Felicia Muftic: Defining ‘American exceptionalism’
October 25, 2011
“American exceptionalism” is the new GOP rally phrase of the day.
Sounds great. I am a believer that we live in the greatest country on earth, but we need to look behind the flag-draped curtain into the definition some Republicans give it by asking a few tough questions.
It is almost exclusively defined in the mind of Mitt Romney, for example, as militarism. His proposal is to roll back all cuts inflicted on the Pentagon, increase spending on our military and missile defense systems. He needs to be challenged on the “pay for” realities.
How? If not by raising taxes, what exactly would he cut while reducing the deficit at the same time? Earned safety nets such as Social Security, Medicare? Our nation’s future development of the next generations by cutting money to education? Infrastructure?
Is indefinite occupation of troublesome nations with our boots on the ground the policy a President Romney wants to perpetuate as he berates Obama for our combat troops departing Iraq? If so, how much of the cost of $2 billion per week just for Afghanistan and Iraq should he want us to continue to spend?
American Exceptionalism to many in the GOP means that the U.S. should never undertake military action in conjunction with anyone and that we should always lead, and never lead from behind. Does that mean we should also shoulder all the financial burden of any action ourselves? Does it mean we should unilaterally take action even though the rest of the world, especially our allies, should not be expected to contribute their blood and treasure and leadership?
Would President Romney give the Pentagon a blank check to proceed with weapons systems that reflect yesterday’s tactics ? Or would he shift resources to enhance the techniques we have found to be so successful against terrorists who embed themselves among civilians in failed states, or in aiding those engaged in the Arab spring? Drones, air cover, command and control abilities, and special ops, State Department democracy trainers, private security contractors have proved lately to be very effective in taking down al-Qaida and others who have terrorized us. Besides being more effective, these new tactics have resulted in fewer deaths of civilians and it has given us the ability to conduct war on the cheap.
What I have noticed is the U.S. flag is not being burned by the Arabs. On her visit to Libya the day before Gadhafi was killed. Hillary Clinton was greeted by Allah Akbar, and that was just a month after President Obama in no uncertain terms at the United Nations reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to Israel. When has anything like that ever happened? Or when did other Arab nations ever give us material support in an action against another Arab state as they did in Libya?
It was not the U.S. exceptionalism of military might the Arab Spring movement sought to emulate, either. It was their goal to establish democracy and human rights along the principles Obama laid out in his Cairo speech that helped spur them on.
It is true Pakistan, Syria and Iran remain on the unfinished business list. What does a President Romney plan to do that differs from President Obama’s approach? Unilaterally invade and occupy ? We know what that got us in Iraq and Afghanistan. More economic isolation? We need more than unilateral action to make that work. More covert action? Covert by definition is secret so we do not even know if we could do more.
Sadly, too, American exceptionalism is taking on a new meaning. We are exceptionally behind most of the rest of the industrialized world in any measure of health care outcomes, in education, and in the conditions of our highways and roads, and our universal access to efficient communication provided by broadband. We are a nation overburdened by debt. That is not the kind of exceptionalism of which we should be proud.
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