Psycho Politics in an Age of Imperial Decline


Lund, Sweden.

The time of rational politics, if it ever existed, is over.

”Realpolitik” has become a mixture of marketing soundbites, propaganda and leaders making statement that borders on the Theatre of the Absurd. Thinner and thinner links to Real-ity.

This is what happens when decline in being denied.

All empires go down. The U.S. empire is in decline. Macro historians (see e.g. British Arnold Toynbee’s 12-volume work 1934-61) tell that there are many reasons when empires fall:

* militarism with constant warfare;

* overextension – trying to control more than you can manage;

* loss of legitimacy in the eyes of others;

* structural economic crisis;

* moral decay;

* loss of intellectual and technological innovation and

* simply other powers gaining strength over time and doing things in new, creative ways.

After 1945 the U.S. was considered strong on many power dimensions: military, economics, politics, legitimacy, culture, innovation. Today, it is only clearly Number One on the military dimension. When all the other indicators go down, the military becomes a huge burden and only accelerates the decline.

The U.S. is in decline and denial. So are most of its allies and sympathizers.

Its foreign policy-makers seem to assume that everything is fine and they can still lead and shape the world according to their interest and worldview. It remains fundamentally a missionary.

Here is some elements of  what it consists of:

Being # 1 – the Teacher

Since 1945 the U.S. has been Number One in the world’s ranking system. All Number One in any system has the problem that they don’t learn, they teach and they preach. If you are number 37 in a vertical ranking order, there are 36 others to learn from: How did they get higher up than me and how can I do better?


For too long time you’ve gotten your way too easily because of your unique power position. It becomes a bad habit because other actors obey – out of fear or out of love. One day both a gone. It works when all power dimensions are in balance – the rest of the world was fascinated by the U.S. and found most of its values and policies legitimate, innovative and good for themselves too.

More wants more. You must always have more weapons and bases around the world and more assets, e.g. oil that you control. The bigger you get, the more you may also loose, so you simultaneously feel insecure – and want more to feel secure. Addiction.

If you don’t have enough enemies, you create them so you can always legitimise your power policies and ensure that you remain the world’s moral authority, the Good Cop.


West warns Russia not to disrupt Kiev polls” – a typical headline these days. You tell others that they will be punished if they do what you are consistently doing yourself.

Projection means transferring your own dark sides onto the other and thereby believing you have cleaned yourself and may have a right to punish that ”dark” enemy.

This of course is built on the denial of the well-documented fact that you yourself interfered massively in Kiev and brought about a de facto coup d’etat.

If integrated into everything you do this becomes pathological. It’s spells the end of “Realpolitik” and a sense of shared reality with the rest – not living in the same world.


It slowly but surely becomes more difficult to take in what really happens in the world. Your compass is out of order. Top leaders increasingly gather only yes-people who confirm the ’group think’ values instead of challenging them.

Intellectualism is replaced by salesmanship and you begin to believe in your own propaganda as if it were the truth. Media and academia follow and genuinely independent critical questions and analyses drop. The Military-Industrial-Media-Academic Complex, MIMAC, gains strength.

Psychic numbing

A concept coined by eminent psychiatrist, Robert Jay Lifton. When seeing terrible suffering repeatedly over time, you get less an less touched by it. The first Hiroshima film may touch you deeply. When you’ve seen dozens, they don’t

The same applies to the consequences of cruelties committed by yourself: You minimise the evil things you do and you argue that others have committed worse crimes. Thus, no need for assessing the mass murder you committed on, say, the Iraqi people. (”Well, it was a necessary price for getting rid of Saddam…”)

Lack of empathy

You have sunk so far down in your own position that your decisions no longer rest on some kind of analysis of the most important of all questions: How will the others feel and react to what we now decide to do?

Instead, you increasingly believe they’ll react as you think they should react. If they don’t you feel confirmed that they are the bad guys and you threaten them even more.


Your basic assumption is that you are better or more civilised than the rest. This permits you to operate outside common laws and norms. Of course it’s because you are noble: You carry a ”white man’s burden”, you promote democracy and freedom.

Israel and the U.S. are exceptionalist states. They share the idea of being ”chosen” to lead for the common good – often referred to as the ”international community” – while, in reality, it is all about their own interests.

Exceptionalism also means that any criticism of your policies is met with the – psycho-wounded argument that you are really attacking their soul, their identity. Thus, words like ”anti-American” and ”anti-semite” is hurled at anyone who does not endorse blindly what you do.

This fundamental weakness is interpreted as strength. Over time it nourishes the autism and makes democratic debate impossible.

Narcissist judging good from evil

You divide the world into two – good or evil, us or them – and the violence you commit is good violence believed to be necessary to stop evil violence. So no matter what you do you are the good guy and they are the bad guys.

