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Sunday 20 Aug 2017 | 03:32 | SYDNEY
Sunday 20 Aug 2017 | 03:32 | SYDNEY

Obsessing over perception

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21 September 2009 13:28

I got some criticism via email about my first post on missile defence from last Friday. I said somewhat derisively that the reaction from the American right to Obama's decision to cancel the European land-based missile defence sysytem had echoes of the Afghanistan debate: 'sure, American policy is self-defeating and counter-productive and there is a cheaper option that would achieve the same goals, but reversing our current course would look like weakness. So let's stay the course.'

That is a crude caricature, I admit, and it may have actually disguised a serious point I was trying to make about the pre-occupation on the American right with perceptions, seemingly above all other considerations. Here's a paragraph that makes the point much more eloquently:

The conflation of American security with hegemonic privilege, and the corresponding obsession with perception, has had an enormously corrosive effect on the traditional (indeed traditionally Republican) understanding of American interests. Rather than identify a discrete set of issues that require resolution, the over-riding interest of the United States becomes the preservation of its global authority - wherever it is contested. It becomes correspondingly harder to resolve issues that require the U.S. to accept a sub-optimal outcome because any trade-off is seen as lethal admission that America’s will is not so implacable.

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