3 June 2014

Obama’s US exceptionalism explained - @HJBentham - #US #equality #respect

In the speech by Barack Obama on Wednesday 28 May, the US President affirmed his belief in a foreign policy influenced by “US exceptionalism”.

To its critics, US exceptionalism is nothing but a euphemism for immunity, discrimination and propaganda to excuse and defend war crimes carried out by the United States. In view of the US’s exposure as a dangerous rogue state by an increasing army of whistleblowers, something like US exceptionalism is Obama’s only excuse for otherwise starkly hypocritical international relations.

US exceptionalism has meant many things, but this tragically abused expression now seems to be the monopoly of Neoconservative hawks. The previous US exceptionalism, believed presidents preceding George W. Bush, was the view of the US as a political example to other democracies and not a justification for unilateralism and Neoconservative hate ideology.

The version of US exceptionalism popularized by George W. Bush’s supporters was the violent idea of the United States as the only country that should be allowed to carry out wars of aggression. The Neoconservatives twisted the original version of US exceptionalism to say that the United States somehow has an exceptional right to invade other states and murder their people, and should not face consequences for its war crimes.

Obama’s US exceptionalism, we might have hoped, is more along the traditional lines of the US being a political example to other democracies and reformers across the world. Unfortunately, that does not seem to be the case. By claiming that US exceptionalism entitles the US to carry out unilateral military actions, as he did in his recent speech, Obama is spouting the very same destructive Neoconservative ideology that many of his supporters must have thought he had rejected.

As a matter of fact, the US is not exceptional either in the benign archaic definition or in the newer Neoconservative definition. In the Twenty-First Century, the view of the US as a young country, a novel regime, or a benign conqueror is fundamentally out of date and out of touch with the reality of history. There are now plenty of younger countries, more promising forms of government, plenty of more peaceful and reliable international actors, countries with superior human rights records, and countries that have killed fewer people in wars of aggression than the United States.

Saying a country can break international law due to being exceptional is a fallacy, because every country is exceptional to the same extent that the United States is. French exceptionalism would have to be the most convincing, because the French models of national republic and popular sovereignty have come to shape the parameters of statehood across the whole world. If exceptionalism gave any qualification for world leadership, then that role would have to go to France.

Britain could be described as exceptional, too, because its language and customs are more widespread than any other culture in the world. The argument for German domination of Europe is more compelling than the argument for Anglo-American domination of Europe, because Germany is still an exceptional economic and military power based at the heart of Europe. The USSR was exceptional in its time, because it was the first constitutionally socialist state. The Islamic Republic of Iran can be viewed as exceptional, being the first Islamic revolutionary state to be founded in the modern world and having never attacked another state in its history.

Fortunately, other countries are not promoting their own exceptionalism. By now, humility, and the lessons of fascism and chauvinism prevent countries other than the United States from speculating that their regime is exceptional and entitled to rule the entire world. In 1945, Western European countries were prepared to be led and defended by the United States in the post-war order in Europe, to repay the role the United States had played in rebuilding a devastated Europe. In the Twenty-First Century, the US no longer has any similar package to offer Europe or any other part of the world. US leadership of the “free world” is now hanging by a very thin thread, and it is hard to convince even normally reliable US partners like the French, the Germans or the British to tolerate the arrogance of their “ally”.

Since 1945, the view that the United States as a benevolent occupier in Europe has steadily become less convincing. Amidst the revelations that the US tries to influence politics in Europe and spy on its own “allies” there, the US seems tantamount to a selfish occupier defending its own power, like Hitler’s Germany before it, rather than a protector. The so-called “alliance” that justifies this US leadership in Europe is NATO, supposedly based on the North Atlantic Treaty but now degenerating into a front for unilateral US power. Through NATO, the US exploits European powers by trying to conflate their national interests with US military dominance and ensure the special treatment of the US occupiers as “exceptional”.

In the history of the North Atlantic Treaty, the famous Article 5 – supposedly promising the collective defense of Europe against an external aggressor – was invoked only once. Having never actually called on the US to protect European interests, NATO instead summoned Europe to protect the supposedly mighty US itself on September 11, 2001. Prior to 9/11, individual NATO states actually faced all kinds of similar violent “terrorist” threats to their sovereign territory. Such threats included attacks in and from colonies considered as extensions of European countries like French Algeria, PKK operations in Turkey (they have supporting bases and forces outside NATO boundaries), the IRA in Britain, and the Argentine invasion of the Falklands. The US and NATO did nothing to protect the interests of these member states because, quite simply, these were not the interests of the United States.

Looking at what has happened, it seems the so-called “collective defense” article of the North Atlantic Treaty only renders military support to the “exceptional” United States and not to its allies. Could NATO be dismissed as a puppet organization, appointed to sweet-talk the Europeans into dying for American interests, and not representing any European national interests? What kind of “leadership” does this reveal to be exercised by the US over its Western allies?

Rather than being a leader, an example or a protector for other countries, the US instead comes across as yet another occupier, and its “exceptionalism” smacks of nationalist propaganda rather than a sound academic argument. While it used to be based on a compelling analysis that the US was a young country and a unique regime in the Nineteenth Century and early Twentieth Century, US exceptionalism is not a credible theory among academics in the Twenty-First Century. Most scholars in Europe will label it for what it is: a form of chauvinism and half-baked propaganda vainly appealing to American and Western European audiences who don’t want to hear it.

US exceptionalism, in fact, is one of the most foolish and dangerous ideas that the modern world is embarrassed to hear. Obama, who is destined to stand out from the pages of history as America’s first black president, should certainly not be offering support to ideas of US national supremacy that are inimical to civil rights, equality and mutual respect.

In the Twenty-First Century, there is no place for the crude propaganda of national superiority, which is nothing but an appeal to latent hooliganism and racism in the United States. If Obama really believes what he said about the US being “exceptional” enough to break international law and use military power unilaterally to defend its interests, he is as dangerous as his criminal predecessor.

By Harry J. Bentham - More articles by Harry J. Bentham

Originally published on 30 May 2014 at Press TV

Send us your email address to get more ClubOfINFO articles delivered for free!


Delivered by FeedBurner

Featured

Clubofinfo World Commentaries

Delivered by Email

Follow by Email

Mont Experts

Follow by Email

Follow Me on Twitter