Global Grandiosity: America's 21st Century International Architecture
Megalomania: Unreasonable conviction of one's own extreme greatness, goodness, or power. An obsession with doing extravagant or grand things. A delusional mental disorder that is marked by feelings of personal omnipotence and grandeur. An extreme form of egotism. Adolf Hitler is generally considered to have been a megalomaniac.
Delusion of grandeur: Individuals with grandiose delusional disorder have an inflated sense of self-worth. Their delusions center on their own importance, such as believing that they have done or created something of extreme value or have a "special mission." A conviction of one's own importance, power, or knowledge. [A] delusion (common in paranoia) that you are much greater and more powerful and influential than you really are.
The above are composite dictionary definitions of the afflictions in question, ones which are symptomatic of the two most severe forms of mental illness: Bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
When an individual exhibits these traits he or she is correspondingly diagnosed, treated with psychotropic medications and often with court-ordered hospitalization, and monitored for being a potential threat to himself and to others.
However, when a nation, or a leader representing one, manifests the same symptoms there is to date no effective mechanism for mandating therapy or for ensuring the protection of others from one so affected.
To understand individual psychopathology magnified to the level of world affairs, imagine that in any other context a person described his own role and the qualities of his employer as unique in the world as well as history and as alone beneficial to humanity; that others are good or bad, benign or malignant, useful or dangerous in proportion as they share the person in question's estimate of himself; that the use of force, including deadly force, is the sole prerogative of that person and his friends and allies, that "If I have to use force, it is because I am me; I am the indispensable person. I stand tall and I see further than other people into the future, and I see the danger here to all of us."
The quote is an adaptation of one by then-U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in 1998. The first person singular has been substituted for the plural and personal references for those of the nation she represented as its chief voice in international relations.
A person not endowed with the trappings of government office who loudly, persistently and intolerantly proclaimed himself the world's sole superperson and the only individual capable of intervening with and resolving differences and disputes between all other people in the world, and who accused those who thought otherwise of being engaged in a furtive conspiracy against him because of his elevated, indeed messianic, status would be sent post-haste to his company's human resource department and shortly thereafter placed on a combination of mood stabilizers and anti-psychotic medications. For his own protection and that of others.
Delusions of grandeur are associated with the manic phase of bipolar disorder and frequently with other delusional content typical of schizophrenics, especially delusions of persecution - paranoia. Grandiosity can be comparatively harmless, although disruptive to family and professional relations and an impediment to healthy and productive functioning in general.
But when combined with delusions of persecution it is dangerous. The reason the two are frequently linked and mutually reinforcing is that only a person who is convinced that he is uniquely and innately imbued with superior abilities and moral qualities and is assigned a role in and even above history can believe that he is an object worthy of an elaborate, relentless and unparalleled campaign of harassment and hostility. A normal person - or nation - doesn't entertain that degree of self-importance in either respect.
A recent example of the coupling of grandiosity on one hand and criticizing and belittling anyone who questions or resents the self-appointed status of superiority on the other was offered by President Barack Obama last December on the occasion of his receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, when he denounced "a deep ambivalence about military action today...joined by a reflexive suspicion of America, the world's sole military superpower."
Doubts, even the mildest of misgivings, about the actions of history's first - and decidedly unelected - global military juggernaut, which launched three unprovoked wars between 1999 and 2003 - Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq - and is currently conducting and participating in deadly attacks in South Asia, the Middle East, Africa and South America, could to the grandiose/paranoid mindset only be motivated by primitive instinctual reactions, irrational bias and inherently and ineradicably evil motives.
Being good, being preeminently good, being good in a manner and to a degree unmatched in the annals of time, means being incapable of anything but good motives and good actions. Ipso facto. Axiomatically.
The distinction between us and them is that of good and bad. Good persons and nations have nothing to regret, nothing to apologize for, nothing to correct, nothing to change. Good comes from good and bad from others, in direct proportion as they differ from us and refuse to concede our unmatched sense of goodness. Acts that perpetrated by others would evoke unequivocal condemnation and harsh - even deadly - responses are when performed by us and ours excusable if not praiseworthy.
On September 8 Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered her latest confirmation and defense of that doctrinaire conviction.