Is America still Exceptional?

Graves Anthony ’16, Staff Writer

Taking a look back at the 20th anniversary of the Battle of Mogadishu, I stop and think about the argument over American exceptionalism. Alexis de Tocqueville, upon visiting America, called this nation “exceptional”. Other uses stem from the early communist movements here in the US. The major leader in the communist party in Europe, Joseph Stalin, is credited for having coined the phrase “American exceptionalism”.  Seymour Martin Lipset defines American exceptionalism, in his book American Exceptionalism: A Double-Edged Sword, as the United States being “qualitatively different” from other nations. This notion of America being “qualitatively different” from other nations is shown through the people of the United States who extend themselves, as well as resources, to help people throughout the world who’ve been oppressed. In the search for the truth of why America is exceptional, I look to the impact we, as the US, have made upon the world. For 237 years, America has been leading the way for democratic republics across the world.

In many cases, we, as Americans, see the negatives and the flaws of our society; however we fail to see how good things really are in the US compared to those in some countries in South America, Africa and Asia. We take for granted the fact that we have a say in what goes on in our country compared to those countries that function off of one man or one family ruling a whole people and those people don’t have a chance to change their circumstance.  In a historical context, we see the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and his love for America and how he believes in American Exceptionalism. Colonialism is dead and America wasn’t part of the major instances of colonialism that materialized in Africa or in the Far East.  I see America as being the exception from the world at the time of colonialism. That, in turn, defines America as “qualitatively different”.

It has been said that President Woodrow Wilson took a moralistic approach to his foreign policy. This moralistic approach leads to the US getting involved in WWI later rather than sooner. In the last twenty years, the US has taken a moralistic approach to foreign policy, for example: Iraq, Somalia, the Balkans, Libya, and now with Syria. The United States has had a longstanding tradition of fighting for those who are oppressed in countries in which said people would be killed if they spoke against the government in place. So the US goes in, topples the ruthless dictator, and puts in place a democratic form of government. As good as spreading democracy to the world sounds, it doesn’t always work. With this sense of moral obligation, that the US has to defend those who cannot defend themselves, we, as a people, have to accept that the US, in a traditional point of view, has to take the same stance on the issue of spreading democracy to the parts of the world in which it does not exist.

With the spread of democracy and western ideals comes pushback from groups that do not want the change. We saw that in the 1990’s with Somalia and we’ve seen it happen in Iraq and Libya in the 2000’s. The fact of the matter is that the US is an exceptional nation when it comes to the foreign policy of helping those countries in need. President George W. Bush saw a dire need for help in Africa because of the epidemic of AIDS/HIV. So, President Bush became the first President to give financial aid to Africa to help stop the epidemic of AIDS in Africa. I cite the job that President Obama has done with his approach to Syria and the modern application of a moralistic sense of authority that the US has over the world. President Obama did a good job drawing a red line when it came to using chemical weapons on your own people. However, he has sense showed a weakness by handing over primary negotiations on Syria to the Russians and President Putin.

America, as a nation, is qualitatively different from any other nation on this earth by the fact that she is not made up of one people but of many different peoples from many different countries. They all come to America for the same purpose: to lead a better life. Although the US may not be the best in healthcare or education, the idea that immigrants dream about coming to America to not only better themselves but more importantly to create a better life for the next generation. To quote the good Professor Dr. James Y. Simms, Jr., when asked whether America was still exceptional or not, he said, “Damn right America is still exceptional.” I believe that about sums it up. America, in my opinion, is still exceptional and will always be exceptional.

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