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Friday, November 21, 2003

AMERICAN EXCEPTIONALISM: 4th Article In A Mini-Series

At long last --- side-tracked the last several days, after the initial article in this series on American exceptionalism was published on November 17th, 2003, by four intervening articles that teased out some controversial points in that original effort --- the buggy prof is ready to set out the systematic ways in which the US differs from other advanced industrial democracies. That's task one, today's current agenda. Task two, which will begin tomorrow or he day after --- all depending --- is even more important: to analyze the historical and cultural reasons that explain our unique qualities as a country.

On this score, recall what initial article said here: the buggy analysis begins where the otherwise excellent survey on US exceptionalism in The Economist leaves off: more ambitious, wider ranging, more theoretical and comparative. Will it be more fun? Ha, who knows?


PART I: COMPARING WHAT WITH WHOM

Before we get down to the business at hand, a couple of preliminary comments seem in order.

Keep in mind, first of all, the comparative standard being used in this mini-series: the US as opposed to the EU democracies, including at times the other non-European English-speaking countries like Australia and Canada and New Zealand. That standard is an important orienting point. Obviously, if we were to compare the industrial democracies as a group with clerical-fascist Iran or Wahhabi Saudi Arabia or Communist-ruled China, the gap between the US and its fellow democratic countries would abruptly close, a matter largely of trivialities. Measured from that angle, we'd be seen to share almost everything with the EU countries and the English-speaking democracies just mentioned. Comparisons are like that. Their insights depend on what's being singled out and across which groups: in this mini-series, the other advanced industrial democracies except Japan, itself exceptional and even unique in numerous ways.

Consider--- by way of illustration as our second comment --- what we have in common with the EU countries: we're all democratic, all subject to a rule of law, all mainly market economies, all affluent, and --- save for the four EU member-countries that are neutrals --- are formal allies in NATO and have been for decades. Similarly, along with Britain, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada --- as opposed to the Continental EU countries, never mind Japan --- we share an age-old English heritage of a common language, a similar literary heritage through the 18th century, the traditions of English common law and parliamentary government, and a general respect for science and empirical knowledge . . . with little of the cultural fears about modernity and modern industrial urban society that marked German, Italian, Spanish, and even French intellectual traditions in the 19th and early 20th century. Come to think of it, these fears are still at work in muted form --- but visible, audible, even reflected in political life --- in the impact of radical environmentalism and utopian longings that mark, to an extent, the Continental EU countries.

By contrast, as we'll see in this series, one of the things that distinguishes the US from all the EU --- including to an extent Britain --- is the widespread optimism of the American people, widely commented on by foreign observers from Europe and elsewhere for nearly 200 years now (almost always negatively, as a sign of silly naievete). There is just little of the doom-doom stuff about the environment, about our economic future, about globalization, about modern life in general --- and the future, however viewed --- that sets European brains to stewing frantically, especially in the media, left-wing political parties, post-modernist intellectual circles, environmental movements, and of course right-wing extremists of the Le Pen ilk. For just one early gordon-newspost link here, see this article of August 2002.

 

And there's more.

As a general thing --- like Australia and for the most part Canada --- neither the British government nor its people differ very much from the American government or people in the ways we see security threats and believe they should be treated. On this shared view, the world hasn't been transformed overnight --- or even since 1990, the cold war's end; it doesn't pulsate with brotherly love and good-will everywhere. The conflicts with Islamo-fascism and crazed Islamist terrorists --- or with some rogue states hopping anxious to acquire WMD ---don't derive from misunderstandings and reactions to nasty Western imperialism and arrogance; they won't be banished by fist-shaking peace-marchers, high-sounding manifestos, and windy UN resolutions . . . plus a few chit-chats over tea or cognac with bin Laden, fervent Saddamites, the mass-murder Kim Jong II, frenzied Iranian mullahs, and the makers of suicide-bombers in Hamas, Hezbollah, and Islamic Jihad, who specialize these days, it seems, in sending baby-Kerboomers to attack cafes, market places, religious sites, and schools. Here old chap, slip off that bulky bomb-belt --- must be awfully hard on the old belly, cram-jammed with all that dynamite and cut-up nails --- and sit down, stretch out the old limbs, and take some nice big sips of this yummy wheat-grass juice. Hmmm, what a tasty treat, n'est-ce pas? Here, old boy, have a delicious fig-bar to go along with it. What? You'd prefer a nice cucumber-and-marmite sandwich? Of course, dear fellow. Ah yes, that's better. And please, put back the pin in the hand grenade; it could go off by accident, don't you know! Ah, thank you. That's very decent of you. Now, with all due respect, mon vieux --- as to the last Security Council resolution --- well, I don't want to seem pushy here --- no, no, not pushy; don't misunderstand what I'm saying --- but in all candor don't you think you've been a tad naughty in blowing up that UN building yesterday? I mean, especially with all those school children visiting it at the time?"

