Presentation on theme: "A MERICAN E XCEPTIONALISM ? ? ?. –Our particular claim to greatness as a nation rests on the fact that we have done without many elements that might be."— Presentation transcript:
–Our particular claim to greatness as a nation rests on the fact that we have done without many elements that might be thought of as the marks of a great people, among them the myth of origin.
Americans have been suckled by no wolf - the Romans, sired by no Trojan fleeing Troy - the Greeks ; they are not descended from the sun - the Japanese or from the dragon’s teeth sown in the earth - the Chinese ….
–Indeed, our greatness consists precisely in the fact that we are making it up as we go along -- that we are perpetually in the process of devising ourselves as a people. –Robert Pinsky, former Poet Laurete
“All civilizations rest on myths, but in America myths have exceptional but in America myths have exceptional meaning.... meaning.... America is different. It is the only peaceful multi-racial civilization in the world” - Theodore White, journalist journalist
A MERICAN E XCEPTIONALISM Myth...?....or Reality...?....or Reality...?
America as a “NEW WORLD” Unanticipated, in discovery Huge, immense, in size Relatively unpopulated, and so Comparatively “vacant” Abundantly rich in resources Unclaimed by existing European political powers
What’s “New”? New England New Jersey New Jersey New York New York New Hampshire New Hampshire and (new) Portland, and (new) Portland, of Oregon Maine and England and England
An ABSENCE OF HISTORY No feudal traditions... of landed aristocracy of landed aristocracy.....or of fixed peasantry.....or of inherited statuses.....or of inherited statuses No incorporation of pre-European --i.e., indigenous--settlements into American history
“Whereas Europe is a land with too much history and not enough geography, America has little history and plenty of geography.” - Daniel Boorstin & Aldous Huxley - Daniel Boorstin & Aldous Huxley historian & author historian & author
the SIGNIFICANCE OF THE FRONTIER Open land Continual expansion “Verge” or Frontier mentality Absence of laws Acceptance of violence
“Every movement inward was a verge between the advanced European civilization and the stone-age culture of the American Indians, between people and wilderness.” “Every movement inward was a verge between the advanced European civilization and the stone-age culture of the American Indians, between people and wilderness.” - Daniel Boorstin, - Daniel Boorstin, historian historian
Frontier (and thereby American ) Characteristics (ala Frederick Jackson Turner)
the CENTRALITY OF IDEAS Founding documents Declaration of Independence Constitution Background of English Enlightenment Lincoln’s proposition of equality The “great experiment” of democracy
“European nations are the products of history and not of philosophy. The United States, unlike any other nation, has been built upon an idea - the idea of liberty.” “European nations are the products of history and not of philosophy. The United States, unlike any other nation, has been built upon an idea - the idea of liberty.” - Margaret Thatcher, - Margaret Thatcher, Former British Prime Minister Former British Prime Minister
The American Creed According to Seymour Martin Lipset 20 th Century American Sociologist - Liberty - Equalitarianism - Equalitarianism - Individualism - Individualism - Populism - Populism - Lassiez-faire - Lassiez-faire
an “AUTOCTHONOUS” PEOPLE Self-created Coming from everywhere else Many-cultured Rooted in neither time nor place nor history nor culture no “motherland” or “fatherland” Having a “Manifest Destiny”
“America’s people come of such diverse heritages of religion, tongue, habit, fatherhood, color and folk song that if America did not exist it would be impossible to imagine that such a gathering of alien strains could ever behave like a nation.” “America’s people come of such diverse heritages of religion, tongue, habit, fatherhood, color and folk song that if America did not exist it would be impossible to imagine that such a gathering of alien strains could ever behave like a nation.” - Theodore White, - Theodore White, journalist journalist
RELIGOUSLY MANDATED Being of the elect Selected for a larger destiny Especially blessed Having an extra-national moral responsibility
