On Monday, Vice President Dick Cheney was in Minnesota and spoke to members of the National Guard there â€œin an event that seemed like a pep rally.â€? Not surprisingly, much of his speech had to do with terrorism and the war in Iraq. In the course of such, the VP offered this modest appraisal: â€œThe war on terror is a battle for the future of civilization. Itâ€™s a battle worth fighting. And itâ€™s a battle we are going to win.â€? Based on these assertions, which appear excessively grandiose and cocksure, it would seem that Mr. Cheney and, by association, Mr. Bush believe that the stakes can be no higher and the only option is unilateral triumph. Indeed, the VP went on to say the following:
â€œ[T]he people of our country do not support a policy of passivity, resignation, or defeatism in the face of terror. The United States will never go back to the false comforts of the world before September 11th, 2001. Terrorist attacks are not caused by the use of strength. They are invited by the perception of weakness. And this nation made a decision: We will engage these enemies — facing them far from home, so we do not have to face them on the streets of our own cities. There is still difficult work ahead, because the terrorists regard Iraq as the central front in the global war on terror. They are running a war against the civilized world. We’re dealing with enemies that recognize no rule of warfare and accept no standard of morality. They have declared their intention to bring great harm to any nation that opposes their aims. Their prime target is the United States. So we have a responsibility to lead in that fight.â€? [full text of speech]
And, it would appear, that fight is not simply about Iraq. Nor is it even about the Middle East. It is about â€œthe future of civilization.â€? As much as one might wish to dismiss the Vice Presidentâ€™s remarks as the usual hawkish bluster or mere off-the-cuff braggadocio, one truly cannot. In the past six months, on at least eight separate occasions, Mr. Cheney has nearly word for word publicly asserted that the U.S. is in â€œa battle for the future of civilization.â€? Mr. Bush has made similar comments in the past. On July 9, 2005, in a radio address to the nation, the President said, â€œThe terrorists cannot shake our will. America and its allies will act decisively, because we know that the future of civilization is at stake in this struggle.â€? As a mental health clinician, I find it difficult not to view these broad assertions as either delusional or grandiose to the point of severe narcissistic personality disturbance. Regardless of the pathology which might underlie such beliefs, the potential ramificationsâ€”for our troops, our economy, the civilian population in Iraq and throughout the Middle East, etc.â€”are dire. While it might be impolitic to challenge the sanity of our leaders, I believe that it is paramount that we challenge their beliefs and decisions. The future of civilization may not be at stake, but the future health and well-being of a great many here and abroad certainly are.