The Decline and Fall of the American Empire
by Tom Engelhardt and Alfred W. McCoy
Trying to play down the significance of an ongoing WikiLeaks dump of more than 250,000 State Department documents, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates recently offered the following bit of Washington wisdom: “The fact is, governments deal with the United States because it’s in their interest, not because they like us, not because they trust us, and not because they believe we can keep secrets… [S]ome governments deal with us because they fear us, some because they respect us, most because they need us. We are still essentially, as has been said before, the indispensable nation.”
Now, wisdom like that certainly sounds sober; it’s definitely what passes for hardheaded geopolitical realism in our nation’s capital; and it’s true, Gates is not the first top American official to call the U.S. “the indispensable nation”; nor do I doubt that he and many other inside-the-Beltway players are convinced of our global indispensability. The problem is that the news has almost weekly been undermining his version of realism, making it look ever more phantasmagorical. The ability of WikiLeaks, a tiny organization of activists, to thumb its cyber-nose at the global superpower, repeatedly shining a blaze of illumination on the penumbra of secrecy under which its political and military elite like to conduct their affairs, hasn’t helped one bit either. If our indispensability is, as yet, hardly questioned in Washington, elsewhere on the planet it’s another matter.