Boondoggle

One blogger’s personal bridge to nowhere

God chooses America

In an altogether execrable column in the LA Times, the New Republic‘s neocon front man, Jamie Kirchick, enlists God in the U.S.A. column:

At a stop on his grand global apology tour this spring, President Obama was asked by a reporter in France if he believed in “American exceptionalism.” This is the notion that our history as the world’s oldest democracy, our immigrant founding and our devotion to liberty endow the United States with a unique, providential role in world affairs. [emphasis mine]

An exceptional illustration of the concept

An exceptional illustration of the concept

The notion that the United States’ role is “providential” is not American exceptionalism, Jamie; it is called manifest destiny. And just as this worldview led the irredentists in 19th century American governments to stake their righteous claim on lands ever further west, the hubris espoused by Kirchick is simply self-serving justification to exert American muscle around the world without qualm. “American exceptionalism” is a theory of history, of American studies, the critique — and it is that, a critique — that scholars of Americana either do not consider or willfully ignore America’s place in the world and in world history.

The mythology that Kirchick relies upon — that something about America’s history, identity, and values “endow[s]” it with a God-given position of influence — is exactly what Obama had to affirm when he said that he believed in the concept just as “the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.” It would be political folly to utter something that could be construed as suggesting that America is not exceptional; since this is not the point at all of American exceptionalism, Obama wisely played up the misconception, appeasing to the chorus of America-lovers while demonstrating that he knew that the question posed about “American exceptionalism” was a ruse. But even “exceptional” is not enough for Jamie Kirchick; only divine Providence will satisfy his patriotic lust.

(image from flickr user Ye Olde Wig Shoppe under a Creative Commons license)

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April 29, 2009 - Posted by | Conservatives, History | , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. It’s funny to spend some time in another country and listen to them discuss their own exceptionalism.

    I would say that every country is, in some literal sense, “exceptional”, in that every country has at least one defining feature not held by any other country. But to assume that somehow, because you highly value your own “exception”, that your country is exempt from the global context (ex: the U.S., by way of its exceptional military strength, need not consider the consequences of its military actions), is arrogant and destructive.

    Comment by Kenny B. | June 3, 2009 | Reply


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