Is America Exceptional?

We’re the shining city on the hill and the last best hope of Earth. Or are we?


Is America responsible for leading the Earth’s way to worldwide liberty and democracy? Or are we following a path of decline already well-traveled by nations older and wiser than we?

How you answer those questions probably says a lot about your political beliefs.

Alexis de Tocqueville first called America “exceptional” in its pursuit of commercialism and practical matters versus “science, literature, and the arts” in 1831’s Democracy in America. Jay Lovestone, the Communist leader from the late 1920s, noted America’s resistance to Communist revolution because of our strong capitalist mindset and natural resources, which Joseph Stalin refuted as “the heresy of American exceptionalism” ̶ ironically, the first time the phrase was used.

Although the idea that America is unique among nations in its global responsibilities has been embraced by both sides of the aisle, President Barack Obama observed that while Americans believe they are exceptional, so did other once-dominant nations such as Britain and Greece; thus, the delicate unwinding of a nation’s hubris begun by its leader.

He isn’t totally wrong: America has a history of expansionism and hypocrisy to contend with, and it isn’t pretty. In the Philppines at the turn of the century, in World War II, in Vietnam, in Nicaragua, in Iraq and Afghanistan, American forces have killed civilians, sometimes accidentally, sometimes not. And we are neither better nor the more popular for it.

Once upon a time on the campaign trail, President Obama promised that hostility against America would ease on his first day in office. He set out on a worldwide near-apology tour where he promised enraptured crowds that, if elected, his administration would treat the world with more respect ̶provided they respected us in return.

Yet just this past week the world watched as a strong wave of anti-American sentiment spread quickly across the Middle East as well as Australia, Africa and Europe, resulting in the death of our Libyan ambassador and staff. Rumors persist that the Libyan government warned the administration about the attack in advance, although U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice stated that the protests resulted from an Internet video that disparaged the Islamic prophet Mohammed, apparently made by an American.

Unfortunately, it seems that our policy of appeasement has resulted in little more than violence and threats. It’s also resulted in visible frustration on the part of our closest Middle Eastern ally and friend in democracy, Israel. Last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu requested a meeting with Obama to discuss the worsening situation in Iran, which apparently is attempting to enrich uranium, a key ingredient in nuclear weaponry.

Obama denied the request. Who is on the calendar instead? None other than Muslim Brotherhood leader and newly-elected Egyptian President Mohammad Morsi, who supports amending Egypt’s Constitution so it more closely resembles the Koran and Sharia law.

Of course, Obama has plenty of time to make an appearance on David Letterman and attend a reelection fundraiser hosted by Jay-Z and Beyonce.

A point of fact: the Anti-Defamation League identifies the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group, as do many political observers. The Council on Foreign Relations referred to the Brotherhood as a stepping stone to membership in militant terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda and Hamas, and many dangerous terrorists are former Brotherhood members.

Although the U.S. State Department won’t classify the organization as a terrorist group, Obama won’t confirm that Egypt is a current U.S. ally, calling their relationship a “work in progress,” despite a decades-old treaty stating otherwise. And while it appears Morsi was elected fairly, foreign relations watchers can only purse their collective lips at what the Arab Spring will mean for Israel, and America.

Former Egyptian President (dictator) Hosni Mubarak at least stuck to the terms of the old peace treaty and kept a distance -- albeit a cold one -- from Israel. With the new leadership in place, and a potential alliance between the Brotherhood and Iran forming, one can only wonder how long that delicate peace will last.

Will our imperfect exceptionalism keep us shining on the hill? 

