The Goddess-centered art we have been examining, with its striking absence of images of male domination or warfare, seems to have reflected a social order in which women, first as heads of clans and priestesses and later on in other important roles, played a central part, and in which both men and women worked together in equal partnership for the common good. If there was here no glorification of wrathful male deities or rulers carrying thunderbolts or arms, or of great conquerors dragging abject slaves about in chains, it is not unreasonable to infer it was because there were no counterparts for those images in real life. And if the central religious image was a woman giving birth and not, as in our time, a man dying on a cross, it would not be unreasonable to infer that life and the love of life—rather than death and the fear of death—were dominant in society as well as art. ―Riane Eisler,The Chalice and the Blade: Our History, Our Future---Updated With a New Epilogue
Given the cluttered landscape of the last 14 years, can you even faintly remember the moment when the Berlin Wall came down, the Cold War ended in a stunned silence of shock and triumph in Washington, Eastern Europe was freed, Germany unified, and the Soviet Union vanished from the face of the Earth? At that epochal moment, six centuries of imperial rivalries ended. Only one mighty power was left.
There hadn't been a moment like it in historical memory: a single "hyperpower" with a military force beyond compare looming over a planet without rivals. Under the circumstances, what couldn't Washington hope for? The eternal domination of the Middle East and all that oil? A planetaryPax Americanafor generations to come? Why not? After all,not eventhe Romans and the British at the height of their empires had experienced a world quite like this one.
Now, leap a quarter of a century to the present and note the rising tide of paranoia in this country and the litany of predictions of doom and disaster. Consider the extremity of fear and gloom in the party of Ronald "It's Morning Again in America" Reagan in what are called "debates" among its presidential candidates, and it's hard not to imagine that we aren't at the precipice of the decline and fall of just about everything. The American Century? So much sawdust on the floor of history.
If, however, you look at the country that its top politicians can now hardly mention without defensively wielding the words "exceptional" or "indispensable," the truly exceptional thing is this: as a great power, the United States still stands alone on planet Earth and Americans can exhibit all the paranoia they want in remarkable safety and security.
Here, then, are three exceptional facts of our moment.
Exceptional Fact #1: Failure Is Success, or the U.S. Remains the Sole Superpower
If you were to isolate the single most striking, if little discussed, aspect of American foreign policy in the first 15 years of this century, it might be that Washington's inability to apply its power successfully just about anywhere confirms that very power; in other words, failure is a marker of success. Let me explain.
In the post-9/11 years, American power in various highly militarized forms has been let loose repeatedly across a vast swath of the planet from the Chinese border to deep in Africa - and nowhere in those 14 years, despite dreams of glory and global dominion, has the U.S. succeeded in any of its strategic goals. That should qualify as exceptional in itself. After all, what are the odds that, in all that time, nothing should turn out as planned or positively by Washington's standards? It could not win its war in Afghanistan; nor its two wars, one ongoing, in Iraq; nor has it had success in its present one in Syria; it failed to cow Iran; its intervention in Libya proved catastrophic; its various special ops and drone campaigns in Yemen have led to chaos in that country; and so, as novelist Kurt Vonnegut used to say, it goes.
Though there was much talk in the early years of this century of "nation building" abroad, American power has been able to build nothing. Its effect everywhere has been purely disintegrative (unless you count the creation of a terror "caliphate" in parts of collapsed Syria and Iraq as a non-disintegrative act). Under the pressure of American power, there have beenno victories, nor even in any traditional sense successes, while whole countries have collapsed,populationshave beenuprooted, and peoples putinto flightby the millions. No matter how you measure it, American power has, in other words, been a tempest of failure.
Where, then, does success lie? The answer: despite 15 years bouncing from one militaristic disaster to another, can there be any question that, signs of decline or not, the United States remains the uncontested sole superpower of planet Earth? Consider that a testimony to the wealth and strength of the country. In many ways - certainly, in military terms (despite the hue and cry at the recent Republican debates) - there is no power that could or would contest it.
It’s hard for some Americans to understand why the Obama administration is so determined to come to an agreement with Iran on its nuclear capability, given that huge Iranianrallies areconstantly chanting “Death to America!” I know the chanting makes me unhappy, since I’m part of America, and I strongly oppose me dying.
But if you know our actual history with Iran, you can kind of see where they’re coming from. They have understandable reasons to be angry at and frightened of us — things we’ve done that if, say, Norway had done them to us, would have us out in the streets shouting “Death to Norway!” Unfortunately, not only have the U.S. and our allies done horrendous things to Iran, we’re not even polite enough to remember it.
Reminding ourselves of this history does not mean endorsing an Iran with nuclear-tipped ICBMs. It does mean realizing how absurd it sounds when critics of the proposed agreement say it suddenly makes the U.S. the weaker party or that we’re getting a bad deal because Iran, as Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham put it,does not fear Obama enough. It’s exactly the opposite: This is the best agreement the U.S. could get because for the first time in 35 years, U.S.-Iranian relations aren’t being driven purely by fear.
1. The founder of Reuters purchased Iran in 1872
2. The BBC lent a hand to the CIA’s 1953 overthrow of Iran’s Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh
3. We had extensive plans to use nuclear weapons in Iran
4. We were cool with Saudi Arabia giving Saddam $5 billion to build nukes during the Iran-Iraq war
5. U.S. leaders have repeatedly threatened to outright destroy Iran
6. We shot down a civilian Iranian airliner — killing 290 people, including 66 children
7. We worry about Iranian nukes because they would deter our own military strikes
In an effort to prevent Shell from starting its offshore drilling operation in the Alaskan Arctic, Greenpeaceactivists suspendedfrom the St. Johns Bridge in Portland, Ore. for over 30 hours earlier this summer in order to block one of the oil company's vessels. (Photo: Greenpeace USA)
Royal Dutch Shellannouncedthis morning that it would be abandoning its exploration program in the U.S. offshore Arctic for the “foreseeable future” (see our responsehere). After more than 7 billion dollars and many seasons of almost unbelievable mishaps – Shell made the call along with an announcement that this season’s efforts had failed to turn up any worthwhile find.
This is a huge win for the climate. We know that Arctic oil is incompatible with a safe global climate. Big oil’s high cost, high risk hunt for unburnable carbon at the ends of the earth was indicative of just how far the industry is willing to go to cling to last century’s dirty energy.
So what went right for those opposing Shell’s arctic drilling? Shell has many drilling seasons under its belt where it did not uncover any huge Arctic reserves, but for some reason this time, enough was enough and the company is calling it quits.
Here are a few of our thoughts on other factors at play.
Shell’s efforts to exploit the U.S. Arctic ocean struck a chord with millions across the continent and the world. The pristine Arctic Ocean is already bearing thebrunt of climate impacts, and they very idea that the melting Arctic sea ice could serve as an invitation to Big Oil to hunt for more oil was simply too much for concerned citizens to tolerate.
People power changed the game when it comes to Shell in the Arctic. Ranging from extraordinary grassroots opposition, to forcing the biggest names in U.S. politics to oppose the projects, to hitting Shell hard at home with legal victories in the Netherlands, Shell has been teetering back footed all year.
This is a win for people power, and a testament to the combined impact of pressure from all sides.
As Greenpeace UK’s executive director, John Sauven, saidtoday, “Big oil has sustained an unmitigated defeat. They had a budget of billions, we had a movement of millions. For three years we faced them down, and the people won.”