Sometime ago, I coined the term Ivy League Imperialism to describe the sense of entitlement that the Power Elite in our country have enjoyed for nearly sixty years after WWII ended. That term described for me why we have seen the steady downward drift of our society away from the original majestic sentiments expressed in our Constitution and the Bill of Rights.It also distilled for me the vainglorious pursuit of imperial wars by our ruling class over the same period.The best example of those sentiments was uttered by none other than Henry Kissinger in one of his conversations with Richard Nixon when the two were plotting the overthrow of Salvador Allende in Chile after he was elected.To wit,” Latin America is such a third rate place”.
Kissinger might be forgiven for expressing this contempt for foreign peoples because he and many others of our ruling class had a mentor, George.F.Kennan, a Princeton pooh-bah, who at the end of WWII wrote an article that set the stage for the many evil acts committed in our name.When the world as a whole was rejoicing at the downfall of the Nazi tyrants in Europe, Kennan was worried about how best to maintain U.S. hegemony in the emerging post war world. His first contribution was to propose a policy of “Containment”, to isolate the Soviet Union which, despite the enormous loss of 25 million of its people in the war against the Nazis, was from that point onward to be viewed as a rival to the U.S.The second, and a more lasting contribution to our downward spiral was his statement (paraphrased) that goes something like this:”We are only 6% of the world’s population and use more than 35% of the world’s resources.It is our job to make sure that the rest of the world does not see this as an unfair state of affairs”.
Given his stature as a so called statesman, Kennan laid the foundations of our warfare state through his remarks and ensured that any one who opposed the framework presented in these two remarks would become a pariah in the U.S. caste system.All subsequent Presidents,Secretaries of State and Defense Secretaries were required to pay homage to the wise sage from Nassau Street.That begat Rusk, McNamara,Kissinger,Schlesinger,Laird,Brzezinski and numerous others, big and small, in the service of those tenets.
The role of the Ivy League Schools like Princeton, Harvard, Yale and Columbia cannot be overemphasised IMO
in the entrenchment of this viewpoint.The ivy league schools inculcated in the sons and daughters of the rich the view that they were superior not just to ordinary Americans but to the people of the world at large.These indolent young people were sent abroad as agents of our spying agencies where they could indulge in their wild fantasies, described in some of the lurid novels by Howard Hunt (of Watergate fame) and William F.Buckley.In those assignments they nourished a contempt for the peoples who were not born to wealth or power.To them dethroning or assassinating the elected leader of a Third World country like Iran, Mohammed Mossadegh, and replacing him with a tyrant, the Shah of Iran, was an exciting exercise that their boring lives back home could not match.
As our intelligence agencies grew in power because of the presence of men like George Bush, William Casey, William Colby and others,and the duly elected representative government receded in power,it became necessary to clothe our institutions in respectability and this began the process of conversion of the Press/Media as propaganda organs of the ruling class.The man who was ready with a solution was Walter Lippman who accurately perceived what he was required to deliver was a way to ensure that unpalatable questions or opinions were not given a platform within our political structure.From that insight emerged a whole class of Press courtiers such as James Reston, the Alsop brothers,Bob Woodward,and their many clones who inhabit and pollute our political discourse.
As this class of power wielders and their interpreters became entrenched, the emergence of men like Cheney ( Yale dropout), Rumsfeld ( Princeton) and Bush (Yale and Harvard) could have been predicted.All these men share a contempt for our institutions and look at our constitutional processes as impediments to wielding power.It is not for nothing that they want to set aside the Constitution and steal elections,launch wars,concoct fantasy tales with the aid of the Press,torture prisoners,violate all international norms,and now spy on Americans using the powerful instruments of government.Their sense of entitlement,their belief that power and money could solve all problems and that threats and coercion will cow all opponents into silence has led them to the current impasse.
While I blame each of these men for our current state of atrophy and malaise,the institutions that have fostered this elitist mentality without any restraints are also to blame.I find it significant that none of the Presidents of the schools I have mentioned has seen fit to criticize our policies in the Middle East lest they lose precious grants.The lure of grants in silencing Presidents of our prestigious universities was expressed by Bartlett Giamatti, then President of Yale,in a conversation with Lewis Lapham wherein he says,”the President of Yale is now a song and dance man lstening to jokes by rich donors”.
In the downward spiral that Bush has led us in the past few mercifully short years,he has recruited a new class of apologists for his war and predatory policies: the PNAC signatories and the DLC.They all subscribe to the notion that America can do no wrong,that we have the right to kill and maim thousands of innocent people who meant us no harm and when the President orders us to kill we should simply obey and send our sons and daughters in the service of an illegal regime.
The vast gulf between the Bush regime and our people, is evidence that the time has come for us to discard the elitist mentality fostered by the Ivy League approach to education.It fills our minds with facts without questioning why we are required to learn these “facts” and fosters in people like George Bush, the idea that he is somehow superior to other Americans, because, as Ann Richards said”he was born on third base and thinks he has hit a triple”.
Don’t get me started on how the Ivy League B-Schools have destroyed a vibrant economy like ours in the same time frame.
Disclaimer: I was a product of one of these schools in the undergraduate years, saw the light and escaped to the UK to continue my graduate work and, believe that act saved my brain from atrophying completely.