A Broader Discussion taking place in the Commons

It is almost a relief to see what is generally described as “American Exceptionalism”, or “The Indispensable Nation”, or “The shining city upon a Hill”, is being discussed openly.

Let’s take a look at where these descriptions come from:

The actual phrase “American Exceptionalism” was originally coined by Soviet leader Joseph Stalin as a critique of a revisionist faction of American Communists who argued that the American political climate was unique, making it an ‘exception’ to certain elements of Marxist theory.


“We are the indispensable nation. We stand tall and we see further.” —Madeleine Albright (if you really need a link for this, you also need a broader education in recent history.  If you do not know the context of this, I suggest you go and do a few searches and you may understand why this was an aberration).

A Shining City Upon a Hill – John Winthrop – who was not in the least interested in democracy and said: “A democracy is, among civil nations, accounted the meanest and worst of all forms of government. [To allow it would be] a manifest breach of the 5th Commandment.”


In the broader discussion in the commons the question is being asked: “Is Donald Trump’s “America First” policy in contradiction to the Washington Consensus idea of American Exceptionalism?” This was recently discussed on Crosstalk. The one panelist David Swanson caught my attention with his clear and unambiguous approach. He says he looks at what Donald Trump does in terms of foreign policy and the tentacles of exceptionalism and finds the reality as follows:

  • dropping more bombs
  • building more bases
  • getting more military spending out of congress
  • demanding more military spending out of Europe
  • giving more weapons to more places including the Ukraine
  • Insisting on the US rights to do what it wants to do in places like the Ukraine, Nicaragua and around the world
  • Trump is not switching policies allowing other countries to decide on their own fate
  • the changes that we see, are all rhetorical and a question of mannerisms and style

Looking at actions rather than rhetoric, David does not see a reduction in the policies of American Exceptionalism or clearly stated, Imperialism. Neither do I see a difference. Take the example of “Nato is obsolete”, but it is quite noticeable how Nato quickly regains relevance if the US can be better paid for it.

Trumps America First and American Exceptionalism is being combined, as a kettle of fish that if allowed to happen, will give us nothing but more pain in our world.

Michael Tracey of Spectator takes a ‘post-exceptionalism’ tack:

When reading from prepared remarks, Trump often does recite the standard bromides about exceptionalism which have become the dreary requirement for any U.S. head of state. But when freewheeling extemporaneously, the “real Trump” tends to emerge, as he did in Helsinki. And for angst-ridden elites, the “real Trump” is an imposter— a nasty imposition on the body politic who must be in hock to a sinister foreign tyrant. That to them is the only explanation which makes sense. Because otherwise, his very presence on the world stage suggests that the American project is not as exceptional as they’ve been led to believe.


From Politico we find:

It’s unusual that the Republican Party’s most recent standard-bearer, President Donald Trump, has disavowed the very idea of “American exceptionalism.” “I don’t think it’s a very nice term,” he said. “I think you’re insulting the world.” But that doesn’t mean that Trump has chucked this dearly held principle. When most conservative politicians invoke the term “exceptionalism” they use it as shorthand for raw national chauvinism—the assertion that the United States is not just different, but better. Trump has replaced it, at least temporarily, with an angrier tag line that conveys the same sense of national power and entitlement—America First, itself a term ripped from history and freighted with dark meaning. When America is first, it owes little to everyone else. It’s a more Trumpian way of saying what other politicians often mean.


Behind his pay wall Dmitry Orlov penned a bitter poem.

“I will leave you with some Vogon Poetry of my own. Almost a decade ago, at the end of 2009, I wrote up some predictions for the next decade. One of my predictions, and one by which I still stand, was that the Americans, unable to moderate their appetites in the face of radically altered circumstances, will

consume themselves into oblivion

as so many disemboweled yet still ravenous sharks

endlessly gorging themselves

on their own billowing entrails.”

Back to a more positive approach. David Swanson helps to unravel the ‘new speech’ around peace in a time when warmaking is still the de facto daily ‘soup de jour’ that one finds if you subtract rhetoric from action. I would recommend listening to these 2 videos:



For those that understand that the warmaking is being wrapped in rhetoric, a piece from our own forums: Word Washing and Sneaky Tricks

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  1. Petrel

    American Exceptionalism is both a much derided and a praised notion, with little insight of where it comes from and what it means. American Exceptionalism was first enunciated by President Monroe in 1823 and refers to a legal construct built to neutralize the effects of Original Sin.

    “The political system of the allied powers is essentially different . . from that of America.” James Monroe, 1823 Message to Congress — aka The Monroe Doctrine.

    As roving ambassador for the United States in late-18th century France, Spain, Austria and Prussia, Monroe repeatedly witnessed the fruition of an Enlightenment project, the creation of unified a legal code designed to perfect human nature under the guidance of an omnipotent state, whether the citizens in questions welcomed such perfecting or not.

    While a diplomat, Monroe refrained from commenting about the imperial projects to recreate the state as god. But he was appalled. For Monroe, his nation’s law was constructed on a foundation of English Common Law, a growing body of practical legal reasoning, held in common to defend individuals from predatory criminals and the state.

    Rather than building a legal system around a myth that the state is an all knowing god, the Common Law of the United States represented 800 years of jury judgements, following an adversarial debate, about some claimed wrong. Though the debate is presided by a judge, his job is to ensure the legal duel follows long-established ground-rules accepted as equitable to all sides. Such rules include:

    1. The accused is deemed innocent before judged guilty by a jury of his peers.

    2. A stated crime is formally attributed to the accused before his probable cause hearing.

    3. A probable cause hearing before a magistrate is required to establish the accused might have committed the crime.

    4. A sharing of the state’s evidence with the accused before his trial, to assist him in building his defense.

    5. An impartial jury with no stake, no bias in the outcome.

    6. A neutral judge throughout the trial and when advising the jury.

    It goes without saying, the new Enlightenment codes of France, Austria, Prussia, Russia et al contained no such protocols. The accused is held guilty because the police say so. Judges apply the law as the state dictates and so on.

    Then again, the US Constitution, created as Monroe began government service, attempted to eliminate a weakness of English law by rejecting a unitary government and placing ultimate power in a President with no legislative power, legislation in the hands of two bodies answering to different constituencies and judicial power in a body independent of these two. But even the judges are not free, as they are constrained by 800 years of legal precedents.

    In short, the underlying premise of the US Constitution is that power corrupts, because human nature is fallen. So power must be divided to safeguard the governed.

    To conclude, President Monroe is responsible for the idea that the US system of government is “exceptional” in fundamental concept to all others and especially to those of post-Enlightenment Europe. The American system of law for Monroe permitted his countrymen to “enjoy unexampled felicity” and so he formulated his administration’s opposition to the encroachment of Enlightenment law — positing the state as god — in the western hemisphere.

  2. wilnav96

    A broader discussion takes place:

    This is a good start here. We need this in the political arena. Sadly the last time there was anyone able to really carry water “Ralph Nader” was prevented from debating the candidates.

    After watching Russian President Putin talk with Megan Kelly for 2 hours and then with Mike Wallace ( who was extremely rude) for a few minuets. One can see the difference. There is just no time for substantive discussion. Mike Wallace constantly interrupted President Putin with time constraints. Those interruptions alone squandered a precious amount of time and destroyed the flow of President Putin’s response. Sadly Mike Wallace frittered away so much time.

    We need a truly public forum ( Saker Community is one. Net Neutrality as long as it lasts is another) where the costs are not controlled by corporate interests.

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