In Defense of American Exceptionalism

“Fellow-citizens, we cannot escape history. We of this Congress and this administration, will be remembered in spite of ourselves. No personal significance, or insignificance, can spare one or another of us. The fiery trial through which we pass, will light us down, in honor or dishonor, to the latest generation. We say we are for the Union. The world will not forget that we say this. We know how to save the Union. The world knows we do know how to save it. We — even we here — hold the power, and bear the responsibility. In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free — honorable alike in what we give, and what we preserve. We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth. Other means may succeed; this could not fail. The way is plain, peaceful, generous, just — a way which, if followed, the world will forever applaud, and God must forever bless.”         Abraham Lincoln, December 1, 1862

As a liberal democracy, is the United States different in any appreciable way from other liberal democracies in the western tradition, and if so, does the thought of its founders explain this?

 That is the question posed yesterday by commenter and Vox Nova blogger Morning’s Minion.   Commenter Art Deco took up the challenge:

I do not think you are going to find a nexus of social phenomena that is explained by a single cause. To the extent that intellectual genealogies influence people’s conceptions of what their interests and ideals are, the thought of that corps of politicians is important. To the extent that the social evolution of the United States has been shaped by political institutions which were informed by the thought of these men, their thought is important.

Any society has its signature elements. I am not sure why it escapes you what ours are, in the political realm and outside it. We can defer for a moment the more interesting discussion of the country’s social history and historical geography and just look at aspects of the latter-day political order, as you insist.

1. The political parties have tended to manifest conflict between subcultures rather than between social strata.

2. The political parties are haphazard and decentralized in comparison with their European counterparts (France excepted).

3. Formal political institutions are likewise, with many accumulated barnacles.

4. We maintain a common law system, which is not indebted to the Code Napoleon.

5. Our constitution antedates all but a few in Europe by a century and the forms delineated therein derive from institutions of colonial government more than 150 older than that; there has been intramural political violence in the United States but also absolute continuity of local institutions for more than 400 years and continuity of continental institutions for in excess of 200 years.

6. Because our institutions are comparatively antique and because they were delineated by a single statute, aspects of political practice in Britain were retained here while being abandoned there and elsewhere. Notable is the absence of parliamentary government, something quite unusual among the fifty or so most durable constitutional systems. (I believe the United States and Costa Rica are the only examples).

7. Both in politics and society, trade and industrial unions are much weaker here, comprehending just 9% of the private sector workforce. Unions in America are now lobbies for the interests of public employees.

8. The multiplication of the functions of the state and corporatist institutions and practices have been much more restrained here. Public enterprise has tended to be limited to natural monopolies owned and operated by provincial and local governments; the federal government operates a postal service, some hydroelectric stations, and maintains a large inventory of land, but that is it.

9. The political intelligence and moral sentiments of our elected officials (not our judges) remain more resonant with that of the general public than is the case elsewhere. I think it was Oriana Fallaci who once complained that if you ask a British legislator what the intellectual influences on him were, he might offer Marx or Burke; his American counterpart would name his own father. There is a reason we have capital punishment in this country and they do not in Canada, and that reason is not differences in public sentiment.

I find this topic fascinating.  I agree with what Art has said.  I also believe that the Founding Fathers are a large part of what makes America exceptional. 

From its foundation the United States has been a nation not based primarily on ties of ancestry and land.  On the Fourth of July Americans from coast to coast will celebrate the Declaration of Independence.  Most of those Americans will have ancestors who were not Americans in 1776.  We do not engage in a form of ancestor worship when we remember the Founding Fathers on Independence Day.  Rather we recall and affirm the principles which they made the foundation of the nation:

1.  That certain great Truths about the human condition are self-evident.

2.  That there is a right, even a duty, to rise in rebellion in defense of liberty.

3.  That God grants us certain inalienable rights.

4.  That Government is a constant threat to liberty unless kept in check.

5.  That Government derives its just powers from the consent of the governed.

6.  That the purpose of Government is to protect the rights of the people.

7.  That men are not angels and therefore Governments are necessary.

8.   That war is preferable to submission to tyranny.

9.   That all men are created equal.

10. That freedom and liberty are not mere words but at the heart of the American experiment.

These and other principles bequeathed to their physical and spiritual posterity by the Founding Fathers do help make America a unique nation on the face of the globe.    

