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Deeply ingrained American exceptionalism

Published by marco on

Introspection is not easy. To really examine one’s own drives and implicit assumptions takes patience and, above all, humility. The first time you dive down, you may not like what you see. Who you think you are may be only a surface representation—something you’ve plastered over a bundle of atavistic core principles that you’ve never bothered to evaluate, question, or correct.

So it is with American hegemony, which has never not thought itself noble. People of all nations have a jingoistic belief that they are better than everyone else—a belief that is, in some ways, essential to maintaining a society. But in no other nation in the world does this belief lead to so much death and suffering as for Americans—who are led to believe so strongly in their superiority that they stride forth into the world to make everyone else believe it as well.

The article What Does Winning Mean in a Forever War? by Patrick Buchanan (Antiwar.com) includes the following statement,

“We have failed to reorient the defeated nations to our way of thinking. We have failed to win the peace.”

This is factual. In the first sentence, though, it already feels like he’s lamenting the fact that we were unable to exert our force successfully. Instead of using a word like “conquer” or “browbeat” or “subjugate”, he writes “reorient”. I’m quite sure none of America’s vassal nations feel like that would be the appropriate word.

In the second sentence, he reveals the reason for his choice of words: he still thinks that the U.S. onslaught over the past century has been for the noble task of “win[ning] the peace”. So, here we have Buchanan, an American proponent for peace, who still can’t see past using overwhelming American force to “win [a] peace” that was already there in the first place.

Buchanan makes his general disdain for any people or its principles other than his own evident in the next few sentences.

“While we can defeat our enemies in the air and on the seas and in cyberspace, we cannot persuade them to embrace secular democracy and its values any more than we can convert them to Christianity.

“John Locke means nothing to these people. As for our Bill of Rights, why would devout Muslims, who believe there is but one God, Allah, and that Muhammad is his only Prophet, tolerate the preaching of heresies in their countries that can cause Muslims to lose their souls? (Emphasis added.)”

That the U.S. has been unable to conquer other nations is not due to its own bungling—to say nothing of the immorality at the core of the endeavor—but because the target populations are so recalcitrant, so stubbornly moronic as to fight to the death of their very last citizens rather than see the light of the shining city on a hill that is the glory of American society, the obvious pinnacle of human development.

He develops the argument to the following point,

“Millions of Muslims are familial, tribal, nationalistic, resistant to foreign intervention and proudly anti-Enlightenment.”

Buchanan seems to utterly miss the irony that this statement nearly perfectly describes the American people as well. On the one hand, there are countries throughout the world who cling, bloodyminded, to the notion that they should be left in peace to live as they see fit; on the other, we have an equally bloodyminded America, intent on bending every nation to its own deranged will, to mold it to its unsustainable, wasteful, demented, and overwhelmingly childish vision.

Here again, Buchanan can’t help but get a dig on the to-be-conquered peoples: that they are “anti-Englightenment”. These people are benighted souls who need to be “saved”: a crusader mentality (he even uses the word “crusades” in the next citation).

Ironically, of all of the supposedly civilized and advanced peoples of the world, no other could be more appropriately deemed anti-Enlightenment than Americans, who have been trained to be nearly rabidly anti-intellectual. In America, at this point, the querulous demand to know “why listen to experts; what would they know?” no longer even sounds dissonant—it’s become common sense for most.

Buchanan continues,

“With our “democracy crusades,” we have been trying to conquer and convert people who do not wish to be converted. Moreover, we lack the patience and perseverance to change or convert them. (Emphasis added.)”

In this short essay, Buchanan repeats his by-now standard, implicit understanding that American values should be promoted throughout the world, that we have a right to do so. Even when he admits that “they” do not wish to be converted, he laments that we don’t have the perseverance to force it on them. He laments several times that we have “failed” in what is, in essence, a noble and laudable mission.

His core message is that America should give up and leave the world in peace. That is, his heart is in the right place, but he comes to the right conclusion from a very twisted and immoral ideology—that of American exceptionalism,

“If they don’t attack us, why do we not just leave them be?

