War, American Exceptionalism and Self-DeceitBy Brian E. Muhammad -Contributing Writer- | Last updated: Sep 26, 2013 - 1:39:42 PM
(FinalCall.com) - War in Syria was averted after Russia and the United States agreed that any chemical weapons held by the Arab nation would be turned over and destroyed—bringing relief to a president stuck with the dilemma of credibly selling another war to war-tired Americans.
But amid saber rattling days before the accord was a United States stuck between the reality of an empire in decline and a self-proclaimed image of American Exceptionalism—the belief that America is different from other nations with a unique mandate to spread “liberty and democracy.”
“America is not the world’s policeman,” said President Obama in a Sept. 10 speech on Syria. “Terrible things happen across the globe, and it is beyond our means to right every wrong,” he conceded. “But when, with modest effort and risk, we can stop children from being gassed to death, and thereby make our own children safer over the long run, I believe we should act. That’s what makes America different; that’s what makes us exceptional.”
Besides National Security, American “ideals and principles” were jeopardized, said the U.S. president, raising the notion of American Exceptionalism as another reason to drop bombs on Syria. Critics were not convinced or impressed by that declaration.
Author and historian Gerald Horne of the University of Houston dismissed President Obama’s use of exceptionalism as a “dangerous” and “pernicious idea.” It says America doesn’t have to observe international law simply “because it is exceptional; because it’s special,” he said. His was not a lone view.
“America is not interested in a democratically-elected government that produces a government that she is not in control of, and cannot have free access to the natural resources of that nation,” observed Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan in his Aug. 31 lecture, “America’s Errant Foreign Policy.” In a past speech Minister Farrakhan described American Exceptionalism as an “exceptional lie” that America has never lived up to.
America Exceptionalism means “they can impose regime change, or war, or fund (opposition) groups around the world; assassinate presidents, bomb countries, fire drone missiles at anyone; a law unto themselves … that’s what Obama was asserting in the face of the whole world saying no,” commented peace activist Sarah Flounders of the N.Y.-based International Action Center in a Final Call telephone interview.
President Obama engaged a slugfest of debate with domestic and foreign opponents of U.S. intervention in Syria’s civil war aimed at toppling the government of Bashar al-Assad. The conflict in Syria turned Aug. 21 with a chemical weapons attack killing nearly 2,000 Syrians. It is unclear whether the Syrian Army or foreign-backed rebels unleashed poisonous sarin gas used in the attack.
In a Sept. 11, N.Y. Times op-ed piece, “A Plea for Caution from Russia,” President Putin slammed the idea of American Exceptionalism, writing there is nothing unique about being unique. “It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation,” Mr. Putin wrote. “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.”
The truth is America has the world’s strongest military, but her power to assert a false exceptionalist attitude and sense of superiority is waning.
At the end of the day every nation is exceptional, said Dr. Horne. America has historically misused “exceptionalism” for an imperialist agenda that disregarded the sovereignty of other nations.
Dr. Horne pointed out reckless U.S. meddling in Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan, which are all currently in chaos and confusion. These incursions were pushed under the guise that America’s “unique” place in the world demanded action.
In addition to America’s dubious moral place in the world, her financial decline is also a problem, if she wishes to “right the wrongs of the world.”
“The problem with the United States is that its finances are in bad shape. The Tea Party tax cutting mania has wreaked havoc on the domestic economy … and on the living standards of the people,” said Dr. Horne. It takes money to police the world at a time when the U.S. working and middle class are in dire straits. “Mr. Obama is trying to navigate the contradiction; but it’s very difficult,” said Dr. Horne.
Despite domestic suffering, the oligarchs within the military industrial complex aren’t discouraged from pushing war. War generates huge profits and blinded by greed and the exceptionalist attitude, they ill-advise President Obama to go to war.
“Every tomahawk missile takes food out of the mouths of babies,” said Dr. Horne. “They’re telling us it’s not enough money, they have to cut back on food stamps … people’s ability to eat,” added Ms. Flounders.
Public protests drove Mr. Obama to the diplomatic table, she said. Syria would have been another illegal invasion were it not for active refusal of the American people to go along this time, Ms. Flounders added.
Others said despite wide corporate media support and coverage of proposed military action, popular support was low as was support in Congress and the United Nations.
However, don’t fall asleep, “what Obama also made clear is they’re still determined to wage a war on Syria,” warned Ms. Flounders.
(Brian E. Muhammad can be reached at email@example.com.)