In response to an FT article by Edward Luce on 14th August 2016, entitled ‘The return of American exceptionalism’
“Until recently most of the world yearned for the US to become a more normal country. It had seen enough of George W Bush’s freedom agenda to put it off American exceptionalism for good. People should be careful what they wish for. Donald Trump may be the most gaffe-prone — and offensive — US presidential nominee in history. But he is also the first to scorn the belief that America’s mission should be to uphold universal values. It is not clear he even thinks such values exist. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, is their unabashed cheerleader. “I believe with all my heart that America is an exceptional country,” she said in June. “We are still, in Lincoln’s words, the last best hope of earth”…
…Long-suffering US realists — those who argue that America should merely pursue its national interests — must wonder what they did to deserve such a champion…
…For years, the US public has said it is tired of military adventures, thinks Nato allies should shoulder more of the burden and that America’s global role should be more modest. Nation-building is no longer an election winner, if it ever was one…
…Unfortunately for realists, their ship may go down with him (Trump), which means the USS Exceptionalist would set sail again under Mrs. Clinton next January. Where was it during the Obama years? Mr. Obama’s foreign policy has been neither exceptionalist nor realist but a hybrid of the two. A few weeks after he took office, I asked whether he subscribed to the school of US exceptionalism, Mr. Obama replied that he was a US exceptionalist in much the same way that “Brits subscribe to British exceptionalism, and Greeks subscribe to Greek exceptionalism”. His creed, in other words, was avowedly subjective. Given how harshly Mr. Obama’s critics have questioned his patriotism, his answer today may be less ambivalent. It is hard to imagine Mrs. Clinton saying that. A true exceptionalist leaves no room for doubt. They believe the US stands taller and sees further than other nations, as Madeleine Albright, the former secretary of state, once said...
…Mr. Obama once summed up his approach to foreign policy as “don’t do stupid shit”. In a rare critical moment, Mrs. Clinton said Mr. Obama’s maxim did not amount to an organising principle. She was right, of course. But in these hazardous times, the instinct to first do no harm may be worth more than we can appreciate” – Edward Luce
Good stuff Mr. Luce. I’d add that in these hazardous times having the integrity to tell the truth about what we’re really about is also worth more than we appreciate.
We can start by debunking some of the disingenuous nonsense that the ‘exceptionalists’ like to dish up as ‘noble intentions’ or ‘American values’:
“It had seen enough of George W Bush’s freedom agenda to put it off American exceptionalism for good”
The American people are not as dumb as some of their presidents. My American friends are not only put off by ‘exceptionalism’, they are smart enough to know when they are being sold a heap of garbage - Dubya never had a ‘freedom’ agenda. Iraq 2 was not about ‘freedom’. It was a neocon power play orchestrated by Cheney et al, who could have made little George do pretty much anything they liked so long as they let him swagger around pretending to be ‘the decider’.
“Mr. Obama replied that he was a US exceptionalist in much the same way that “Brits subscribe to British exceptionalism… It is hard to imagine Mrs. Clinton saying that. A true exceptionalist leaves no room for doubt” - Edward Luce
Absolutely right Mr. Luce. Hillary ‘we came, we saw, he died’ Clinton leaves absolutely no room for doubt – she has never met a war she didn’t like.
So it’s about more than ‘realism’ vs. ‘exceptionalism’ for those of us not wrapped up in the political circus - it’s about telling the truth to ourselves, or continuing to play dumb games that don’t fool anyone not drinking the Kool-Aid. If America or Britain really wants to know why so many people around the world think we are a bunch of hypocrites, it’s because we are. We dress up our strategic goals around oil, regime change, trade suppression etc, as some sort of noble quest for ‘western values’. It’s crap, and they know it.
Hillary Clinton will turn a blind eye when it suits her - as she will with Saudi Arabia, who has contributed millions to the Clinton Global Initiative. She will turn a blind eye to the fact that 9-11 was funded from Saudi, as did Bush. She will turn a blind eye to the support they provide to ISIS, and she will turn a blind eye to the beheadings and stonings. But when the time comes she wants to invade someone who doesn’t grease the palm of either her or the Treasury - she will find, like so many liars before her, something 'convenient' like ‘weapons of mass destruction’ or ‘human rights atrocities’ with which to justify the slaughter.
So it’s not just ‘exceptionalism’ that so many of us are sick to the back teeth with Mr. Luce…it’s ‘bullshit’.