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 both sides of the aisle embrace the idea that America is unique among nations in its global responsibilities, 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 25, 2012 at 12:28 PM
Africa MOBUTU SESE SEKO Dictator of Zaire 1965-1997 MOHAMMED SIAD BARRE President/Dictator of Somalia 1969-1991 GEN. IBRAHIM BABANGIDA Military Dictator/President of Nigeria 1985-1993 GEN. SANI ABACHA Dictator of Nigeria 1993-1998 HASTINGS KAMUZU BANDA Dictator of Malawi 1966-1994 LAURENT-DÉSIRÉ KABILA President/Dictator of the Democratic Republic of the Congo 1997-2001 GNASSINGBE ETIENNE EYADEMA Dictator of Togo 1967-2005 FELIX HOUPHOUET-BOIGNY Dictator/President of the Ivory Coast 1960-1993 HASSAN II King of Morocco 1961-1999 TEODORO OBIANG NGUEMA MBASOGO President/Dictator of Equatorial Guinea 1979-present ZINE EL ABIDINE BEN ALI President-Prime Minister/Dictator of Tunisia 1987-2011 ANWAR EL-SADAT President/Dictator of Egypt 1970-1981 HOSNI MUBARAK President/Dictator of Egypt 1981-present IAN SMITH Prime Minister of Rhodesia (white minority regime) 1965-1979 PIETER WILLEM BOTHA Prime Minister of South Africa (white minority regime) 1978-1984, President 1984-1989 DANIEL ARAP MOI President/Dictator of Kenya 1978-2002 HAILE SELASSIE (RAS TAFARI) Emperor of Ethiopia 1928-1974 WILLIAM J. S. TUBMAN President/Dictator of Liberia 1944-1971 SAMUEL KANYON DOE Dictator of Liberia 1980-1990
Will Wilkin September 25, 2012 at 12:29 PM
More Asia SYNGMAN RHEE President/Dictator of South Korea 1948-1960 GEN. PARK CHUNG HEE President/Dictator of South Korea 1962-1979 GEN. CHUN DOO HWAN President/Dictator of South Korea 1980-1988 SIR MUDA HASSANAL BOLKIAH Sultan of Brunei 1967-present GEN. LON NOL Prime Minister/Dictator of Cambodia 1970-1975 POL POT Dictator of Cambodia 1975-1979 MAJ. GEN. SITIVENI RABUKA Dictator of Fiji 1987-1999 ASKAR AKAYEV President of Kyrgyzstan 10/27/1990-2005 Europe FRANCISCO FRANCO Dictator of Spain 1939-1975 ANTONIO SALAZAR DE OLIVEIRA Dictator of Portugal 1928-1968 COL. GEORGIOS PAPADOPOULOS Prime Minister/President/Dictator of Greece 1967-1973
Will Wilkin September 25, 2012 at 12:30 PM
Latin America ANASTASIO SOMOZA GARCIA Dictator of Nicaragua 1937-1947, 1950-1956 ANASTASIO "TACHITO" SOMOZA DEBAYLE Dictator of Nicaragua 1967-1972, 1974-1979 MANUEL ESTRADA CABRERA Dictator of Guatemala 1898-1920 GEN. JORGE UBICO CASTANEDA Dictator of Guatemala 1931-1944 COL. CARLOS ENRIQUE CASTILLO ARMAS Dictator of Guatemala 1954-1957 GEN. JOSE MIGUEL YDIGORAS FUENTES President/Dictator of Guatemala 1958-1963 COL. ENRIQUE PERALTA AZURDIA Military Junta, Guatemala 1963-1966 COL.CARLOS ARANA OSORIO Dictator of Guatemala 1970-1974 