Will Wilkin September 21, 2012 at 03:21 PM
Part 3 of 4 When one considers the history of American relations with Iran, it is clear that Washington has wronged the Iranian people: overthrowing Mosaddeq to install the Shah in Iran and CIA training his Savak secret police that tortured and executed disappeared thousands over decades. In the Arab countries the US installed and paid puppet dictators and supported repressive oil sheik regimes, continuing today in Bahrain for the convenience of the 5th Fleet. As the author states, Mubarek was indeed a dictator, what she ignores is he was funded well over $1Billion/year by the USA, making him a puppet, screwing the Egyptian people in the interests of a cold peace with Israel. Global military domination (over 40% of world military spending is by the USA) on borrowed money is bankrupting the country and showing the world a militarist face of our country. Instead of defining American interests in the Middle East in terms of oil and "anything Israel wants," instead of a series of illegal unConstitutional undeclared wars throughout the Muslim world, it is time the USA redefined our national interests by looking at what we need to be prosperous in the 21st century. Its time we make a plan to drastically scale back our imperial overstretch ($1Trillion/year defense spending) and instead put our people back to work by reviving our manufacturing and renewing our crumbling infrastructure and education systems.
Will Wilkin September 21, 2012 at 03:21 PM
Part 4 of 4 Too bad neither the Democratic Party or the Republican Party has any clue as to how their free trade policies have liquidated our engines of wealth-creation, guaranteeing that even looting Social Security and bankrupting the Treasury won't be near enough to continue the global military domination, despite tearing up the Bill of Rights for the phony war on terror to justify the military binge spending. Our diplomacy in the Middle East should not be giving Israel a blank check while militarily occupying multiple muslim countries. Using the term "appeasement" to goad Washington into deeper confrontations is not in the interests of our country. Finis.
MAC September 24, 2012 at 09:12 PM
Electing Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, "America's Comeback Team," is our only hope for returning the U.S. to Prosperity, and restoring the American "Exceptionalism" that Obama has nearly destroyed. If you are not fully aware of the existential Muslim threat to our survival, please watch "The Project," a two-day documentary on this, on TheBlazetv.com (free 2 week memb. available) or on Dish Network channel 212, starting Wednesday. Obama's assessments of democracy coming out of middle eastern riots are as deluded as Woodrow Wilson's support of the Russian Revolution which brought Communist dictators into power! Obama apologizes to and courts favor with despots and dictators, as vividly illustrated when he caressed the knee of Medvedev while overheard telling him "I'll have more flexibility after the Election." The reply was "I'll transmit to Vladimir [Putin]." Those who want the Truth, and to know "why is President Obama hell-bent on seeing America fail?" should see the movie "2016: Obama’s America" http://www.2016themovie.com/theaters/ Don't delay, though. It was playing at about 20 CT theaters, down to a dozen now. If given a second term, Obama will completely destroy our democratic (representative) Republic and any semblance of the great and unique nation given to us by the Founders!
Will Wilkin September 25, 2012 at 12:44 PM
Hi MAC, What Republican or Democratic President has NOT "court[ed] favor with despots and dictators"? Unfortunately it seems the USA has drifted into economic malaise and except for tilting at Muslim windmills has no purpose or direction. The unshrinkable American bureaucracy is running 1000 US military bases on foreign soil and spending over 40% of global military spending, all of which needs unending justifications, such as the endless boundless "war on terror." The riots we are seeing across the Muslim world may be precipitated by a nutty movie but the cloud-seeding, that is, the real depth of anger, comes from our long history of military occupation and interventions in the Muslim countries, and our support for their hated dictators we call "friends." "existential Muslim threat to our survival"? Please explain.
Jean Marie Wiesen September 25, 2012 at 04:22 PM
What POTUS declines meetings w/ World leaders while in NY to speak at the UN, but instead appears on, The View? One who could care less about our role in foreign affairs and is more interested in campaigning, that's who. As to the terrorist attacks having the slightest bit to do w/ a "nutty movie," that's the lamest excuse I've heard in a long time...oh wait, that's what the WH claimed and the Pres is still claiming. Right. Bin Laden might be dead, but al qaeda's not; they were behind the murders of our Ambassador, Chris Stevens and the retired Navy Seals. It would be honorable if POTUS would honor their memories by telling this bit of truth. It's not all Muslims, either, it's the Jihadists; large distinction.


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