When Russian President Vladimir Putin took his American counterpart to task in a recent New York Times Editorial over Obama’s invocation of the standard neoconservative boilerplate “American exceptionalism” to justify an aggressive US foreign policy, US neocons shrieked in unison. How dare he, they cried.
But to the neoconservatives, American exceptionalism has nothing to do with civil liberties, personal freedom, limited government, free markets, and the like. It is only the exeptionalism of the US sword, going abroad to seek monsters to destroy. It is only the exeptionalism of military might to force the world to follow US dictates.
Putin pushed back against this kind of false and a historic American exceptionalism and, likely because his argument made so much sense to the average American who is sick of war and aggression overseas, the neoconservatives suffered fits of convulsions and intestinal distress. Neoconserative Senator Robert Menendez, who has long dreamed of another Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, felt like he “wanted to vomit” after reading Putin’s words. House Speaker John Boehner felt “insulted” by Putin. John McCain felt his intelligence insulted by Putin’s comments.
What did Putin say that caused Washington such fits? He reminded the US, founded as it was generally on Christian principles, that the Creator did not make exceptional nations, but rather created all men in His own image:
I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States’ policy is “what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.” It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.
Not long ago, Ron Paul was asked to explain his view of American exeptionalism. Why did he seem to disagree with the neoconservatives who would invoke this term as the bloody shirt was once waved in the days of old? Here is Ron Paul’s view of the real American exceptionalism, rooted in a patriotism that seeks not to force our way of life on others at the barrel of a gun, but rather to do our best, acknowledge and work on our shortcomings, and endeavor to set an example of the kind of peace and prosperity that can be achieved in a free society that respects individual liberty: