Monday, November 07, 2005

Bimark bismillah

"Realists ...refuse to don rose-colored glasses when considering the United States itself. As a consequence, they understand that 'American exceptionalism' is a snare. Realists reject claims of American innocence - the conviction, as [Reinhold] Niebuhr wrote..., that 'our society is so essentially virtuous that only malice could prompt criticism of our actions.'

The United States emerged as the world's sole superpower not due to its superior virtue but because it prevailed in a bloody century-long competition. Among the principal combatants in that contest were three genuinely odious criminal enterprises: the Third Reich, the Soviet Union, and Mao's China. The United States came out on top because it allied itself with Stalin against Hitler and subsequently made common cause with Mao against Stalin's successors. These were not the actions of an innocent nation".

So writes Andrew Bacevich in a relatively clear-eyed piece. Nevertheless, he still appears to believe in a form of American exceptionalism (or deploys a seeming belief in it for rhetorical purposes) when he writes of a "distinctively American realist tradition" (unlike those oh so dastardly, moustache-twirling Europeans).

Another assumption here is that modern nation states retain most of the characteristics of their nineteenth and twentieth century predecessors.

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