One of the key traits of psychopathic personality disorder is a near-total absence of empathy. To the psychopath, other people exist as mere objects, to be used and discarded at the psychopath’s whim.
"I had to beat my mother with that baseball bat," claims the typical psychopath. "She wouldn’t give me her pension check, and I needed it to buy more beer."
Such statements are made without irony or sarcasm, since the psychopath literally cannot imagine that other human beings might have needs distinct from his own.
While watching events unfold these past weeks in Egypt, it became apparent to me that the United States is suffering from a foreign policy malady frighteningly analogous to psychopathic personality disorder.
On one hand, the history of the Mubarak regime is well-documented. For decades, the Egyptian people have lived in grinding poverty – on less than $2 per day, by some estimates – while Mubarak and his family have amassed vast fortunes. The Egyptian government routinely uses torture against its political opponents and denies the people even basic freedoms. Election fraud, censorship, and police brutality are realities of everyday Egyptian life.
That the Egyptian people have rebelled against such a regime should come as no surprise. And one would expect that the American government – itself the creation of a revolution against an authoritarian monarchy – would support their cause, at least morally if not materially.
Such an assumption, though, presumes the presence of a degree of empathy that our government simply no longer possesses. From the very beginning, Washington’s reaction to the demonstrations has been creepy and repulsive, with Vice President Biden even remarking, preposterously, that Mubarak is not a really a dictator at all.
Despite the swerving, the billowing clouds of doublespeak and the confused backtracking, the common thread weaving its way through our government’s reaction has been one of egocentrism of psychopathic dimensions. Our elite media have mostly been neurotically obsessing about the effect that Mubarak’s fall would have on America.
What about access to the Suez Canal? What about Israel? What about Egypt’s cooperation with our War on Terror? What about those juicy military contracts?
Basically, it’s all about us.
Even the oft-heard accusation that President Obama was going to "lose" Egypt reveals volumes about the state of America’s psychology.
But as pathological as America’s response has been, the reaction has been even worse in Israel (America’s Middle Eastern "mini-me"), where the government has been openly hostile to the demonstrators and has gushed embarrassingly over Mubarak and his crony regime.
Forgetting the ruined economy. Ignoring the absence of civil liberties. Denying the torture chambers. Bibi seems mostly concerned about the effect that Mubarak’s overthrow would have on Israeli foreign policy. (Perhaps someone should ask Netanyahu how he would react if someone were to suggest that the Israelis should live in grinding poverty and without basic freedoms so that the Egyptians should feel more secure?)
That a new government should take power in Cairo is inarguable; Mubarak and his cronies have sucked the country dry and have abused the Egyptian people for long enough. The downtrodden people have spoken, loud and clear. And now, most importantly, the creation of a new government in Cairo should be the sole prerogative of the Egyptian people, without interference from foreign interests.
But of course that will never happen. Every day, more details leak into the media about the conniving and manipulation, the bribing and the backstabbing, swirling throughout Cairo as America attempts to control the succession (which is another way of saying that Washington is attempting to replace Mubarak with a newer clone who will continue to jump when we whistle).
The Egyptian people may want a new government, but Washington wants more of the same.
Psychiatrists say that the treatment of psychopathic personality disorder is long and difficult. The psychopath must be relentlessly confronted with the ugly consequences of his actions. He will usually resort to anything – denial, repression, anger, or even violence – to protect his ego and his dysfunctional personality structure. After all, psychopathic behavior is often very effective at meeting one’s needs. If the psychopath has successfully fulfilled his desires through manipulation and violence for most of his life, why should he stop now?
As the red wheel of our government’s foreign policy rolls its way through the Middle East, leaving a bloody trail of death and destruction in its wake, this last question is one we should all be asking ourselves.
And if we are relentlessly honest, we may not like the answers.