strength and you have a super power that will try to make as many people as possible dependent on America’s military and economy. Quick list of known US friends: Israel, Japan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, various dictatorships. Mach it with local threats: Islam countries in general, China, North Korea, own civilian populations.

    The primary good will of benevolent power leads to the necessity of instability to assure a constant call for the cavalry.

    So it is not that “Americans are addicted to picking fights with people in a weaker position” as much as an addiction to their own power and its use to justify its necessity.


    By Anonymous tennouji, at 7:12 PM, May 08, 2006  

  • Are you kidding? We didn't lose the Vietname war, look at the amount of causualties on their side and then on our side....We practically annihilated their entire race.

    We were forced to pull out due to the political and social climate at the time. If we kept on fighting I have no doubts that we would've crushed them entirely.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:13 PM, November 07, 2007  

  • Obviously, Anonymous above, most of Mr. Totten's observations are based in the most perverse form of ethnocentrism known: condescending self-righteous baby-babble. How this tool sold himself to smart Asians I will never know.....Was his father an ambassador ? Anonymous Deux, Electric Bogaloo.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:51 AM, May 02, 2008  

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