Wednesday, August 16, 2006

American Exceptionalism

I left this comment at 1337hax0r blog about the latest WTO ruling in favour of Canada's soft wood indutstry.

The Americans, regardless of party in power, only obey laws they have made.It’s called American exceptionalism; we obey the laws/agreements we have signed except if we don’t want too.

Let me count the ways; the Geneva Convention, the International Court of Justice, the ICC, the law of the sea, etc. etc. ad nauseaum.

As I said both the conservatives and the liberals in the U.S. adhere to American Exceptionalism, see the lastest Slate article about the softwood dispute;
The Outsourcing of American Law
Who needs federal judges when you have Canadians?

The streets of Washington, D.C., and Seattle may have been controlled last spring and fall by a new breed of antiglobalization progressives, but the old-fashioned, conservative anti-internationalists continue to hold sway among American policymakers. Although the United States has accepted the North American Free Trade Agreement and participation in the World Trade Organization, it has spurned important multilateral regimes relating to arms control, the environment, war crimes, human rights, and other emerging global issues.

This brand of anti-internationalism runs deep in the American political tradition, as any casual student of history knows, and its persistence is to be expected. More surprising is the respectability that the movement is winning among academics and policy analysts. During the Cold War, it was too closely identified with crude conspiracy theories and the isolationist legacy of the Versailles Treaty to attract serious support among policy elites. That has now changed: anti-internationalism claims a growing intellectual following. This group of academics -- many of whom are highly credentialed and attached to prestigious institutions or conservative Washington think tanks -- has developed a coherent blueprint for defending American institutions against the alleged encroachment of international ones. This school does not oppose international engagement per se and thus cannot be classified simply as isolationist. Rather, it holds that the United States can pick and choose the international conventions and laws that serve its purpose and reject those that do not. Call it international law ? la carte. Foreign Affairs - The New Sovereigntists: American Exceptionalism ...

The picture of America as a shining city on a hill, standing virtually outside of history, still retains a powerful cultural appeal, but in this era of globization, powered by American corporate might, this positive impression increasingly has it's mirror oppositie, fueled by a wide perception that if there is an American exceptionalism, it definitely has a darker side as well. Especially in the era of the Bush Adminstration's Pre-emptive Strike Doctrine, and the sorting out of the aftermath if the Iraq War, scholars will inevitably consider the question of an American exceptionalism a useful entryway into larger problems of United States and world history. At the moment, concludes, Sean Wilentz, "the whole matter would seem to be more important as a myth that needs analysis than as a fixed historical reality requiring some global explanatory theory." american exceptionalism

Mr Bush's own family embodies the shift away from Euro-centrism. His grandfather was a senator from Connecticut, an internationalist and a scion of Brown Brothers Harriman, bluest of blue-blooded Wall Street investment banks. His father epitomised the transatlantic generation. Despite his Yale education, he himself is most at home on his Texas ranch. Looked at this way, the Bush administration's policies are not only responses to specific problems, or to demands made by interest groups. They reflect a certain way of looking at America and the world. They embody American exceptionalism. A nation apart |

Americans have long embraced a notion of superiority, claims Howard Zinn. Governor Winthrop of the Massachusetts Bay Colony described establishing “a city on a hill,” to serve the world as a beacon of liberty. So far, so good. But driving this sense of destiny, says Zinn, was an assumption of divine agency—“an association between what the government does and what God approves of.” And too frequently, continues Zinn, Americans have invoked God to expand “into someone else’s territory, occupying and dealing harshly with people who resist occupation.” Zinn offers numerous examples of how the American government has used “divine ordination” and rationales of spreading civilization and freedom to justify its most dastardly actions: the extermination of Native Americans and takeover of their land; the annexation of Texas and war with Mexico; war against the Philippines; U.S. involvement in coups in Latin America; bloody efforts to expand U.S. influence in the Middle East, Africa and Asia. The battle against Communism, often bolstered by arguments of America’s divine mission in the world, was merely a convenient excuse to maintain U.S. economic and military interests in key regions. Today, says Zinn, we have a president, who more than any before him, claims a special relationship with God. Zinn worries about an administration that deploys Christian zealotry to justify a war against terrorism, a war that in reality seems more about establishing a new beachhead in the oil-rich Middle East. He also sees great danger in Bush’s doctrines of unilateralism and pre-emptive war, which mark a great leap away from international standards of morality.MIT World » : The Myth of American Exceptionalism

Also See: Softwood

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