Saturday, April 4, 2009

American Exceptionalism

On April 4, 2009, at a NATO summit in Strasbourg, someone asked Obama if he believed in American exceptionalism, to which he replied, “I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.”

Almost immediately after Obama said that remark, the right started to pillory Obama for not really believing in American exceptionalism. The debate that ensued was really stupid and superficial and had little to do with the real meaning of the term American exceptionalism. The right equated American exceptionalism with the belief that America was special, great, a city on a hill, etc. The real meaning of the term American exceptionalism is the belief that the rules don’t apply to us, that we can do whatever we want in the world, particularly in foreign policy and in that respect, certainly, Obama did believe in American exceptionalism.

Whoops.

The problem with that sort of mindset is that other countries may not like some of our “exceptional” actions and they may hit back at us in retribution. Furthermore, other countries who know what our government has done can use the threat of releasing that information to extort us.

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