 

30 Responses to In Defense of American Exceptionalism

  • I am not American (US American that is), so when I read “American exceptionalism” I think of “Russian messianism” or any other kind of messianism.
    There is only one people chosen by God, and its destiny is not power and lording it over the world.
    Elise B.

  • I find that believing oneself, or one’s nation, to be “exceptional” (ie, “better”) arrogant and dangerous in the extreme.

    America is not exceptional, she is simply America. Whatever truths her political traditions contain ought to be understood as a humble contribution toward the human struggle for liberty. That should be enough for history.

    Frankly, any nation that declares their goodness to the world is giving the first piece of evidence to the contrary. Pride before the fall, as the saying goes.

  • “Pride before the fall, as the saying goes.”

    Actually Anthony nations often fall when their people become convinced that there is nothing special about their country and there is no reason to fight for it. France 1940 is a prime example of this mindset. The proud British were rallied by Churchill to live “their finest hour”.

  • Good points, Anthony.

  • I would disagree with your point, Don.

    When nations stop believing IN THEMSELVES, they decline and fall. It is a separate question whether or not the principles to which a nation adheres is worthy of being preserved.

    Our political class has time and time again betrayed the political/human truths that made the United States different from her international neighbors. If she turns her back on what liberty is left in the Constitution then perhaps decline and fall is the best option, like a business that has long been in denial of its insolvency. I would weep more for the loss of America’s soul, Don, than I would for the loss of her body.

    I prefer the humble America. That’s were the greatness is. It is distinctly not to be found in military might, but in the might of everyday individuals who risk their lives, labor and savings in the hope of bettering themselves, their families and their friends. America is not great because she has taken up the hobby of proclaiming how great she is to any nation that dare set out to live another way. I would rather try day in and day out to live greatly as an example, rather than tell everyone how great I am.

    Look deeper to the history of Britain for clues to America’s future, Don. The British threw their weight around and believed themselves to be God’s gift to the advancement of human civilization. For a brief time, they were. But, the second they took that blessing for granted, overextended themselves and bullied or manipulated other nations, not even Winston Churchill’s grand speeches could prevent him from presiding over Britannia’s decline from global empire to American debtor.

    You’ll forgive me if I find your example a weak counter argument.

  • Tell me Anthony, which of our wars would you have agreed to fight in? I know your condemnation of the Civil War. Would even the Revolution have caused you to risk your skin in defense of America?

    When people will not fight for their nation Anthony slavery will be their lot unless they are rescued by braver and better people than themselves. Without a Churchill Britain would have been doomed to have been a province of the greater Reich. Fortunately most Americans do not believe that the world is the pacifist dreamland that most pacifists seem to inhabit until History rudely shakes them awake.

    “I prefer the humble America. That’s were the greatness is.” I could not disagree more Anthony. Humility is a common quality possessed by much of humanity including serfs and slaves. A humility that will not fight can be as dangerous as a pride that is always seeking conflict. In any case such humility is not what sets America apart from other nations of the Earth. It is rather the attachment of Americans to freedom and liberty, as set forth by the Founding Fathers, and a willingness to fight to preserve them, at home and abroad, that distinguishes this country.

  • It is tragic. Large portions of America have degenerated to unexceptional.

    These include the Demagogue party, liberals, clueless professors, RINO’s, feminists, expanding populations of caitiff serfs who believe it’s the govermnment’s duty to provide for them, all the so-caled “red states”, etc.

    Point of information: Churchill actually led Britain (unlike the community agitator poseur in the WH) to victory (unconditional surrender) over Nazi Germnany, Italy, and Japan in a two ocean war. The Bridiots immediately threw him out and the rest is history.

    Some seem to want to be unexceptional. They’re pretty good at it.

  • I’d be happy to answer that question, Don.

