The Weekend Read
The End of American Exceptionalism

American exceptionalism is in retreat, and the centralized national security state is to blame.

Published on: February 15, 2014
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  • brad lena

    America is still exceptional in the metrics of incarceration, debt, drugs,porn, surveillance, etc. Mr.Beinart needs to get with the times and as they say enjoy the decline. On a serious note using the metrics of the past to assess the present is of limited use. The present is without precedent in too many areas.

  • rheddles

    American exceptionalism is incompatible with the increasingly large, centralized, and bureaucratic security state that has emerged in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

    Has anyone told Rand Paul?

  • Andrew Allison

    The characteristics of exceptionalism described above are being replaced by those of entitlement.

  • Fat_Man

    Blah. It’s Obama and his worshipers in the Democrat Party and the media, no more, no less.

  • Anthony

    “Americans of all national origins, classes, regions, creeds, and colors have something in common: a social ethos, American Creed. To be sure, the political creed of America is not very satisfactorily effectuated in actual social life. But as principles which ought to rule, the Creed has been made conscious to everyone in American society” (Gunnar Myrdal). Therein lies root of American exceptionalism; but as essays and author assert American exceptionalism is a double-edged concept. And Beinart provides ample context to its contemporary applicability and resonance with variegated Americans. Equally important, tension ascribed by essay’s author between self-government and national security provides another dimension in reconciling dignity of the individual American with that of state power (national security). Accordingly, idea of American exceptionalism focuses the mind on American Democracy as practiced: wealth and want in the United States – to paraphrase Camus, I consider American exceptionalism a measure reflecting both country’s greatness and justice at home and abroad.

  • TommyTwo

    “Religion also feeds the confidence and sense of purpose that lends to the American project its jeremiad-like quality.”

    Jeremiad??? Are you sure you are using the word properly?

    More substantially, if we’re already being Biblical: Same as it ever was.

    • free_agent

      Yeah, jeremiads have been a staple of American politics during my entire lifetime.

  • Boritz

    Cause and effect have been muddled here. People who have been taught -by the liberal education establishment – and believe AE is a myth will put up with the IRS, Benghazi, the surveillance state and have no strong religious faith either.

  • Victoria Colflesh

    Curious, any time a big conflict or disaster happens anywhere in the world, half the people goes, “Where is USA? What is USA doing about this? Sanctions NOW! How dare you be indifferent? Help!” and the other half goes, “Yankee go home! Stay out! Mind your own business!” Is there any other country in the world that has that sort of pressure? Does anyone go, “Where is Russia? When are they going to help?” … I guess USA must be pretty special, huh?

  • Jim__L

    America has lost faith in God, so it sees no reason to have faith in itself.

    There’s no reason to abandon faith entirely. A remnant remains, and we will rebuild from the wreckage.

  • Kavanna

    There’s little to recommend Beinart’s bloviating, as he is another silly representative of Washington’s hack political class.

    The role of the national security state, however, is worth pondering. It first appeared in the 1950s and 60s, but was beaten back in the 1970s. Even in the 1980s and 90s, the need for honesty and democratic consent was never questioned, even if it was flouted.

    In the era of Obama, no more. We live in an elected monarchy, with a “unitary” state, not a federal one. As for the plutocratic one percent, excuse me, but their party is the Democratic one, not the other. Take a look at Washington DC, now America’s wealthiest, as well as its highest income, region. And take a look at where Wall Street, the media, and Hollywood’s money goes. The Republicans today are a demoralized and disorganized remnant of a once-serious opposition.

  • free_agent

    You write, “Whether the security sought is national or economic security, the demand
    that a central government secure our freedoms lives in tension with the
    basic desire for freedom understood as self-government.”

    Interestingly, this is a stick that can be used to beat the ideologues of both the Right and the Left.

    (All of this discussion reminds me of Charles Krauthammer’s statement, “Obama’s speech is alarming because it says the United States has no more moral right to act or to influence world history than Bangladesh or Sierra Leone.” See also “its jeremiad-like quality”.)

  • Nick Koblov

    Bravo Putin, youre the Hugest troll the World know for present days.

  • Richard T

    The grubby methods used during the Cold War made a crack in the dam, but the Soviet Union so clearly was evil that the dam didn’t crumble until the same methods were used against a far lesser evil. Back in the ’50s there were predictions that the West would become a mirror image of the Soviet bloc out of sheer necessity. However, I submit that the TSA was created from choice, by a government that preached exceptionalism, but had long ceased to believe in it.

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