Friday, September 4, 2009

Jon Elrod & American Exceptionalism's Decline Under President Obama

American Exceptionalism is the belief that the United States is unique in its place in history, and in many ways, superior to other nations and societies.

Moral Relativism and Multiculturalism form the belief that the United States is not unique nor superior, and that the US should be more like other countries. This belief system is hostile to the ideal of American Exceptionalism and generally focuses on the faults of the US rather than its virtues.

American Exceptionalism is abhorrent when it is based on xenophobia, prejudice, tribalism, jingoism, or bigotry. Suggesting America is superior simply because it is the place of one's birth is absurdly ignorant.

But American Exceptionalism is proper when it is founded on American civil liberties: free speech, free exercise of religion, rule of law, upward mobility, equality of gender, equality of race and creed, democratic representative government, free markets, etc.

Multiculturalism is proper when it is founded on dialogue, appreciation of history and culture, comparative studies, and general open-mindedness regarding other societies.

Moral Relativity and Multiculturalism become abhorrent when critical thought is abandoned. Too often this belief system refuses to make judgments. And when the judgments are reached, they tend to blame the US first, often through hyperbolic arguments.

The diplomacy of Barack Obama has intentionally stepped away from the American Exceptionalism of the Bush Administration. His administration has pursued what could be described as an international apology tour. It is based on the mistaken belief that those who hate America will change their minds once we admit they have reason to hate America. I hope our President soon returns to the nobler thoughts found in his Inaugural Speech:

We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense.

And for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that, "Our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken. You cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you."

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness.

We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and nonbelievers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth.

And because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall heal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

These are inspiring words, spoken by someone who exemplifies American Exceptionalism. I did not and will not vote for our president, nor will I support most of his policies. But I take pride in this country, where a biracial son of a foreignor, with a Muslim name, could rise to lead our government. It speaks to how truly exceptional is this place called America.



Pete said...

1. If conservatives truly hate moral relativism and love the rule of law, unilaterally withdrawing the US from the UN Convention Against Torture in order to start torturing suspected terrorists seems a bit disconnected.

2. The Bush version of "exceptionalism" involved running around the globe shrieking "you're either with us or against us".

3. Invading Iraq under transparently phony circumstances AT WORST deserves an apology. At best, some war crimes trials.

4. We sure love freedom and democracy, except when its convenient for the US to prop up dictatorships. Remind me again, just when did Reagan finally decide that South Africa's apartheid system was morally reprehensible? (here's a hint, it wasn't until his second term)

Russell said...

American can be a shining beacon of exceptionalism only when we couple it with diplomacy. When we use our status for good and not for evil then we truly are exceptional in the world. This is exactly why we aren't exceptional right now thanks to the Bush administration.

Bush spent so much time with the "Here's what we're going to do and f@#k the rest of you" attitude that we became the bullies of the world, and no one likes the guy that acts like a prick to everyone else.

Before we can get back to our true diplomatic roots (we've had a great history of this, from Ben Franklin schmoozing the French to Nixon visiting China), most recently from the Clinton era, Obama HAS to eat crow for the country and go around the world to apologize for the last 8 years and let them know that era is over and the friendly, caring (while still superior) United States is back.

SO yes, Obama is apologizing for our country right now, and it's because he HAS to in order to undo the past and move us into the future.

We aren't superior because we say we are and act like we are, we are only superior when we can once again show that we are.

Doug said...

"It is based on the mistaken belief that those who hate America will change their minds once we admit they have reason to hate America."

What utter, dishonest crap. Find someone, let alone the President, who has stated that this is their belief -- not that we should seek to understand those that disagree with us, but specifically the belief that those who *hate* America will stop hating America if we admit they have their reasons.

If we figure out what people dislike about America, maybe we can weigh the cost/benefit on whether we should stop doing whatever it is.

Dave Stone said...

Thanks to Jon Elrod for guesting. My objection to his essay is its vagueness. What exactly is it concretely that the Obama administration has done wrong in foreign policy? The closest we get is in paragraph 7, which condemns an "international apology tour." I gather that what Elrod has in mind here is Obama's speech in Egypt, but I'd like to hear the specifics on what he thinks was wrong or misguided about it.

OK. So what else is there? Is there something else about Obama's diplomacy that Elrod sees as the abandonment of American exceptionalism? From where I sit, most of Obama's policy so far looks remarkably close to late Bush II's foreign policy: trying to patch up relations with Europe, refocus on Afghanistan, draw down in Iraq, multilateralism towards North Korea. I recall hearing on the radio a conservative commentator aghast at the Obama administration's passive policy towards Honduras. I had two reactions. 1) Honduras? Are you kidding me? THIS is the best you've got? and 2) Given the, shall we say, limited success of American intervention in the last few years, an activist approach to the Honduran question is supposed to be better?

fair and balanced said...

Tune in to Logic 101 wherein Mr. Elrod immediately disproves his own argument. Ahem, and I quote, “Moral Relativity and Multiculturalism become abhorrent when critical thought is abandoned.” And quote again, “I did not and will not vote for our president, nor will I support most of his policies.”

It is clear that Mr. Elrod has abandoned all critical thought, and thus become abhorrent to himself, when he admits that he will not support (most) of the President’s future policies, nor will he vote for the president. I don’t know who I’m voting for in three and a half years, but Mr. Elrod does. Somebody with an (R) after his name, I bet.

Perhaps Mr. Elrod has a crystal ball that thinks critically. Is this American Exceptionalism—completely closed minded and partisan?

Hackery and weak sauce, sir.

Anonymous said...

Obama had to do a lot of fence mending with our friends...some our allies for almost a century. This becomes meaningless when Elrod implies that he voted for McCain/Palin.

Anonymous said...

Elrod is the guy that told me our economy is "fundamentally sound" as it was getting ready to crash all around us.

Stop listening to your party and start looking around you Jon.