In one of those Obama-era bizzaro-world episodes, Vladimir Putin writes an op-ed
in the Sept 12 edition of The New York Times
and sounds like a reasonable statesman in the process. Frank Weathers suggests that Putin has read Pope Paul VI's address to the UN
in 1965. An especially striking moment of the Russian President's article is this:
I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism,
stating that the United States’ policy is “what makes America different.
It’s what makes us exceptional.” It is extremely dangerous to encourage
people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. 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.
I first need to say I take a rather cautious approach to Vladimir Putin; he writes and says things that appeal to many people who look for leadership in the world and find it wanting. In this piece, he rightfully points out the disastrous consequences of previous American actions in the region and he cautions against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, especially among nations who feel they have no other means of defense than to develop WMD. At the same time, it's good to remember that he's a former KGB colonel and someone who is skilled at power plays that help him to grow in influence. Putin has had a good week, helping Secretary Kerry and President Obama to look foolish and desperate to attack Syria in order to restore their credibility on the world stage; now, he is able to extend a bit of "friendly advice" in America's newspaper of record, reminding Americans that Obama is in over his head and that Putin is not.
To get to the point, let's look at the notion of "American exceptionalism" that Putin disparages. It's worth looking at because Putin is correct on this. The phrase "American exceptionalism" is, interestingly, one that seems to be thrown around in connection with an American plan to topple a foreign regime or to exercise force in the interest of "humanitarianism" or "democracy"; it seems to suggest that, rather than be exceptional, we must as a basic point of our foreign policy seek to make other places more like America.
In contrast, a properly ordered sense of "exceptionalism" is one that I suggest we embrace. When reading the work of thinkers such as Rusell Kirk, one comes to see that the American experiment in constitutional self-governance is born of a special set of cultural and historical circumstances: we are a product of Judeo-Christian morals and religion, Greek and Roman political ideals, and English language, literature, and common law. Kirk examines these influences in The Roots of American Order
, while Orestes Brownson sees Divine Providence working itself out differently in different places and times in The American Republic
. America is exceptional in that our system of constitutional republicanism ("government of the people, by the people, for the people," to use the words of the Gettysburg Address) can only work here, if at all; republican governance has not even taken root in England or Europe, much less in other parts of the world that do not have the philosophical and religious principles at their roots that we do.
And so to the question of intervention, at least that which seeks to effect regime change; how can it possibly work out for the better? Iraq and Afghanistan, despite a decade's worth of blood, treasure, and time spilled and invested remain places scarred by corruption and tribal infighting. In toppling or pushing aside pliable strongmen such as Hosni Mubarak and Muammar Qaddafi, we have introduced new layers of instability, insurgency, and oppression to Egypt and Libya respectively. With our sites now turned on Syria and Bashar al-Assad, how can we expect anything different there based on these previous experiences?
Of particular note in relation to Syria, having now seen the horrific persecution by Sunni jihadists against Christians and other religious minorities throughout the region, is to ask, "Why would anyone who cares about the rights of Christians and other minority groups seek to assist murderous Al Qaeda thugs overthrow stable but despotic strongmen rulers? And yet we see, just today, that the CIA has commenced sending weapons
to the Al Qaeda jihadists who are fighting against the government.
And in the midst of it all, a cunning KGB colonel is there warning us, in light of our own recent history, that "Millions around the world increasingly see America not as a model of
democracy but as relying solely on brute force, cobbling coalitions
together under the slogan “you’re either with us or against us.”" Maybe it's time we study our own history and abandon the pattern of foreign intervention that seeks only to cause more instability.
Labels: Endless War, Obamanation, Philosophy