A footnote on the pathology of imperialism part 3 – Libya, Egypt, Syria

13920919000462_PhotoIThe violence and brutality exploding out of the conflict raging in Syria has a lot to do with the machinations of western politicians, following the rationality of the sociopath, only until now they have been unable to find political enemies and allies as gullible as found in other places. One probable reason for this failure is that all of the possible partners seem to understand that the Western governments should not be trusted. Many of the primary actors realise they have a common interest, so you would think it would be easy to apply the same routine logic to get to the same end as transpired in Libya, but this has not been realised in practice.

The declared interest of the western political sociopath seems on the surface at least to be clear-cut. First to unseat the political regime of Bashar al Assad; second to establish a pro-western political regime in what remains of Syria, a regime that will put in jeopardy the one next door, the theocratic republic of Iran; third to reduce the influence of Russia in the region to an absolute minimum; fourth to ensure that the political neighbour on the other side, Israel does not have to ultimately intervene if Assad looks like being replaced by something much worse.

Despite knowing the ends to be pursued, the conflict gets ever more confused and chaotic. What relationships do the priorities have to each other? Do they even form a rational whole? Can the priorities be changed in order of importance? Finally, reason can easily come to grief when faced with finding the means to bring into being the prospective end.

Something that is not rational and not yet completely irrational comes to fill up the dark space, something resembling the adjustments made by a sociopath when his plans are exposed to obstacles. The common man’s term for it is, of course, failure but imperialism does not recognise failure as a working hypothesis.

The Western allies began this entire political cycle appearing to be uncertain as to how to respond to the democratic Arab Spring. When it appeared to be happening in Libya they made it clear they were in favour of a popular uprising, so they acted to push it on and help it to victory using air power. When the popular uprising occurred in Egypt they were slow to make up their minds.

It seemed to the outside observer that the western governments were in favour because the reporting in the normally obsequious media was generally supportive of the democratic protests against the dictatorship. But those to the wise always thought the western governments were playing a waiting game, knowing the US government had been supplying the dictatorship with dollars and weapons for decades.

It turned out that the western governments were not in favour of plain old democracy in Egypt. They were quite content for the old military dictatorship to come back to power with a new front on the grounds that the evolving democracy was flawed by the presence of a Islamic Party winning the election. So Islamic extremism serves more than one political purpose, in this case it is a rational case against good old democracy.

With Syria, the western governments were more certain what they wanted.  They were in favour of the popular uprising and there is evidence that they had been assisting the opponents of the dictatorship with money and assets for some time. The problem they faced when things took a violent turn for the worse was the old stumbling block of the United Nations and the norms of international law. It was not just that Russia has had a strategic military presence in Syria for years, which could also veto a UN motion facilitating direct western military intervention intended to tip the balance in favour of the popular uprising.  It was also that the regime of Assad constituted something more than a just a personal dictatorship.

His regime was representative of a substantial section of the population, not representative of a democratic majority, but representative of a privileged minority. This meant that merely killing Assad the individual would not bring about the demise of the Baathist regime. What the western governments really needed was some private army on the ground.

So who will be the boots on the ground?

This has been the heart-rending lament of the western governments and their puppets in the corporate media for the past two years. The western governments have attempted to bring about regime change in Syria without it being their own boots.

They asked their allies in the greater region to solve the problem for them. So a free licence to make war was given to the oil rich Gulf States of the wider region, to recruit the fighters to make up a proxy army acting on behalf of the west in Syria. The weapons were supplied indirectly via the famous Lebanese arms dealers.

Just as the fictional James Bond has a licence to kill, the seven dictatorships of the Gulf led by Qatar and Saudi Arabia have a licence to recruit and equip fighters to do battle in designated zones of strategic interest as they already had in Libya.  It was Qatar that largely financed and equipped that one, in its early stage.

In Yemen the Saudi theocracy is fighting another serious war that is also being brazenly supported by the western governments.  What sort of private war made up of foreign fighters is likely if it is being licensed and equipped by the Gulf Kings and the Saudi Princes?  The origins of the Saudi kingdom may just tell us the answer.

A footnote on the pathology of imperialism part 2 – from the individual to the political


by Belfast Plebian

I now want to make a connection between the abnormal personality in private life and the one in public life. If the individual mind can be natured in such a way that an acute episode of stress can make for behaviours psychiatrists associate with abnormal  and often disreputable behaviour, can something similar happen to a whole society or community under intense duress? If a community or society is going through a prolonged period of stress and abnormality will it not generate an increased number of people and events exhibiting similar traits to those associated with a personality disorder? How might that condition present itself in political life?

