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29 November 2010


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Don't you remember Bush's jingoism in his drum beat to war with Iraq?

I just want to be above average, not exceptional.

s nadh

Bringing back the draft would be a good corrective. I keep telling a friend that his Chateau Margaux 1973 should have been opened years ago.


This is truly an alarming development: by declaring our own exceptionalism, we not only become ignorant of others, but also of ourselves--by brushing aside unpleasant past events that don't confirm our own "greatness."

Sun Tzu said long ago that only one fate awaits those who know neither themselves nor their adversaries: they are fated to lose every battle, figurative or actual. One hopes we never go that far, but there are times that makes me worry.

Stanley Henning

Our system may have appeared exceptional until recently, when the whole setup finally began to crumble, revealing that we too are human and subject to failure regardless of our system. We urgently need to do some serious individual and collective self appraisal, and find ways to cooperate to pull us out of the mess we are in.

William R. Cumming

The World will rue the day that the US again turns isolationist. The failure to recognize US contributions is a clear and present danger domestically and internationally. Still a more effective world view could well be developed inside the US as to the worthiness of other languages, cultures and peoples, and how US hubris and egotism and incompetence has created problems for other nation-states and their peoples.
Again the choice seems to be coming down to economics vis a vis religions. This political systems both demand an entirely self-centered world view. Too bad because the world's peoples could learn a great deal from both religious leaders and economists that are not totally didactical in their thinking and willing only to proselytize on the basis that they are the ones with the exclusively correct answers to the great questions of life and international relations.


Yeah, I guess Merika is the greatest country in the world, if your world view looks back through historical blinders to that halcyon time in the 19th Century when unrestricted economic and social Darwinism was the summum bonum of civil order. The rich got to keep their wealth and the poor got to starve in the streets, but it was OK because God didn't love the poor; their poverty proved it.

By all means keep "socialism" away from our shores: it would be the death of our culture, if not our citizenry.


"We don't want to fight,
But By Jingo if we do,
We've got the men,
we've got the ships,
We got the money too!"

Well, not so much.

Yellow Dog

"Jingoism. There is no other word for it. I have seen it in a lot of other peoples. I have never liked it in any of them, but it is new to me in the US."

You must not hang out with any "Real Americans". Some take the same attitude with regard to US citizens that don't agree with them.

Patrick Lang

Yellow Dog

Maybe so. Maybe I know too many soldiers and spooks. pl


I don't know enough about the Roman Empire, but the attitude that the "exceptionalists" seem to be taking reminds me a lot of the attitude of the British at the height of their empire.

What I have difficulty understanding is how "Real Americans" want to have a system with a weak -- or lobotomized -- central government and an emphasis on rural and small town values (whatever they may be) yet also want to have a strong global presence that can only be supported by a strong, fairly centralized state. Aircraft carriers and missile-defense systems don't come out of decentralized, agrarian societies. Intellectual capital to play a global leadership role doesn't arise from a patchwork of 50 state-level governments. Cutting-edge technology doesn't reach critical mass if you don't have a national-level impetus -- with the possible exception of a California.

It's similar to the desire for American-produced movies and music but a revulsion to what happens when you get a critical mass of artists in places like Hollywood or NYC.

Patrick Lang


54 40 or fight. Let's see, where would that line have cut through BC? pl

Patrick Lang


"The failure to recognize US contributions is a clear and present danger domestically and internationally."

How do you think this recognition should be expressed? pl

Larry Kart

One of the sources for this "national greatness" nonsense now stands revealed -- David Brooks:


Always having regarded Brooks as an operative, I've been wondering on whose specific behalf (other than his own) he's been operating recently. It would seem to be Mitt Romney.

William P. Fitzgerald III

Pat Lang,

America is exceptional in that we have benefitted in exceptional fashion from historical developments and accidents. To mention several, the superiority of the fire arm over the bow and tomahawk was very likely more important than God being peeved with the Indians. Had James Wolfe's army not been able to climb the cliffs to the Plains of Abraham, its concievable that France would have retained control of New France in the Peace of Paris. It is difficult to imagine the revolution happening when and as it did with France in possession of Canada, the Great Lakes, and the French settlements in the Midwest and Mississippi Valley. I would also mention that our founding documents were drawn up at the height of the enlightenment. I'll stop there and conclude that we are the product of exceptional circumstances.



An old saying comes to mind that should be familiar to most of those screaming exceptionalism:

Pride comes before the fall.

Modesty has long been proposed to encourage the best in people, including effort to remain top. Sadly, it requires harder work (harder message to deliver) than jingo-ism.

Russ Wagenfeld

Pat wrote:
"This tendency brings to mind the college professor of political science who said to me a few years ago that if it were true, as I had said, that the people of the Islamic World generally did not want to be transformed into new Europeans, then he would have to re-evaluate our culture and civilization."

Unlike many others he had the wit and honesty to rethink.


I am hoping this would be relevant to the discussion above.

I have been living overseas most of the last 10 years, 5 in the heart of Europe, Switzerland and roughly 5 in Turkey, and not within American ex-pat enclaves or communities.

Believe me, above discussions and opinions gain a different hue looking in from outside. As much ignorance and intolarence is gathering mass in US, the same is happening throughout the outside world, speaking from the street level, elbow to elbow with people of all nations and races. One Somalian language student in Switzerland was afraid to sit next to me after I introduced myself first day in the class. I was rebuked by class teachers for wanting to win the class Bowling game and for encouraging and instructing my teammates to do their best. After my first year, I stopped listing “hunting” as my hobby in various applications and forms. One GI I met in an airport insisted he was from Canada, not quite aware that he was no longer in Iraq or Afghanistan...And many more like this, but the point is, there exist a huge gap between Americans, and peoples of all nations on the other side. To resort to the much abused cliche, a huge "information" gap exists, and Hollywood has a lot to do with it.

