Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Greanville Post • Vol. IX | American Exceptionalism in the New Gilded Age

At one point last year, United States President Barack Obama declared that he “believe[d] in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being.” It was hardly a surprising or remarkable thing to hear. In US political culture, faith in “American exceptionalism” has long been doctrinally mandatory for top politicians, policymakers, and other elites. For those persons and others, stating one’s allegiance to “American exceptionalism” is hardly more controversial than standing up for the National Anthem or a US “commander in chief” saying “God Bless America” at the end of a major national speech.

(Just to be clear, the more accurate term would be “United States exceptionalism,” for “American exceptionalism” really refers to the US, not “America,” which technically includes Canada, Central America, the Caribbean islands and nations, and South America.)

“The United States is Good”

But what, exactly, does the term denote? Its meaning depends, I suppose, on the identity and values of its user and the context in which it is used, among other factors. For me, observing the term’s habitual use by US political and media personalities and some intellectuals, the phrase has two basic and interrelated meanings when it is employed by those “leaders.” The first such connotation holds that the United States is unique among world history’s great powers in the fundamentally benevolent, democratic, humanitarian, and non- and even anti-imperial intention and nature of its foreign policies – of its actions abroad.

“The United States is good,” Bill Clinton’s Secretary of State Madeline Albright explained in 1999. “We try to do our best everywhere.” Three years before, Clinton explained that the U.S. was “the world’s greatest force for peace and freedom, for democracy and security and prosperity.” These were curious reflections on (among other things) the U.S.-led economic sanctions that killed – as Albright acknowledged on national television in 1996 – more than half a million Iraqi children in the 1990s (Albright added that she “felt the price” of those deaths was “worth paying” for the advance of inherently noble U.S. foreign policy goals).

Complete story at - The Greanville Post • Vol. IX | American Exceptionalism in the New Gilded Age

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