Monday, August 31, 2015

The Limits of American Exceptionalism

This first appeared in Asia Times.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney and his daughter, Liz, published their essay in praise of American exceptionalism (WSJ, 8/29/15) on the same day Asia Times posted Alexander Casella’s criticism of America’s Middle East policy. The contrast would have been amusing except the toll of human suffering attributed by Casella as horrible consequences of American acts of exceptionalism were too much to bear for any one with a conscience and moral scruples.

Casella spoke of the unintended devastation caused by American military incursions into Iraq and Libya. Knocking out the tyrants with the exceptional American firepower was the easy part, the part that the Cheneys adore. Maintaining order and keeping the countries from falling apart has not been as easy, and that’s the part the Cheneys don’t give a hoot about or take any responsibility for. 

Yet, the chaos from destabilized Iraq and then neighboring Syria and Libya have resulted in the deaths of untold thousands of refugees due to drowning at sea or suffocation on land. According to the UN, 60 million people are on the run seeking safe havens. The U.S. created the mess but it’s the Europeans that are left to deal with the humanitarian crisis. The human tragedy being played out now does not concern the Cheneys; they are looking for other places to throw their exceptional weight around.

The purpose of the WSJ piece was to let the Cheneys, under the guise of extolling the virtues of American exceptionalism, rant against Obama’s foreign policy for not being tough enough. Ironically, in Libya Obama and Hillary Clinton followed the Bush/Cheney script for Iraq. Just as tragic, Obama left Libya in as much disarray as Bush did in Iraq.

It's about time America learns that breaking a vase is easy, but holding it together after the breakage is a challenge. It is hard to know how long the U.S. can remain exceptional if we continue to listen to the likes of Dick and Liz Cheney and their ilk and to act on the principle that might is right and damn the consequences.


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