GEN. FERNANDO ROMEO LUCAS GARCIA Dictator of Guatemala 1978-1982 GEN. JOSE EFRAIN RIOS MONTT Dictator of Guatemala 1982-1983 MARCO VINICIO CEREZO ARÉVALO President/Dictator of Guatemala 1986-1991 MAXIMILIANO HERNANDEZ MARTINEZ Dictator of El Salvador 1931-1944 COL. OSMIN AGUIRRE Y SALINAS Dictator of El Salvador 1944-1945 CIVILIAN-MILITARY JUNTA, EL SALVADOR 1961-1962 COL. ARTURO ARMANDO MOLINA BARRAZA Dictator of El Salvador 1972-1977 JUNTA, EL SALVADOR 1979-1982 ALFREDO FÉLIX CRISTIANI BUKARD President/Dictator of El Salvador 1989-1994
Will Wilkin September 25, 2012 at 12:31 PM
More Latin America TIBURCIO CARIAS ANDINO Dictator of Honduras 1932-1948 COL. OSWALDO LOPEZ ARELLANO Dictator of Honduras 1963-1975 ROBERTO SUAZO CORDOVA President/Dictator of Honduras 1982-1986 GEN. OMAR HERRERA-TORRIJOS Dictator of Panama 1969-1981 GEN. MANUEL ANTONIO MORENA NORIEGA Dictator of Panama 1982-1989 AUGUSTO PINOCHET UGARTE Dictator of Chile 1973-1990 GEN. JORGE RAFAEL VIDELA Dictator of Argentina 1976-1981 COL. MARCOS PEREZ JIMENEZ Dictator of Venezuela 1950-1958 GEN. ALFREDO STROESSNER Dictator of Paraguay 1954-1989 ALBERTO FUJIMORI Dictator of Peru 1990-2000 FRANCOIS "PAPA DOC" DUVALIER Dictator of Haiti 1957-1971 JEAN-CLAUDE "BABY DOC" DUVALIER Dictator of Haiti 1971-1986 MILITARY JUNTA / LT. GEN. RAOUL CEDRAS, GEN. PHILIPPE BIAMBY and LT. COL. MICHEL-JOSEPH FRANCO Haiti 1991-1994 GEN. RENE BARRIENTOS ORTUNO President/Dictator of Bolivia 1964-1969 GEN. HUGO BANZER SUAREZ Dictator of Bolivia 1971-1978 DR. GETULIO VARGAS Dictator of Brazil 1930-1945, 1951-1954 GEN. HUMBERTO DE ALENCAR CASTELLO BRANCO Dictator of Brazil 1964-1967 CARLOS PRIO SOCARRAS Dictator of Cuba 1948-1952 FULGENCIO BATISTA Dictator of Cuba 1933-44, 1952-1959 GERARDO MACHADO MORALES Dictator of Cuba 1925-1933 RAFAEL LEONIDAS TRUJILLO Dictator of the Dominican Republic 1930-1961
Will Wilkin September 25, 2012 at 12:32 PM
Middle East MOHAMMED REZA PAHLAVI Shah of Iran 1941-1979 SADDAM HUSSEIN Dictator of Iraq 1969 (1979)-2003 GEN. MOHAMMED AYUB KHAN President/Dictator of Pakistan 1958-1969 GEN. AGHA MUHAMMAD YAHYA KHAN President/Dictator of Pakistan 1969-1971 GEN. MOHAMMAD ZIA UL-HAQ President/Dictator of Pakistan 1977-1988 PERVEZ MUSHARRAF Dictator of Pakistan 1999-2008 ABDUL IBN HUSSEIN I King of Jordan 1952-1999 TURGUT ÖZAL Prime Minister of Turkey 1983-1989, President 1989-1993 SHEIK JABIR AL-AHMAD AL SABAH Emir of Kuwait 1977-2006 Prime Minister of Kuwait 1962-1963, 1965-1978 FAHD IBN ABDUL-AZIZ AL SAUD King and Prime Minister of Saudi Arabia 1982-2005 MAC, are you suggesting the Republicans are about to discontinue this American foreign policy legacy?


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