But please, let’s not be too hard on US, Americans and much ignored contributions United States has made to the World in general, as under appreciated and recognized as they are. This, and the true meaning of America becomes clearer when everything is viewed in sharp contrasts. I remember having a very heated discussion with a European friend about how devoid of culture Americans were, in a Supermarket DVD section, her wearing a blue jean and jacket suit, her having just chewed off my ear about the new Windows XP operating system on her computer, and as she spoke perfect idiomatic American English she had learned in US which made her invaluable in the drug company she was employed as an efficiency expert.

Closing up of American minds through “Jingoism” is being met gradually point by point by the “others” unfortunately, this as witnessed by myself living in Turkey. I am hoping there is a midpoint between overcoming American “othering” over there, and for the rest of the world an opportunity to be given to shake off the simplistic Hollywood image of America. How? Perhaps by individual effort by those of us who care, one person at a time, over time, like “digging a well with a needle.” as the Turkish proverb says.

Patrick Lang


Unfortunately he seemed to be in the process of completely rejecting what I had said. pl


America is a great experiment based on the ideas of Enlightenment.
The slogans of the Enlightenment - liberty, equality, fraternity.
Add to that the priceless influx of the intellectuals (the most expensive commodity for any nation to produce), particularly in the first half of the 20th century, and the mixture was right. But like a water, peoples’ psychopathic intentions leak through tiny holes in the set of laws.


Another article by yet another inside the beltway Harvard MBA from Texas. She's just repeating Republican talking points in the run up to 2012. Too bad she can't get out and see some of the real 'exceptional' America.


''' hope that stops the bolding of the comments thread.

William R. Cumming

PL! In very simplistic and partial answer to your question!

The educational system from Texts to Profs could focus more on where world would be without US! Also where US efforts in various ways come out on balance for human rights and economic opportunity. Also the Public Diplomacy effort announced and implemented by George W. Bush was a good idea but not well executed by Condi Rice or Karen Hughes or the daughter of the Cheneys.

I am not talking about censorship. But analysis. Showing how the US arrived at its current positions and the logic or emphasis of those positions. And perhaps once or twice a year having a speech [by other than the President] announcing the successes and failures of US efforts and any particular bureacracy and why the successes or failures were viewed as such.

Hey when President Reagan was talking about that "shining city on a hill" did he also recognize Calvin's thesis of the total depravity of mankind, the notion of some being "elected" in the eyes of God, and only doing good and doing well were some but not conclusive evidence of election. We have degenerated into quips, catchwords, and bon mots, and few evidence the thinking that is evidenced by you and your blog. I define this effort as something other than propaganda or counterpropaganda. More analytical and more fact based. Remarkably I find the current Administration, despite being a fuzzy headed liberal, more opaque than the last Administration in its policy development, implementation, and operations. Left to the eyeglass or spyglass of a Bob Woodward to try and given some sensibility to the process but in fact revealing total or almost total disarray.

For example, [and note I am a retired second generation civil servant] that no real reasoning was furnished for the decision to freeze civil service salaries. Let's not even go to th private sector. How about whether the Administration considered eliminating half of the politically vetted 10,000 positions [many without position descriptions] in the Executive Branch first. This would have saved more and perhaps enhanced efficiency and effectiveness. Other watch US and when we war on civil servants a message is delivered to others watching. Or for example, over $50 B wasted on IT systems in DHS. Hoping you get my drift. Posturing is part of the US problem. We are the oldest and richest democracy [Republic] and we can do better.


"This reorientation away from a celebration of American exceptionalism is misguided and bankrupt," former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney writes in his campaign setup book, "No Apology: The Case For American Greatness." Tumulty

I wonder if Manchus (felt invincible, no need to change, and isolationists) also felt the same concerning China?

There is no better country in the world than the good old U.S.A., but we are going to see the rest of the world pass us, like the Manchus, unless we make fundamental changes in our "exceptionalism."

This tendency brings to mind the college professor of political science who said to me a few years ago that if it were true, as I had said, that the people of the Islamic World generally did not want to be transformed into new Europeans, then he would have to re-evaluate our culture and civilization. - pl

Col., just one question, SAIS? lol

P.S. When you use bold remember to turn it off...lol

Patrick Lang


You are not paying attention to the facts of this story.

After 9/11 the emphasis was on making lots of information available to lots of people. Accordingly huge data bases were created in interlocked computer networks restricted to people with granted security clearance access. PFC Manning, a VERY junior OB analyst type had access at his desk in Baghdad to one of these data bases filled with undying and eternal data at the secret level. There are other data bases at other classification levels. Manning only had access at the secret level. He illegally and against the rules downloaded masses of the material onto some sort of portable media storage and carried it out of the secure workspace. He is, effetively, a spy and should be punished accordingly. Now, what would be your solution? To restrict the access of the intelligence analysts? Manning BTW would have been a beneficiary of the repeal of DADT. pl

Patrick Lang


I loathe Calvinism and all its tenets including the "city on a hill" crap. Calvinism, with its belief in pre-destination and the separation on discovery of the pre-destined elect from us goats is IMO largely responsible for the narrow mindedness to be encountered in many.

Neither God nor some other higher power (perhaps "the force") created the United States for some special purpose.

We happened, like Topsy, and "growed" through our efforts and those of a beneficent combination of factors involving space to grow, resources and continuing immigration of mostly worthwhile people.

We are not an instrument of man's destiny.

I fought for the United States against many enemies foreign and domestic but I have never been delusional about our "exceptionalism."


PS I feel the same way about anything that Jean Jacques Rousseau ever wrote. pl

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