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What Is It With American Exceptionalism?

Scott Nesbitt

Posted on March 29, 2018 17:33

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Is our belief in exceptionalism why we condone America's illegal war making?

The origins of the term “American Exceptionalism” and the meaning associated with it are not universally agreed upon. Some emphasize Puritan roots, whereby many believed God had chosen the American people to provide a model of community (and government) to the rest of the world.

Others prefer to cite the tradition of “Republicanism”, the ideas of which led to the American Revolution. In the words of historian Gordon Wood: "Our beliefs in liberty, equality, constitutionalism, and the well-being of ordinary people came out of the Revolutionary era. So too did our idea that we Americans are a special people, with a special destiny to lead the world toward liberty and democracy." 

Modern Americans truly believe they are a “chosen people” with a “manifest destiny” to proselytize America’s democracy, capitalist ideals and culture to the rest of the world. These ideas are carefully nurtured: the daily Pledge of Allegiance in schools; the inevitable National Anthem at sports events; repetition by politicians and media. Kids grow up essentially indoctrinated to believe everything American is good and wholesome, the greatest nation ever, the supreme democracy in history, mandated to spread our doctrine worldwide. 

Apart from the conceit, this level of brainwashing has had, and still has, catastrophic consequences to other nations. There is a long history of American war making around the world. 

This firm belief in American “goodness” allows government to easily dupe citizens with fallacious motives for going to war, echoed by media lapdogs. The evil of communism, the humanitarian need to overthrow dictators, the perceived, but often overblown, threat from another nation as is currently promulgated in regard to Iran and North Korea, have all been cited to disguise our true intention, i.e. American imperialism.

Many CIA covert interventions, as well as overt military actions, contravene international law, but so ingrained is the brainwashing that many Americans believe our country is above such laws. Contrary to popular belief, not all regime changes have fostered democracy. CIA-led illegal coups produced severe dictatorships in Iran and Chile.

Perhaps the most egregious flouting of international law occurred when the United States preemptively invaded Iraq based on lies disseminated by the Bush Administration. For many Americans the so-called “War on Terrorism” has normalized preemptive war. We are bombing, and killing, thousands of innocent people in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya, Syria, and maybe foulest of all, supporting Saudi Arabia’s assault on Yemen. Our unquestioning support of, and aid to, Israel has caused untold Palestinian misery.

Despite lack of mainstream media coverage, there is sufficient reporting for the average American to know what the government is doing in our name. There are consequences to dropping bombs. People die or are horribly wounded. American citizens either do not care, or ingrained belief in American exceptionalism leads them to somehow think we are “doing good” around the world, spreading democracy and freedom through military action. Are we incapable of empathy, or does our belief in American exceptionalism condone any and all overseas interventions?

Scott Nesbitt

Posted on March 29, 2018 17:33

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