    I would gladly have served in the American Revolution and supported the Texas Revolution. I would have reluctantly served in World War II, but without any delusion about the folly that lead up to the war and horrors of its execution. I would not have supported WWI, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and our numerous interventions in the Middle Eastern/Arab/Persian world. Obviously that doesn’t cover all our conflicts, but you get the gist. As a general rule: my sympathies in war typically rest with people who want to be left alone and responsible for their own lives.

    You mistake for pacifism my belief that more can be accomplished in peace than in war. You mistake my openness to inaction as indifference to the conflicts around the world. And you make the mistake of seeing isolationism where there is a wariness of the dangerous consequences forcible intervention always produces.

    War, Don, is an admission of human failure and a sad one at that. It is a total breakdown of civilized behavior that destroys innocent lives. War is destructive at all levels of society except for the benefit of a few politicians and their contractors.

    Now would you do me the favor and answer my own question: is there an American war that you would have risked your skin to oppose? Because, if I didn’t know better, I’d say you LOVE war.

    I’m going to give you more credit than that statement, not because you’re American but because you’re Catholic. You, like me, worship the Prince of Peace, not the God of War.

    I won’t argue the the finer points of British history with you, accept to leave you with this: Britain’s reduced place in the world today speaks for itself. Britain made many mistakes in the 20th century that put her where she is today, and they weren’t all made by Neville Chamberlain.

    With regards to humility: here I thought it was related to the virtue of temperance! We do want a virtuous society, don’t we? Humility recognizes our personal faults. America is not a perfect place with perfect people, and humility reminds us of that. Perhaps if our government were more humble, it would be more reluctant tell people, American citizens included, what to do in nearly every aspect of human life.

    It is precisely the lack of humility that allows us to rationalize the most horrible of things. Without humility, I can make myself the center of the universe. The same applies to nations.

    Humility is not, however, weakness. Humility does not mean being a pushover or the object of bullying. Humility does not mean accepting tyranny. The very fact that you identify humility as being the qualities of serfs and slaves says more about your understanding than it does of humility itself. Would you have been more comfortable had I used the word “modest”?

    What are we to make of the humility of Jesus or of the saints? Or of those who take up the monastic life? It is in humility and temperance that we find the STRENGTH to take up our cross, stick to our metaphorical guns and LIVE the truth.

    Hey, I could be wrong. But I don’t think its embarrassing to say that I’d rather work for a world that solves its problems with diplomacy, trade and PATIENCE over war, destruction and violence.

  • The Mexican War Anthony as I’ve pointed out on this blog before. I rather agree with U.S. Grant about that conflict. The War of 1812 too, at least the portion that was just a land grab for Canada.

    As for War being an admission of human failure, you are correct. It shares that quality with much of what humanity must endure in this Fallen World. I need no lessons on the horrors of War, nor on the fact that there are fates for individuals and nations that are far worse than War.

    The British Empire was in economic decline from about the 1880s. Wise Brits were already beginning in the 19th Century to enact policies for the devolution of the Empire into independent Dominions. Those same Dominions: Canada, Newfoundland, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and others, were a great aid to Great Britain preserving her freedom in the 20th Century. Churchill, with the notable exception of India, was a key advocate of this policy, although, child of the Victorian period, he was understandably saddened to see the Empire passing away before his eyes.

    Humility has its place as does pride. Both those qualities should be embraced in moderation. Neither of those qualities, by themselves, make an individual or a nation exceptional.

    Diplomacy has its uses. However as long as there are groups in this world like the Taliban, who this week hung a 7 year old boy as a spy, Diplomacy also obviously has its limitations.

  • If you need no lessons on the horrors of war, then you should also be in no need of lessons on the virtues of peace and why many go great lengths to preserve it. Yet, here we are, disagreeing.

    Hopefully I’ve at least illuminated for you my thinking on the subject and given you some pause before you run into the headwinds of “exceptionalism.”

