William Hamilton — America: The beacon of hope and freedom
April 27, 2010
One of the underlying themes of candidate Obama’s campaign for the Democratic nomination was: America had gotten too big for its britches and needed to be taken down a peg or two. According to some on the Right, that’s one campaign promise being kept.
Mr. Obama does seem to go out of his way to ignore American heroes, holidays, history and achievements, as if to be celebratory toward America is somehow a rejection of the heroes, holidays, history and achievements of the rest of the world.
When the Frenchman, Alexis de Tocqueville, toured America, he concluded Americans were “exceptional” because Americans founded a way of self-government and a way of life superior to the monarchist, dictatorial governments of the Old World. Compared to the terrible plight of the ordinary person in Europe in the 1830s, it would be difficult to argue against de Tocqueville’s case for what he called: American Exceptionalism.
But it is clear Mr. Obama wants to make America less exceptional, to reduce America’s role in world affairs, to be “just one of the guys” in the international arena. (Recall, President Carter carrying his own suit bag on and off Air Force One in an effort to appear to be just one of the guys. That really impressed the Iranian Mullahs.)
Many Americans identify with the Jeffersonian ideal of equality and democracy, so a “down home” president eager to shed the trappings of American power has a populist appeal. But in the field of foreign affairs, the reality is: Not all nations were created equal and some who were created with abundant natural resources messed up to the point we had to set aside our long history of Isolationism and clean up the messes they created. World War I and II come to mind.
Mr. Obama acts as if we invented the Cold War in order to have an excuse to be stationing America forces around the world. Those whose entire military careers were consumed by the Cold War would beg to differ. The weight of history blames the Cold War on the aggression of the Soviet and Red Chinese bloc. After 1945, the generation that fought World War II just wanted to be back home rebuilding or starting their families.
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We did not drop an Iron Curtain across Europe, making captives of millions of Eastern Europeans “yearning to breathe free.” No one here woke up one morning and said, “Wouldn’t it be great to fight the North Koreans in the freezing winters and baking summers of the Korean Peninsula?” No, it was Soviet and Red Chinese expansionism that gave rise to the stationing of American forces around the world.
Granted, at the time they were written, the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution avoided the question of what to do about the Africans who had been brought to the country as slaves. So, one might understand an African-American president who does not see America as particularly exceptional today because, in the late 18th century, America was not any more welcoming of people of color than the old European monarchies were welcoming of their serfs.
But that was then. This is now. Eventually, America became the beacon of hope and freedom for all humankind, to include people of color. In that, America is truly exceptional. So, there are a lot more reasons for pride in America than there are for shame.
If Mr. Obama really does want his Office to appear less exceptional, he could downsize Air Force One from a Boeing 747 to a Boeing 757 like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s 757. He could close the presidential retreat at Camp David. He could take a cut in his $400,000 annual salary. He could carry his own suit bag. He could even put himself and his family under ObamaCare.
– Syndicated columnist, William Hamilton, a Distinguished Graduate of the U.S. Naval War College, earned a master’s degree in International Affairs from The George Washington University and is a graduate of Harvard’s JFK School of Government.