If we go back to the Lance Armstrong film, early on we don’t find a man who is irrational or obviously out of control.  In fact he is controlling, sophisticated, articulate, convincing in making friends and very rational in setting out his goals and finding the means to realise them. Yet there is something chilling about him in the later section in the way he bullies people, the way he uses and abuses friends, the way he lies in a very systematic way, and of course in the way that he succeeds big time in persuading an entire class of influential people to come over to his side. One gets the feeling at one time he could have ran for President and won.

Disreputable behaviour was present from the start but it was only when his quest for success began to meet with serious obstacles that his bad behaviour began to be noticed by others, just like Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. The proposition being put forward is that governments or States do something similar and more often than in private life; their policies can look rational to begin with but when they start to meet with serious obstacles states begin taking the twisted logic redolent of the sociopath. The result is a sizeable expansion of lying and maybe acts of violence. They become more like Mr Hyde.

It would be my hunch that success and failure in politics resembles this disreputable state of affairs more frequently than people living largely private lives like to think. In short, the political world contains more than its fair share of sociopaths and maybe even a few successful psychopaths. It is not my contention that the world of politics is a special draw to people with pre-existing personality disorder, rather it is that the normal political condition is, compared to the more clement one prevailing in private life, set out for people who are then conditioned to act out behaviours we might associate with mental abnormality

The typical political condition is one of conflict and stress and of unnerving uncertainty.  This makes an ideal laboratory for the unleashing of a type of abnormal rationality, a rationality more in keeping with one psychiatrists ascribe to abnormal individuals; the objective state of political life is one made for making a rational deviation. This generates an unusual sort of rationality, a perplexing combination of logic, lies and destruction.

A well-known statement concerning the role of the State in relation to the friend/ enemy distinction is one attributed to Lord Palmerston, an aristocratic politician especially detested by Karl Marx, ‘that Britain had no permanent allies and no perpetual enemies, only a perpetual interest.’ This is often quoted in support of the thesis in foreign relations known as political realism. Some of the most influential foreign affairs ministers are devotees of the theory like Zbigniew Brzezinski, the man credited with the first plan to arm and finance the Mujihideen in Afghanistan.

The idea is that a rational State actor participating in international affairs must always focus on the interest to be had without much regard for conventional moral issues, covering things like sticking with old friends and allies and refraining from suddenly switching sides in an international conflict. The interest is often an economic prize but it does not have to be. Yet is this not what a rational sociopath would do?  He goes after the top prize with a single minded dedication and zeal without regard for conventional moral scruple or past promises undertaken, subverting the normal ethics of friendship and decency.

When a private individual breaks promises without a care in the world and betrays friends it feels abnormal but when a politician like Lord Palmerston or Tony Blair does it it feels normal.  It is an unconscious thought that most of us expect serving politicians not to be fully accountable to moral law. It is almost like we are voting for people whom we excuse in advance.

In international relations it is wisdom to be as devious with old political friends as it is to be implacable with your current enemies. So if it means you win the prize – be ready to break with previous promises. In the case of western imperialism it is proper to act as if the rule of law exists only for the less powerful states but not really for the more powerful. A possible substitute maxim for the less powerful would be – always side with the evidently stronger state power, which today happens to be the USA. This maxim is the basis of NATO.

A delicious example occurred with the recent betrayal and ultimate execution of Colonel Gaddafi of Libya by his British and French allies. The Colonel thought he had made up with his old political enemies and was doing good trustworthy business with them again, especially in defeating Islamist groups. After years of enmity, in 2004 he did his famous deal in the desert, with Tony Blair acting on behalf of the western allies to destroy his weapons of mass destruction in return for diplomatic recognition. We know that his regime was sharing intelligence about al-Qaeda and other violent groups.


You might have thought had he had become an expert on the lies and duplicities of Western politicians but it appears that he did not completely understand international realism, that the only norm in western politics is that there are no ethical norms when it comes to political friendship; he seemed genuinely surprised that his new political friends in the west had moved so energetically to destroy him.  Still, there was a big prize to be had, first call on the country’s oil and gas wealth.

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The western media found no difficulty with his public execution, even though he had moved away from confronting western governments to cooperating with them.  They gloated over his murder with some gusto.  When a scratchy video showing his brutal execution was released, Hilary Clinton was seen laughing and high-fiving.  The western media said Gaddafi was a dictator, they also assumed he was a psychopath, this was probably true at the end of his long political run, but they neglected to mention that he was duped by a gang of cunning political sociopaths and that he was a bit too naïve for international politics western style.