  • Look deeper to the history of Britain for clues to America’s future, Don. The British threw their weight around and believed themselves to be God’s gift to the advancement of human civilization. For a brief time, they were. But, the second they took that blessing for granted, overextended themselves and bullied or manipulated other nations, not even Winston Churchill’s grand speeches could prevent him from presiding over Britannia’s decline from global empire to American debtor.

    The United States has not invested much in the acquisition of overseas dependencies. We had a set of some significance from 1898 to 1946, but 90% of the population thereof was in the Philippines; the Philippines was not conceived of as a permanent possession of the United States and was granted independence more than 60 years ago. As of about 1922, the set of territories Britain held in north Africa and the set France held were each more populous than the whole portfolio of overseas territories held by the United States. Please note that the productive capacity of the United States exceeded that of the French and the British metropole by a factor of 3. There is overextension and there is overextension.

  • Our political class has time and time again betrayed the political/human truths that made the United States different from her international neighbors. If she turns her back on what liberty is left in the Constitution

    The country is likely as libertarian as it has ever been in the civic and political realm. The deficit we suffer is that of parochial self-government.

  • Kevin and I both loved the videos of the Tea Party speech and of Chamberlain’s speech before battle.

    Kevin and I responded to this post here: http://teresamerica.blogspot.com/2010/06/thoughts-on-american-exceptionalism.html

  • And a superb response it it is Teresa!

  • Thank You, Donald. You inspired Kevin and I to write the response. Thank you for startng the debate/conversation in defending American exceptionalism in your post. God Bless!

  • Anthony,

    As a general rule: my sympathies in war typically rest with people who want to be left alone and responsible for their own lives.

    So your sympathies would have been with the South Koreans, South Vietnamese, and Kosovars, yet you wouldn’t have lifted a finger for them?

  • There is a chapter in C.S. Lewis’ “The Four Loves” devoted to love of non-human entitities such as animals, nature, and love of country. It’s too lengthy to quote in detail, but the gist of it is, it’s OK, in fact good and heroic, to fight for your country simply because it is YOUR country, and not necessarily because it is the “best” or most moral or enlightened country on earth.

    In fact Lewis did not approve of the idea that every war had to be a “holy war” over some abstract principle, because holy wars inevitably turn into wars of annihilation — the enemy has to be destroyed, not just sent packing.

    Does patriotism demand that one hold as an article of faith that the United States of America is objectively superior to all other nations at all times in economic or military power, education, morality, etc?

    One can accept or believe that the USA isn’t always the “best” at everything or that she may not always be a superpower, and still love her… after all, you can still love your child dearly, to the point of being willing to lay down your life for them, and accept the fact that he or she isn’t going to be #1 at everything they attempt. To you, she’s the best child one could possibly have simply because she’s yours, and you need no other reason than that.

    If “American exceptionalism” means belief in the unique principles upon which the nation was founded, I’m all for it. If “exceptionalism” means an absolute conviction that America is or must be objectively superior to all other nations in every aspect of earthly life, however, I’m not so sure about that.

  • Of course, it goes without saying that one always strives to make America, or whatever country one is a citizen of, the best country they can be — you don’t just lie down and accept defeat (a la the French in 1940). I’m just saying we don’t always have to believe we are objectively “better” than the rest of the world in all things at all times.

  • “If “American exceptionalism” means belief in the unique principles upon which the nation was founded, I’m all for it. If “exceptionalism” means an absolute conviction that America is or must be objectively superior to all other nations in every aspect of earthly life, however, I’m not so sure about that.”

    My position is the former Elaine, along with the playing out of those principles in American national life which make America unique in many ways among the nations of the Earth.

  • America is not great because she has taken up the hobby of proclaiming how great she is to any nation that dare set out to live another way.

    Which nation did you have in mind?

  • You’re presuming a lot in that statement.

    I sympathize with lots of people… but why does “lifting a finger” always really mean dropping a bomb? I said nothing of the sort that would discourage the kind of aid that relieves women, children and non-combatants; particularly coming from the private sector, non-profits and charities. Like I said above, inaction (of the military sort) does not mean indifference. But inevitably, what is really asked for is help waging war in these situations.