“Our enemies in the Middle East do not defeat our military. They outlast us. They apparently have an inexhaustible supply of volunteers willing to give up their lives in suicide attacks. They are willing to fight on and trade casualties endlessly. They do not subscribe to our rules of war.

“They tire us out, and, eventually, we give up and go home. (Emphasis added.)”

Once again, he utterly fails to see the irony that a statement he thinks perfectly suited to describe the bloodymindedness of an implacable, unreasonable, and suicidally stubborn enemy…also describes his own country perfectly. It arguably describes them even better.

His suggestion that they “do not subscribe to our rules of war” is reflexive hogwash. When you’re defending your own country from an overwhelmingly better-equipped and -armed enemy, all bets are off. It’s ludicrous that the U.S. attacks countries all over the world—almost inevitably carpet-bombing and strafing them from above—then whines that they don’t play fair if they fight back in any way. It would be laughable if the U.S. weren’t killing so many millions of people while it throws its tantrums.

Even the way they describe any resistance is designed to demean the techniques of the enemy. Consider what the U.S. or its allies does to prevent troop movements: it mines roads and harbors. When an enemy does it, they are using IEDs—improvised explosive devices. They are not mines when the enemy uses them—they are ad-hoc and inadmissible, the weapons of cowards and cheats, unlike the honorable landmines used by the U.S.

Buchanan continues,

“They refuse to surrender and submit because it is their beliefs, their values, their faith, their traditions, their tribe, their God, their culture, their civilization, their honor that they believe they are fighting for in what is, after all, their land, not ours.

They are not trying to change us. We are trying to change them. And they wish to remain who they are. (Emphasis added.)”

Here he almost gets it right, but I detect more than a bit of judgment in the emphasized statements. They aren’t actually fighting for their own values, they only “believe” they are doing so. Were they to see the light (of the shining city on a hill that is the glory of American society), they would stop fighting because then they would see the error of their ways.

He strongly suggest that they would rather remain the patriarchal, enslaving, most-likely-bestiality-loving monsters that they are rather than to be democratized into loving McDonalds and American automobiles and rolling over to American hegemony.

By what right does America think this? By the right of overwhelming firepower. By the right of having cowed all other nations into letting it run roughshod over the weak and overly/unfairly resourced. Might makes right—and America still has 10x the military might of its nearest competitor, none of whom really has any chance of slowing the American bulldozer. All attempts to convince the U.S. through reason have failed.

Though Buchanan does his damnedest to sound reasonable—and he is genuinely anti-war—he is still an American exceptionalist unwilling to question the core reasoning behind his nation’s aggression.

He writes that “[a]s imperialists, we Americans are conspicuous failures”, but it seems more a lament. He seems to wish that we were better at it, that the destiny of America is to rule the world, that the greatest problem is that America is failing in its duty to lead the peoples of the world to greatness—whether they want to or not. He simply prefers that they do it militarily but, somehow, peacefully. There is much contradiction in his position.

Still, reality bites. The pandemic is showing that America isn’t really even capable of ruling itself. This fact has been evident for a long time, to those willing to look past the bluster and lies and the near-constant self-adulation and celebration of ephemeral and grossly unequal wealth.

It is exactly this poor planning of its own society—the hyper-consumerism combined with happy motoring, ex-ex-ex-urbs, monopolistic consolidation, skyrocketing inequality, a completely unhinged economy filled with non-jobs and misery—that leads America to wage its criminal wars.

It needs oil. It needs a lot of energy. It never occurs to America to just trade for it, as other countries do. No, America’s intuitive and by-now deeply ingrained solution is to assume that it already belongs to them—and not to the piteous and pagan savages who live on top of it. From there, the rational solution that occurs to the American is to seize what has always been theirs.

This is not a laudable or moral stance. This is piracy. We are the baddies.[1]

Yes, America is bad at running an empire. But, It’s just as bad at running itself. It performs horrible crimes against humanity in both endeavors.

[1] See the video Mitchell and Webb: “Are we the baddies?” (YouTube) for the origin of the phrase.