KERBOOM!
Was it an accident that in the war to topple Saddam Hussein's brutal regime last March, Australians and British troops participated in large numbers --- and are still there? Or that, more recently, Prime Minister Blair has stood side-by-side with President Bush in London, and the two of them reaffirmed their belief in the rightness of our joint cause and the need to be vigilant, militarily and otherwise, in the wider war on terrorism? No, hardly accidental. Americans may be from Mars and Europeans from Venus these days, as the saying goes --- coined by Robert Kagan in an article two years ago later turned into a book, both making a big splash, and both (even while overdone) making a good point --- but that's not true of Britain, never mind Australia with its own military heritage half way around the world.

 

No Utopian Dreamlands In This Trio

All three countries, it's clear, take seriously the role of military spending and preparation, all take pride in our armed forces, and all believe that the utopia of radically transformed power politics is not likely to arrive soon --- and especially not in an UN, where Islamo-fascist Syria chairs the Security Council, wacko Khadaff-ruledi Libya the Human Rights Commission, and --- were it not for the war last March --- Saddamite Iraq the current UN Disarmament body. A little strange, no . . . especially if brotherly love is afoot in the world; or would be were it not for the nasty Toxic-Texan and his neo-con cabal in Washington.

Well, who knows? Maybe the raucous, cat-calling protesters in London this week can explain away these itsy-bitsy problems with the UN; or possibly --- if they need help --- the latest French wizard of diplomacy, Monsieur Villepin, can pitch in with some background briefings. Who knows too? Conceivably, his slavish worship of another madman dictator --- Napoleon Bonaparte, who plunged Europe into 20 years of total war a couple of centuries ago --- might come in very handy. As he told the New York Times in his March 9th, 2003 interview,

"Napoleon's philosophy [was] "Victory or death, but glory whatever happens." And [Villepin] added, "There is not a day that goes by without me feeling the imperious need to remember so as not to yield in the face of indifference, laughter or gibes" in order to "advance further in the name of a French ambition."

That ought to do it no? France and Syria working hand-in-hand to manage the Security Council, all inspired by "French ambition" and "glory whatever happens", while Daffy-Khadaffi looks out for the downtrodden peoples' human rights, and the Saddamites ensure that UN resolutions on disarmament are solemnly fulfilled: promptly, fully, no beating-around-the bush, guys.

