On Point: Barack Obama: American Exceptionalist


by Austin Bay
March 29, 2011

Once again, it's time for Candidate Obama, circa 2007-2008,to condemn President Barack Obama. For that matter, the April 2009 Obama avatarshould also sneer at the current version -- if he can't find the time to attenda Washington-area protest demonstration.

So why should Candidate Id kvetch about President Ego? Let'sstart with the third paragraph of Obama's speech addressing Libya's War ofLiberation. The paragraph begins his argument for intervention:

"For generations, the United States of America hasplayed a unique role as an anchor of global security and advocate for humanfreedom. Mindful of the risks and costs of military action, we are naturallyreluctant to use force to solve the world's many challenges. But when ourinterests and values are at stake, we have a responsibility to act."

With this paragraph, which stresses America's"unique" role in the world, President Obama becomes an Americanexceptionalist. Moreover, Obama becomes a muscular American exceptionalist,since he not only reiterates a compelling ideal, but uses it as an essentialand pragmatic guide to formulating and implementing policy.

Later he added: "To brush aside America'sresponsibility as a leader and ... our responsibilities to our fellow humanbeings under such circumstances would have been a betrayal of who we are. Somenations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries. TheUnited States of America is different."

This represents a radical change from April 2009, whenPresident Obama said in Strasbourg, France: "I believe in Americanexceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in Britishexceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism." Thatamounted to a put-down of American exceptionalism as an ideal and definitelyits rejection as a force shaping sound foreign policy and global securitydecisions.

American exceptionalists argue that Earth's firstconstitutionally grounded representative democracy, dedicated to the stillradical principles that "all" people are created equal and"endowed" with inalienable rights (such as the right to life, libertyand the pursuit of happiness), plays a special role in world affairs.Exceptionalists believe America is an empowering experiment in individualfreedom and a pragmatic example of liberal democracy that serves as a prototypefor mitigating and potentially bridging ethnic and religious divisions. At somepoint, dedication to its founding principles means acting on behalf of freedom,to include, on occasion, waging war.

However, for the past four or five decades, left-wingacademics and other self-proclaimed genius persons -- like Obama and his fanssaid he was in 2008 -- have scorned the concept of American exceptionalism.

According to these pompous toffs, belief in Americanexceptionalism is for those they deem to be -- well, to paraphrase CandidateObama in San Francisco -- those uncredentialed types who cling to their gunsand religion. For lefty toffs, this category includes tea partiers,Republicans, conservatives and, harrumph, benighted idealists who make thepalpably foolish assertion that human beings yearn for freedom instead of agovernment paycheck and academic tenure.

The more pathological toffs promote "negativeexceptionalism." Amerika (their spelling) is uniquely flawed. Amerika's"deep structure" is fundamentally racist, greedy, warmongering,genocidal, genderist and anti-biosphere, et cetera.

Hope and change? It appears reality has given PresidentObama an extended "teaching moment," and he's learned from it.Instead of putting down American exceptionalism, he has embraced it.

In his speech, President Obama argued that he acted to stopmass murder, but he also emphasized that "democratic impulses ... are dawningacross the region" and that it was not in America's interest to have"repressive leaders" conclude "that violence is the beststrategy to cling to power."

Promoting Arab democracy using military power? I know, a lotof Candidate Id still haunts the Oval Office, since Obama insists on callingthe Libyan war a "military kinetic operation." But only the toffs whobuy that rhetorical gimcrack will fail to hear the echoes of George W. Bush inObama's speech.

America does have a vital interest in remaining on the sideof individual freedom. Jumbo jets (freedom of movement) and the Internet(freedom of speech and information) are two technologies that promoteindividual choice, which ultimately connects to freedom. These technologies arestrategic givens, vehicles for the "democratic impulses" the tyrantsfear. It's why Libya's War of Liberation will be one of many other 21st centurywars for the terms of modernity. 

To find out more about Austin Bay and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

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