Cultural Hegemony and “Buying the War”

I am writing from the vantage of not having seen Bill Moyers’ documentary, Buying the War. I have however, read several reviews and feel confident in predicting that the documentary probably does not go very far in asking how the rest of the English speaking world got caught up in the rush to war.

The answer I believe, has to do with the power of an idea, the “American ideal”, America’s youthful charisma and America’s extraordinary economic power. In the English-speaking world there was a lot of pressure to go along. The English language press, wherever found, was “in orbit” around U.S.-centric media sources. The farther one got from the media sources, the less convincing the arguments.

This was not the case for French media, who, while acquainted with U.S. journalistic practices, managed to maintain their distance. France has a long colonial history and enjoys good relations in Arabic speaking and Mediterranean circles, a background that gave French media some perspective on the drumbeat for war and continues to give the French an advantage on the “human side” of multilateral negociations.

Cultural hegemony will continue to be a problem for America so long as we restrict our thought models to people who look and behave like ourselves, who are native English speakers and citizens of the United States. America’s failure in Iraq (as before in Vietnam) could be taken as a lesson in humility to be accepted gratefully.

Maybe during the Cold War we were unprepared to learn our lesson and take the medicine. There is no excuse not to do so now.

Ours has not been a failure of “will” or of “material means”, but of “governance” and “reason”. We can only be the better for learning such lessons.

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