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 will not 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? 

MAC September 24, 2012 at 07:33 PM
Obama has nearly destroyed American "Exceptionalism." He promised to "Transform America" and has failed at most every promise but that one, sadly. If given another term, he will so greatly diminish our nation into "decline" that we will not recognize our formerly great Nation!! I plead with Patch readers to read the excellent information here about the threats of Obama's friends, such as Muslim Brotherhood leader and newly-elected Egyptian President Mohammad Morsi. It is simply appalling that Obama favors him and his own "Celebrity in Chief" appearances over attending PDBs (only having attended 43 % of them), meeting with our only middle eastern ally, Israel's Netanyahu, and our national security!!! 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]." 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! Anyone who has been deceived about Obama and wants the Truth, and to know "why is President Obama hell-bent on seeing America fail?" could start by watching 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.
Derek September 25, 2012 at 05:47 PM
Don't use the patch to spam that movie by that useless imperialist D'Souza. The cold war is over and Russia is not our biggest enemy, contrary to what Romney may say. You need to learn what the Europeans learned two generations ago - imperialism doesn't work. Egypt was run by a corrupt dictator before he was toppled by his own people but because he's "our friend" it's Obama's fault for not intervening. We supported Ghaddafi in his latter days, after he "renounced" terrorism. Before Lenin, Russia was ruled by an absolute monarchy and was still a society in the 1700s. Stop moving the goal post - you either stand for democracy or despotism. As for Bibi, if you are so concerned about Israel's well being you should go live there. AIPAC and others have made Israel the US' largest recipient of foreign aid and they have US-supplied weapons. Last I heard - that hasn't changed. This is a cheap shot and by all means dishonest. Our role in the world is not to rule it. The only thing this country should export is goods and services. Not only is it morally abhorrent to support people like Mubarak and to invade countries without provocation, it's expensive. We could fix health care, housing, and education with the money we spend on the military industrial complex. As for American Exceptionalism, the only thing that should be exceptional is our values and culture, not this imperialist mentality that neocons like MAC like to attribute to the idea.


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