October 3, 2007


Delusion of exceptionalism (Paul Campos, October 2, 2007, Rocky Mountain News)

The American nationalist believes that, in the words of Michael Cohen of the "liberal" blog Democracy Arsenal, America is "inherently good," and that therefore our imperialist adventures have nothing in common with those of other great powers.

Try this thought experiment: Imagine Nicolas Sarkozy defending French foreign policy by pointing out that France is "inherently good," or Vladimir Putin claiming the right to imprison suspected terrorists for life without trial, because the Russian security forces can be trusted not to make mistakes.

Yet when similarly absurd nonsense is spouted by apologists for "American exceptionalism" - basically, the doctrine that the rules don't apply to us, because we're special - it's treated with the utmost respect by supposedly serious people.

In short, when a political leader claims he is the head of a unique nation, anointed by history or even God himself to be a light unto the world, we tend to consider him either an amusing crank or a dangerous lunatic.

Unless that leader happens to an American president - then he's merely stating a self-evident truth.

You'd think he'd do a little bit of research before devoting a column to a topic. Nationalism is the belief that your nation is exceptional because of its ethnicity, a notion foreign to America for obvious reasons. And Mr. Sarkozy is -- unsurprising in someone who isn't French, is -- the first non-nationalist leader of his country since at least before the Revolution. Indeed, in his insistence that France shuck the secular egalitarian model that has done it so much damage over the last two centuries and adopt instead the faith-based/Anglo-American model of liberty, Mr. Sarkozy is essentially an American exceptionalist himself. But, like all such, he is clearly misnamed as evidenced by the simple fact that he does not think there's any reason the French can't be more like the English and Americans. His argument that the French model is inherently bad and the American model inherently good makes him an anti-nationalist par excellence.

Nowhere is it clearer that America is not nationalist than in the fact that one of the groups most closely identified with Amnericanism just happens to be Jewish, The new L-word: 'neocon' (Roger Cohen, October 3, 2007, NY Times)

What's a neocon? A liberal "mugged by reality" in Irving Kristol's definition. The reality in question, back then, was Communism-as-evil, the centrality of military force, the indispensability of the American idea, and much else. But that's ancient history. The neocons are the guys who gave us the Iraq war, of course.

They're the guys who, in the words of leftist commentator and blogger Matthew Yglesias, "believe that America should coercively dominate the world through military force" and "believe in a dogmatic form of American exceptionalism" and "believe American dominance is the highest good" and "favor the creation of a U.S.-dominated 'universal empire.' " [...]

In short, neoconitis, a condition as rampant as liberal-lampooning a few years back, has left scant room for liberal hawks. "Neocon is an insult used to obliterate the existence of this liberal position," says Paul Berman, a writer often so insulted.

Liberal interventionists, if you recall, were people like myself for whom the sight in the 1990s of hundreds of thousands of European Muslims processed through Serbian concentration camps, or killed in them, left little doubt of the merits, indeed the necessity, of U.S. military action in the name of the human dignity that only open societies afford.

Without such action in Bosnia and Kosovo, Europe would not be at peace today.

One such liberal interventionist, albeit a reluctant one, signed the Iraq Liberation Act in 1998 that said, "It should be the policy of the United States to support efforts to remove the regime headed by Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq." His name was Bill Clinton. Baghdad is closer to Sarajevo than the left has allowed.

For this left, anyone who supported the Iraq invasion, or sees merits to it despite the catastrophic Bush-Rumsfeld bungling, is a neocon.

We know what Europe's nationalists did with the Jews...and it wasn't follow them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 3, 2007 11:48 AM

I like the way these people like Cohen have to toss in the bit about "bungling", as if they would have done better had they been allowed to "nation build" with al-Qaeda and its passive-agressive supporters here doing everything possible to disrupt that "nation building" project.

I almost want to see St.Hillary! get elected (and reelected if necessary) so she and all the Left get to deal with the fallout from the act of war that happens in this country. Except I know, based on the previous Rodham-Clinton administration, they will get a pass and blame everyone but themselves for such "bungling".

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at October 3, 2007 12:46 PM

We had several terrorist attacks on America during the Clinton years (WTC, Oklahoma Federal, USS Cole, Flight 800, Kenya embassy, Riyhad barracks, etc.), I hope the Republicans bring up their track record for critiquing during the campaign.

Posted by: KRS at October 3, 2007 1:40 PM

>"American exceptionalism" - basically, the doctrine that the rules don't apply to us, because we're special

Forget about quibbles over what "nationalism" means. This definition of "American exceptionalism" is risible.

Posted by: b at October 3, 2007 2:13 PM

Ditto on the quotation marks around "bungling."

How foolish! We gave law to Iraq as though it were, say, Mexico. Let us ask one more time what, it this result were a "failure," a success might have looked like. We took down the best of the spititual jailhouse with a token force, at ngligible cost.

Posted by: Lou Gots at October 3, 2007 2:35 PM

Two things tell you immediately that someone is an intellectual lightweight: when he's unable to differentiate between patriotism and nationalism, and when he is so ignorant about military history that he says Iraq is a disaster or quagmire.

Posted by: X at October 4, 2007 7:30 AM