As for the protesters up-in-arms in Britain, Miami, the Arab street, and in France --- they're always up-in-arms in France: uptight, upset, and uproarious, whatever the issue --- who knows again? Maybe, just maybe, Jose Bove --- assuming he can be coaxed into shifting his obsessions away from MacDonald's multiple menaces to modern life and toward far more uplifting, powerful up-and-up causes --- can become the leader-of-choice for all the angry, alienated clenched-fist protesters of right-thinking views about the world on the march: anti-globalizers; unhinged environmentalists who see doom hovering on the horizon in modern industrial life; pc-profs with too much time on their hands and weary of caning sophomores on the knuckles for blowing spitballs in their class-rooms [Mencken]; pc piffling-pundits in the EU media, seeking new pulpits and larger crowds to harangue; and Islamist racists who can't find a Jewish synagogue or school to firebomb for the day, but always eager, as in France last April, to spot a yarmulke in the anti-globalist throngs and converge in rat-packs for a collective kick-in-the-groin. Not to forget all those enraged Islamist terrorists and their Ker-booming baby-bopper acolytes, the latter seeking martyrdom and the former, somehow, never volunteering for it themselves or their own children. Plus, lest we forget, the swarms of shaggy drugged-out anarchists eager for a dust-up with the cops, here, there, or everywhere --- oh man, what fun! what joy! Then, too, all the neo-Nazis and Le Pennite National Fronters and Jorg Haider fans everywhere, joyful Ker-boomers in their own manner too . . . each and everyone side-by-side, solidarity forever, with illiterate and semi-literate Arab mobs full of frenzy about a Jew-run world, all worked up into one more daily lather by their state-controlled media's reports about the latest machination and humiliation aimed directly at them hatched by the Surreptitious Core of the Global Cabal-ites, all 17 of them. Woody Allen, it's reported, the current Head-Honcho of the 17 Biggie-Cabalists --- or should we say, Kabbalists? And always on lookout in case No. 2 and No. 3, Jerry Seinfeld and Goldie Hawn, combine their comic wits and elbow out Woody if, it turns out, his next stand-up routine bombs badly . . . no laughs, no yuk-yuk belly-bursters.

What a sight and spectacle, progress on the march; the peoples' self-chosen avant-garde at the helm; reaction in retreat; capitalism and globalism on the run; the American Empire crumbling, plop-plop into dust; and Bush and Blair down the chute and bang into the dump!

And yet, curiously, not entirely reassuring to the rest of us . . . including the British public by a huge percentage, it turns out. No, not the way we think the threats that loom near can be effectively exorcised. Yes, curious. Or are we just all old-fashioned fogies and neo-, neo-imperialists and silly shallow Yanks, Brits, and Auzzies, all of course serving our puppet-master rulers out for their pound-of-flesh? [Note: Yesterday, all too predictably, a female BBC reporter interviewd on MNBC by Tim Russert asserted --- just six days after the widely reported British survey on opinions toward Bush and the US was published --- that really --- yes, really, Tim --- I just haven't met anyone in my travels around the UK who had a good word to say about the war. Ergo, and that was it. The British people condemn the war and Blair's subservience to Bush-led follies. No surprise really. And all fully in line, it turns out, alas, with the several recent buggy articles here on the collapse of journalistic standards in most of the EU media, and its control by headstrong ideologues who seem to think their subjective biases and ideological twists are the stuff of news reporting.

 

Continued in the next article, the 5th installment in this series, published November 28, 2003.

Replies: 2 comments

Ah, but the author works himself into a frenzy over things he seems to have seen on Foxnews, for the slant they have.

Tell me honestly Mr. Gordon, do you really believe you are safer after the Iraqi war? If you do, then yes, I believe you're naive. And no, I'm not part of the 'pessimistic europe'. Having lived in Europe all my life, I have still to see the 'pessimistic europe', as opposed to the US...A product of an 'expensively educated' journalist's mind perhaps?

Anyway, look to the terror in Ireland and south africa, you will learn that, in the long term, there is only one way of ridding terrorism: Negotiation.

Make fun of it all you want, your soldiers and civilians are dying every day because of attitudes like yours.

Posted by Mr. Me @ 12/07/2003 06:42 PM PST

The only exceptionalism the usa may be credited for is impunity. Impunity for Nagasaki, Hiroshima, Sioux extermination, Apache extermination, Cheyenne extermination, Huron extermination, Iroquois extermination, Séminole extermination, Algonquin extermination, mass-murdering of Iraqi civilians, plotting coups against democratically *ELECTED, NOT SELECTED* governments, polluting the limited amount of oxygen that's property of the Human race -not of ameriKKKa, supporting undemocratic police states in the Middle East.

Vive l'Europe - ameriKKKa delenda est

Posted by cheesebuger-eatin' disaster sheboons @ 11/27/2003 10:18 AM PST