It never fails, cannot fail and, thus, no need for apologising for anything and also no need for learning anything. ”We don’t learn, we teach” and ”we are good people”.

There may be much more but these 8 elements will do here.

Who won’t catch this?

Of course the elites themselves, including President Obama and NATO-leaders. Neither those who over decades have spent their lives supporting U.S. policies no matter what at American and European universities.

Those who just criticise policies for just being double-standard are missing completely the depth of this civilisational crisis and just how serious it all is.

Finally, don’t expect political scientists and their media colleagues with their state-centric, military, material and geo-political focus plus traditional methods learnt from only American textbooks to catch any of it.

The ultimate dangers of denial

The 8 indicators of psycho-politics above coupled with nuclear weapons, drones and a warfare system second to none in human history is an extremely dangerous mix.

I fear what more we have to go through while the West gets weaker relative to the rest of the world.

Rome, the Ottoman Empire, Britain and the Soviet Union – all empires go down. The U.S. empire is the second nuclear-weapons based empire to go down. Will there be a statesman like Gorbachev in the West, or are we doomed by psycho-political denial?

Jan Oberg is director of the Transnational Foundation for Peace & Future Research in Lund, Sweden.

Jan Oberg is director of the Transnational Foundation for Peace & Future Research in Lund, Sweden.

Weekend Edition
October 9-11, 2015
David Price – Roberto J. González
The Use and Abuse of Culture (and Children): The Human Terrain System’s Rationalization of Pedophilia in Afghanistan
Mike Whitney
Putin’s “Endgame” in Syria
Jason Hribal
The Tilikum Effect and the Downfall of SeaWorld
Paul Street
Hope in Abandonment: Cuba, Detroit, and Earth-Scientific Socialism
Gary Leupp
The Six Most Disastrous Interventions of the 21st Century
Andrew Levine
In Syria, Obama is Playing a Losing Game
Louis Proyect
The End of Academic Freedom in America: the Case of Steven Salaita
Rob Urie
Democrats, Neoliberalism and the TPP
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
The Bully Recalibrates: U.S. Signals Policy Shift in Syria
Brian Cloughley
Hospital Slaughter and the US/NATO Propaganda Machine
John Walsh
For Vietnam: Artemisinin From China, Agent Orange From America
John Wight
No Moral High Ground for the West on Syria
Robert Fantina
Canadian Universities vs. Israeli Apartheid
Conn Hallinan
Portugal: Europe’s Left Batting 1000
John Feffer
Mouths Wide Shut: Obama’s War on Whistleblowers
Paul Craig Roberts
The Impulsiveness of US Power
Ron Jacobs
The Murderer as American Hero
Alex Nunns
“A Movement Looking for a Home”: the Meaning of Jeremy Corbyn
Philippe Marlière
Class Struggle at Air France
Binoy Kampmark
Waiting in Vain for Moderation: Syria, Russia and Washington’s Problem
Paul Edwards
Empire of Disaster
Xanthe Hall
Nuclear Madness: NATO’s WMD ‘Sharing’ Must End
Margaret Knapke
These Salvadoran Women Went to Prison for Suffering Miscarriages
Uri Avnery
Abbas: the Leader Without Glory
Halima Hatimy
#BlackLivesMatter: Black Liberation or Black Liberal Distraction?
Michael Brenner
Kissinger Revisited
Cesar Chelala
The Perverse Rise of Killer Robots
Halyna Mokrushyna
On Ukraine’s ‘Incorrect’ Past
Jason Cone
Even Wars Have Rules: a Fact Sheet on the Bombing of Kunduz Hospital
Walter Brasch
Mass Murders are Good for Business
William Hadfield
Sophistry Rising: the Refugee Debate in Germany
Christopher Brauchli
Why the NRA Profits From Mass Shootings
Hadi Kobaysi
How The US Uses (Takfiri) Extremists
Pete Dolack
There is Still Time to Defeat the Trans-Pacific Partnership
Marc Norton
The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution
Andre Vltchek
Stop Millions of Western Immigrants!
David Rosen
If Donald Dump Was President
Dave Lindorff
America’s Latest War Crime
Ann Garrison
Sankarist Spirit Resurges in Burkina Faso
Franklin Lamb
Official Investigation Needed After Afghan Hospital Bombing
Linn Washington Jr.
Wrongs In Wine-Land
Ronald Bleier
Am I Drinking Enough Water? Sneezing’s A Clue
Charles R. Larson
Prelude to the Spanish Civil War: Eduard Mendoza’s “An Englishman in Madrid”
David Yearsley
Papal Pop and Circumstance
October 08, 2015
Michael Horton
Why is the US Aiding and Enabling Saudi Arabia’s Genocidal War in Yemen?