    There used to be a time when neutrality was considered a prudent and morally sound move that contained conflicts and preserved society. Now we live in an age wear every threat is sold to the public as another potential Third Reich. We’ve tipped the scales in favor of a policy of escalation. Our preferred tool is now the hammer instead of the scalpel.

    This policy attitude doesn’t seem to go for only war, it goes for every aspect of human life. Want to end war? Make more war! Want to end the recession? Make more money! Want to end AIDS infections? Make more condoms! The point I’m trying to make is simple: that for some reason we believe that we can resolve problems by increasing the very elements that encourage the problem in the first place. It’s the equivalent in my mind to winning an argument simply by yelling the loudest.

    You’re also presuming that I’m capable of fully understanding the conflict I would be militarily intervening in, OR that somehow my intervention would result in the “good guys” taking over. Or, that my intervention would actually end the conflict and promote peace.

    Instead there’s a decent argument to made that intervention prevents the two warring sides from reaching a peace catered to their culture, situation, etc. WWI and the Korean War are two conflicts that immediately spring to mind in which U.S. intervention simply kicked the can down the road, rather than forcing the peoples involved to find a resolution.

    Another assumption: that we’ve properly identified a set of values that are to be evenly applied across all nations and across all peoples. This idea that we’re supposed to identify the parties that are “fighting for freedom” in the world and come to their aid is positively bizarre. Whose to say we’ve found the secret to liberty and prosperity, and that if only the rest of the world realized this they too would be great like us?

    We were very fortunate to have our revolution when we did and under circumstances that afforded victory. I do not argue that we should not encourage others to do the same in a spirit of friendship. I do, however, make a sharp distinction between diplomatic, charitable and intellectual encouragement, and violent intervention. We need to recognize that as the “superpower” (for now) our policies can have severe unintended consequences, most especially for the innocent and average Americans. This is how we’ve ended up paying for the defense of western Europe and stuck on the Korean peninsula for over half a century.

    I’m not sure what disturbs me more: that there is so much evil and injustice around the world as is described here, or that we’ve appointed ourselves as the righteous “exceptional” ones to make it all better. For every fascist, socialist, tyrannical regime we’ve set out to defeat, we’ve responded with our OWN forms of fascism, socialism and tyranny. At what point are we as monstrous as the monsters we’re trying to slay?

  • All of them I suppose, Art.

  • Anthony, do you have a particular set of historical incidents in mind, or do you not? Let’s hear to what you are objecting, and why you adjudge it a common enough pattern to be the subject of a non-specific critique.

  • Well, in all honesty your original response to my comment is a little confusing. I’m going to assume that your question is meant to imply that you cannot find a situation in which we have done what I described.

    To continue my “non-specific” critique, I would say that I draw a parallel between the behavior of an individual and that of a community/nation. It would be arrogant and immoral of me to place myself into your personal affairs and dictate by force to you how you should go about living your life. The same would apply to any instance where we’ve tried to dictate the foreign, domestic or economic policies of another nation.

    But, let me attempt to be more specific if only to illustrate the kinds of situations that cause me concern. Have we not essentially paid Pakistan to be our “friend” in order to look the other way while we drop bombs inside their territory? Did we not try numerous times to sculpt pre-war Iraqi policy by supporting harsh sanctions upon the people? Have we not deposed dictators, or duly-elected leaders of foreign nations in parts of Central Asia, Asia and Central/South America in order to ensure friendlier relationships tipped in our favor over what might be the will of the domestic population? Have we not in parts of the world replaced domestic defenses with our own forces, essentially making foreign nations protectorates of the United States? Have we not manipulated our currencies and encouraged the manipulation of foreign currencies in order to maintain the social and economic status quo, indirectly punishing savers, entrepreneurs, and responsible individuals the world over?

    All of these scenarios are massive moral hazards in my book, that are justified with the underlying “exceptionalism” that says: when you do bad, it’s bad. When we do bad, its necessary.