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A footnote on the pathology of imperialism part 1 – Lance Armstrong

lance imagesby Belfast Plebian

Just a few nights ago I watched a television programme broadcast on BBC Four about the career of Lance Armstrong, the many times winner of the most gruelling sporting event known to man, the Tour de France, and was riveted by it. To win that thing once takes some doing, you almost have be prepared to kill yourself to succeed. Now, Lance won that damn thing seven times. It is hardly surprising that American big business was inspired by Lance’s achievement

He became the pride of America, corporations invited him to represent them; he spoke to the workers about the importance of mental discipline, ambition and dedication; he became the friend of successive Presidents and near Presidents; he founded a multi-million charitable foundation that was endorsed my countless movie stars and celebrities.

What was extra special about Lance was that after winning his first Tour he was diagnosed with Testicular Cancer. Now this condition can be treated if it is recognised early. However Lance’s cancer had already spread into other parts of his body including his brain. So Lance’s road to recovery was fraught with difficulty. Yet recover he did, and he went back to France to win the race another six times. No wonder then that American capitalism was in awe of Lance the over achiever. I have to admit that even me, a full time slacker, was impressed.

However it later transpired that Lance had won his tours by cheating on a grand scale. He had linked up with an infamous sports scientist who knew how to juice up the body to make it perform well beyond its natural state. If you wanted to be part of Lance’s all conquering team you had to participate in his well-orchestrated cheating.

Most of Lance’s support team went along with it because they believed every other cycling team on the tour was likely doing something similar. In fact Lance was taking so much juice that it might have been the toxins that brought on the cancer in the first place

While watching the documentary film two thoughts formed in my mind. The first was that Lance was the perfect match up for a certain type of ruthless capitalism; the business press often celebrate the top business executives by labelling them alpha males, they seem driven to succeed and will stop at nothing.

My second thought was he was a type of sociopath.  This thought only came into my mind near the end of the film when Lance telephoned a former teammate and his wife to apologise for all the bad things he had done to them by lying about them at a judicial hearing and to the press. They were at first a little gob smacked that he had taken over an hour to apologise to them and even seemed open to believing him. But then they realised that Lance’s apology was in fact just another Lance tactic, it was merely a PR ploy invented by Lance and his public relations team to save what was left of his damaged reputation and declining financial position after he had been shown to be, not just a cheat, but also an unrelenting liar.

Now I am no psychiatrist, so I went to the World Wide Web to find out what the professionals have to say about the term sociopath that had popped into my mind while watching the documentary.

I found out that the term originates from the America of the 1930s and was considered a useful one for separating those with specific anti-social characteristics from people who were criminal and dangerous i.e. the psychopaths. Today it is a common description for a type of personality that belongs in a group who may be said to exhibit a syndrome known as anti-social personality disorder. The popular use of the term is a little bit worrying for professionals because it gets mixed up with another state of mind disorder that also belongs to the group syndrome, namely the psychopath.

People with anti-social personality disorder exhibit the following behaviours:

1 They often breach the moral codes and conventions of the community they were socialised by.

2 They routinely lie and deceive family and friends.

3 They are impulsive and don’t foresee the likely consequences of rash decisions.

4 They are more prone to confrontation and conflict with other people than is normal.

5 They don’t feel guilty about harming other people who they believe are placing obstacles in their way.

6 They easily forget about bad things they have done to others in the past and expect family and friends they have hurt to always welcome them back no matter.

7 They are selfish most of the time, and have little thought for the troubles of others.

This is not the full list of criteria used by professionals but it is the essence of the matter. It has been argued that in the USA about 3 percent of the population can be assumed to be in the sociopath group and 1 percent in the psychopath group.

Now I dare say that most people might think that they could qualify as fitting the description if faced with abnormal circumstances, but the sociopath and the psychopath belong there given normal circumstances, they have a right to belong there.

I put Lance in the sociopath box mainly because he appeared not to be violent and a danger to others in the physical sense. He is not Ben Logan, brilliantly acted by Ben Kingsley in the film Sexy Beast, as convincing a portrayal of a murdering psychopath, as you are likely to see on the big screen.

It is to our benefit that people with personality disorders are thought to be a minority within our community. However all things are relative and there is a difference between the number of probable sociopaths and the number of probable psychopaths. It is generally believed by people who research these things that psychopaths are a tiny minority because they are produced by a fault in their physical nature, while sociopaths are more likely to pop up because their condition is attributable to nurture.

Well if the number of sociopaths can change due to changing social conditions then we have to be made aware of how this works itself out. It seems that a very stressed family situation, involving the rearing of children, is the place to start, being the social condition that makes for an individual acquiring the personality disorder syndrome. If a probable 4 per cent belongs to the groups; that is still 1 in every 25 people that you might know. It should be pointed out that most people who have the condition do not suffer from what is called a psychosis, meaning a detachment from reality due to the experience of suffering delusions or hallucinations. In short they do not strike one as being mad.