Something's Missing: Male Hysteria and the U.S. Invasion of Panama
The best strategy for challenging the phallic authority of the penis is laughter.1
Analyzing the cause of the 1989 U.S. invasion of Panama, a White House adviser told the New York Times the president "felt that Noriega was thumbing his nose at him."2 Read symptomatically, Manuel Noriega's political gesture toward Bush is exposed as hysterical. The substitution of the unconscious impulse for the signifier--penis for thumb and the Central American isthmus for nose--suggests a geopolitical anatomy of frustrated desires. 3 Furthermore, it prompts a series of questions: Why did Noriega expose himself to Bush? What accounts for Bush's response (a military invasion)? And does this scenario as a summary statement of the Bush administration's position toward Noriega offer any insights about male hysteria as a motif for political leadership in the "new world order"?
What follows is a symptomatic reading of geopolitical bodies (diplomatic and territorial) and body parts (sexual and strategic) that appear in the discourse surrounding the U.S. invasion of Panama. Among the bodies analyzed are those of Manuel Noriega and George Bush (diplomatic), Panama and the United States (territorial), and the Panama Canal (sexual as well as strategic body part).
This symptomatic reading of the invasion discourse draws upon the work of Luce Irigaray, particularly her books Speculum of the Other Woman and This sex which is not one, to make two theoretical moves. 4 The first move reads Noriega and Bush as hysterical males by examining them as isolated