    Now, I do not express my dissent from the “exceptionalist” idea in order to cease criticism of foreign governments. Far from it. When we see evil in the world, we should be quick to point it out and do what is within sane and moral means to encourage change. But to say we are “exceptional” seems to say that we are beyond criticism, that we are “chosen” to right all wrongs, most especially by force, that we have an obligation to spread our conception of freedom to whomever regardless of whether or not they want to listen.

    I am fine with acknowledging that the founding values of the U.S. contain truths that the world can benefit from. There’s plenty at the top of page I agree with. However, I refuse to cloak it in this word “exceptional,” which strikes me as truly meant to deflect any criticism of our behavior.

    One last note: my statement tried to point out that America’s greatness is not found in her proclamation of greatness, which is how I interpret the exceptionalist idea. That does not mean I don’t believe she is great or that she could be great. Pep talk does not mean you’ve won the game, or that you deserve to win.

  • To continue my “non-specific” critique, I would say that I draw a parallel between the behavior of an individual and that of a community/nation.

    Rather poor idea to do this without due consideration of whether the analogy is apt. Police, agents of a collectivity, arrest people routinely. Try this yourself in New York and you might find yourself indicted for 2d degree Kidnapping.

    Have we not essentially paid Pakistan to be our “friend” in order to look the other way while we drop bombs inside their territory?

    We have dealings with the Pakistani government for reasons of state. Of what relevance is that to the following expressed sentiment: “America is not great because she has taken up the hobby of proclaiming how great she is to any nation that dare set out to live another way.”? However they dare to live or not, the enemy is taking refuge on their territory and making deals with communal groups on their territory. Our dealings with Pakistan do not incorporate coercion of Pakistan and reflect an alignment of interests between the American government and the Pakistani government. What’s your beef?

    Did we not try numerous times to sculpt pre-war Iraqi policy by supporting harsh sanctions upon the people?

    Any country that has some degree of international engagement attempts to ‘sculpt’ the policies of other governments in ways they see as beneficial. The only way to avoid this is to have no international engagement (call it the Burma solution), to be unable to exert any influence (call it the Iceland solution), or to not care if any of your oxen are gored (call that the California stoner solution).

    You had three choices with Iraq. Take the sanctions off, leave the sanctions on, or eject the government. If the Iraqi government wished to be left in peace it might just have conducted itself in a manner that did not invite the attention of the United States and every other government on its borders.

    Have we not deposed dictators, or duly-elected leaders of foreign nations in parts of Central Asia, Asia and Central/South America in order to ensure friendlier relationships tipped in our favor over what might be the will of the domestic population?

    To the best of my knowledge, the only constitutional head of government ejected from office by the United States government using either military force or clandestine services was Jacobo Arbenz of Guatemala, in 1954. There are a couple of other cases which might make it under the envelope, but I would give you an argument. There are all kinds of claims about the tentacles of the Central Intelligence Agency, but these should be taken with a grain of salt.

    As for autocrats ejected from office by the American military or by clandestine services, I think you would find two examples from 1916 (one in the Dominican Republic and one in Haiti), Mohammed Mossadegh of Iran (in 1953), a coalition government in Laos (1958), Ngo Dinh Diem in South Vietnam (1963), the Coard-Austin claque in Grenada (1983), the Noriega syndicate in Panama (1989/90), Raoul Cedras & c in Haiti (1994), the Taliban regime in Afghanistan (2001), and the Baath regime in Iraq (2003).

    There you have eleven cases over the last century, with reasons of state the primary driver in all but two or three cases. Mohammed Mossadegh and Jacobo Arbenz did have a considerable and mobilized popular base. Not so the rest of them, as can be seen from the subsequent political evolution of the territories in question.

    Have we not in parts of the world replaced domestic defenses with our own forces, essentially making foreign nations protectorates of the United States?

    Cuba and Panama were, under treaty provisions, very like protectorate of the United States. The provisions in question were abrogated in 1935, so your complaint is not topical.

    I do not recall that the NATO Treaty was anything but consensual. If you recall, the French government withdrew from NATO’s unified military command in 1967 without incident. There were, again, reasons of state for the erection of the NATO, CENTO, and SEATO alliances. International politics and hostile foreign powers do not simply vanish because it pains Ron Paul to acknowledge them.