“We Americans are the peculiar, chosen people - the Israel of our time; we bear the ark of the liberties of the world. God has predestined, mankind expects, great things from our race; and great things we feel in our souls.” “We Americans are the peculiar, chosen people - the Israel of our time; we bear the ark of the liberties of the world. God has predestined, mankind expects, great things from our race; and great things we feel in our souls.” - Herman Melville, author author
Popular Mandates New England Puritans: – “to establish the City upon the Hill” Joseph Smith: – “to found the promised Land of Zion” Woodrow Wilson: – “to make the world safe for democracy” George H. W. Bush: – “to establish a new world order”
More Recent Mandates Bill Clinton: - “to establish a new world order” (again!) George W. Bush: - “we have been called to a unique role in human events…” Barak Obama: - “God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny…”
HISTORICALLY “EXEMPT” Not attacked by foreign powers since 1812… until September 11, 2001 No socialist worker political tradition Without a state religion Peacefully bordered north & south Protected by oceans east & west
War Dead War Dead The War U.S. Dead Total Dead WW I 30,0009,000,000 WW I 30,0009,000,000 Civil War 600,000 600,000 Civil War 600,000 600,000 WW II 300,000 55,000,000 Viet Nam 60,0002,060,000 Iraq I, II & Afghanistan 5,600+ 1,500,000? (U. S. wounded 30,500+)
the SOLE WORLD POWER Oldest republic Oldest democracy Oldest written constitution Highest GNP 3rd wealthiest per capita Strongest military in human history
What is Our National Interest? “There is nothing in the national interest or in the American creed which demands that we dominate the rest of the world; but there is much in our tradition and way of life which requires that we be the defender and promoter of the democratic cause on the world scene” - W. W. Rostow, - W. W. Rostow, economist economist
What is Our National Interest? “Only in a world where the powers great and small enjoyed liberal democratic institutions could there obtain the peaceful international relations in which America could prosper in its own way of life.” - Charles Hershfield, - Charles Hershfield, historian historian
This is Our National Policy: “History has called America and our allies to action, and it is both our responsibility and our privilege to fight freedom’s fight.” “We seek a just and peaceful world beyond the war on terror…. Evil is real and must be opposed.”
“In a single instant, we realized that this will be a decisive decade in the history of liberty -- that we have been called to a unique role in human events.” “ We have known freedom’s price. We have shown freedom’s power. And in the great conflict, my fellow Americans, we will see freedom’s victory.” - George W. Bush, - George W. Bush, 43 rd President of the U.S. 43 rd President of the U.S.
The “G. W. Bush Doctrine” To provide a single sustainable model for national success: freedom, democracy, and free enterprise. To defend freedom of religion and conscience from encroachment by repressive governments. To engage in proactive counter- proliferation efforts.
The “Bush Doctrine” continued... To exercise our right of self-defense by acting preemptively. To deter and defend against any threat before it is unleashed. To maintain the capability to defeat any attempt by an enemy to impose its will on the U.S., our allies, or our friends.
The “Bush Doctrine” continued... Our forces will be strong enough to dissuade potential adversaries from pursuing a military buildup in (their) hopes of surpassing, or equaling, the power of the United States.
Critique of the “Bush Doctrine” The development of a U.S.-centered world view in which the United States presumptively and unilaterally pursues its objectives as it sees fit….
Super Power as Role Model…? Withdrew from the Kyoto Treaty on global warming, signed by 186 nations. Refused to sign the Land Mines Ban Treaty, signed by 137 nations. Unilaterally withdrew from the ABM Treaty of 1973. Refused to join the International Criminal Court.
Abstained from the renewal of the Outer Space Treaty. Refused to ratify the Law of the Sea Treaty, accepted by 120 nations. Rejected an agreement to enforce the 1972 International Biological Weapons Convention, ratified by 413 countries.
“If we have to use force, it is because we are America. We are the indispensable nation. We stand tall. We see further into the future.” - Madeline Albright, former Secretary of State
A MERICAN E XCEPTIONALISM Myth...?....or Reality...?....or Reality...?