    American military forces abroad (Afganistan and Iraq aside) have been on a downward trajectory for about forty years now. There are now about 57,000 American troops in Germany and 35,000 in Japan. Since both countries have in excess of 250,000 men at arms, I do not think you can say we have assumed responsibility for their defense at this time. There is no other country in the world (bar Afghanistan, Iraq, and Kuwait) which houses more than 10,000 American troops. There are about 2,000 in various loci in Latin America and the Caribbean, 5,000 in Tropical Africa, &c.

    Have we not manipulated our currencies and encouraged the manipulation of foreign currencies in order to maintain the social and economic status quo, indirectly punishing savers, entrepreneurs, and responsible individuals the world over?

    We had a system of fixed exchange rates up to 1973 and then allowed an unmanipulated floating currency since that time. You might be able to find an example of the U.S. government engaging in forex trading to punish some foreign government. Then again, you might not. Unexpected inflation harms savers and bad tax policy does so, but the former cannot be effected in any foreign country that does not use the U.S. dollar as legal tender and the latter is limited to our shores. So, no.

    But to say we are “exceptional” seems to say that we are beyond criticism,

    Ummm, to whom?

  • “Ummm, to whom?”

    You tell me. Please define for me what “exceptionalism” and an “exceptionalist” is? Is it a patriot? Is it a person who “believes” in liberty? Or just American liberty? Is it a person who believes the “American experiment” is one gifted to the American people from God? Or, what?

    I’d like to know what it is and why I should get the vapors over such an idea.
    Thats sort of the entire reason I’ve been posting my criticisms and concerns.

    Its Saturday and I don’t have the energy to respond to the rest of your post, which was really why I kept it broad.

    I will respond, however, to your comments on money: its rather naive in my view, to think that our currency is unmanipulated. Well, perhaps you’re right, because it always seems to be manipulated in a downward trajectory! It’s money created out of thin air. It’s inflation. Inflation being defined as the printing or expansion of the money supply, not the rising of prices, which is the effect of inflation. So, I would also disagree with your portrayal of the instances of inflation as being “unexpected.” No, its not unexpected. Its the inevitable result of new money spreading throughout the economy in the months and years after its creation. Or, when dollars return to American shores from foreign holders.

  • I sympathize with lots of people… but why does “lifting a finger” always really mean dropping a bomb?

    Because you can’t push back an invading army with Spam.

    WWI and the Korean War are two conflicts that immediately spring to mind in which U.S. intervention simply kicked the can down the road, rather than forcing the peoples involved to find a resolution.

    They weren’t ideal resolutions but they weren’t useless resolutions either. US intervention in Korea prevented a unified Korea under communist rule. You think that would’ve been better?

    Another assumption: that we’ve properly identified a set of values that are to be evenly applied across all nations and across all peoples. This idea that we’re supposed to identify the parties that are “fighting for freedom” in the world and come to their aid is positively bizarre. Whose to say we’ve found the secret to liberty and prosperity, and that if only the rest of the world realized this they too would be great like us?

    They don’t have to be “great,” just not engage in genocide. Is that really up for debate?

    No doubt war and its unintended consequences suck. And I share most of your laundry list of concerns. But sometimes the alternative is worse still. Pacifism is a respectable position but let’s not fool ourselves into believing that intervention never improves conditions.

  • “War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.”

  • Very good article.
    What makes us exceptional, unique and unlike the other nations of the world, both past and present, is an idea. An idea of liberty that binds us together as Americans. The further we move away from this idea, the further away we move from what it means to be American. The Founders bequeathed to us and made us stewards of a simple and elegant formula. A way for a self-governing and self-reliant people to pursue happiness on earth. For the Founders, it was their vision, their dream. And to be American today is to have the great privilege to actually live this beautiful dream as a reality. Now, why on earth would we ever want to change that?

    To read more, click here:

    http://culturecrusader.wordpress.com/2010/07/04/to-be-american/

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