American exceptionalism on display (again)


US politicians love to boast about how this country is exceptional and unique in its goodness. This is, of course, utter nonsense but there is one area where the claim of uniqueness might be valid in that it seems to be the only country, as far as I am aware, in which prominent politicians and media personalities openly advocate for the invasion of other countries or the murder of their leaders. The latest example of this comes from Ohio governor John Kasich, one of the failed contenders for the Republican nomination in 2016.

In a discussion with reporters in Washington, Kasich evaluated the escalating tensions on the Korean Peninsula and suggested that Trump devise a plan to swiftly eliminate North Korea’s leadership.

“How do you deal with this? I think there might be a way, and that has to do with taking out the North Korean leadership,” Kasich said. He added, “I believe the best way to solve this problem is to eradicate the leadership. I’m talking about those who are closest to making the decisions that North Korea’s following now.”

Mind you, Kasich is considered one of the ‘moderates’ in the party and not a total warmonger like Lindsay graham or John McCain or the others who love to attack other countries. The only sign that he shrinks at least a little bit from the awful implications of his words is his use of euphemisms like ‘taking out’ and ‘eradicate’ rather than the more accurate ‘murder’.

We also regularly hear casual threats to use nuclear weapons, as evidenced by the commonly used expression that “All options are on the table” and the refusal to rule out such weapons when discussing the response to any conflict.

There seems to be the assumption that just because America can do some things, it should be willing to do it. This is a bipartisan attitude as exemplified by Bill Clinton’s secretary of state Madeline Albright saying to Colin Powell, “What’s the point of having this superb military that you’re always talking about if we can’t use it?” Gary Leupp describes other discussions during the Clinton presidency about finding pretexts to attack other countries.

Comments

  1. says

    I think Hitler also speechified about going around invading other countries.
    “Czechoslovakia is a dagger aimed at the heart of Germany”

    It’s against UN rules to threaten other member states. Of course, the US does whatever it wants because the truth is that the UN exists to be used as a club by the US when desired and ignored otherwise.

    I’m perpetually amazed by the small-government budget-balancing tax-cutting conservatives who just love a good expensive, profitless war.

  2. says

    “I believe the best way to solve this problem is to eradicate the leadership

    Many anarchists and Jacobins would agree. We just see a little farther and clearer than Kasich does. I’m not a big fan of violence but I think leadership needs eradicating. Rogue states that threaten other states should probably have their leadership obliterated with high explosive; it’s sad but it’s the easiest way to bring peace.

  3. jrkrideau says

    @ 2 Marcus Ranum
    “I believe the best way to solve this problem is to eradicate the leadership”
    I realize this is a quote not your words but are you sure?
    Your text:
    Rogue states that threaten other states should probably have their leadership obliterated with high explosive; it’s sad but it’s the easiest way to bring peace.

    My memory is not that good but Afghanistan ( basically a failed state/ civil war in progress), Iraq (more or less a failed state) and Libya, a failed state, obliterating a leadership does not seem really productive.

    This seems to be the basis of Putin’s otherwise quixotic intervention in Syria. Obliterating a leadership without a viable alternative is a recipe for chaos.

  4. jrkrideau says

    @ 2 Marcus Ranum
    Come to think of it, given its rogue-state behavior, were you advocating violence against your government?

  5. John Morales says

    Eradicating the concept of ‘leadership’, perhaps.

    (Maybe start thinking about authority networks)

  6. jrkrideau says

    @ 6 John Morales
    After thinking about it for a while I think you have it. The idea of “authority networks” makes sense.

    If nothing else it seems to handle the succession issue if a leader is dies or is killed.

  7. cartomancer says

    At least when the Romans tried to paint themselves as exceptional they focused on their courage and determination in the face of adversity. The big thing in the Roman imagination was that they managed to survive the disastrous defeats of the Second Peloponnesian War and hold on for long enough to rebuild their military and defeat Hannibal. “No other people would have had such fortitude after so many disasters”, Livy says. The epitome of Roman exceptionalism was in not letting massive odds faze you and scraping together makeshift armies out of teenage boys, old men, freed slaves, allies and the remains of your defeated legions to keep the victorious enemy at bay.

    In a similar vein, the English remember Boudicca and Agincourt. The Scots remember Stirling Bridge and Bannockburn. The Irish remember Drogheda. The French laud Vercingetorix and the Germans Arminius. For the Jews it was Masada. Most nations and peoples tend to raise up their determination to fight to the last against impossible odds as a mark of their superior virtue.

    The Americans, it would appear, don’t do this. There is no great American story where they are toughing it out against impossible odds to defend their homeland and everything they hold dear (well, okay, not among the colonial Americans – the native Americans have all too many). Their idea of exceptionalism is inverted – it’s about being Hannibal, going overseas and interfering with everybody else’s hearth and home.

  8. cartomancer says

    I do, of course, mean the Second Punic War, not the Second Peloponnesian War (there wasn’t one of those). The defeats being Cannae and Lake Trasimene. That’ll teach me to write comments while trying to give the cat her cystitis medicine…

  9. mnb0 says

    “be the only country, as far as I am aware, in which prominent politicians and media personalities openly advocate for the invasion of other countries”
    France, especially in its former African colonies. The latest example is Operation Serval, January 2013. The most infamous one is the intervention of the Libyan Civil War – France strongly advocated it even before the USA.
    The big difference is that France usually has quite limited goals and hence its invasions are often more effective.

    http://research.allacademic.com/meta/p_mla_apa_research_citation/1/7/8/6/2/p178629_index.html

    http://www.businessinsider.com/frances-military-is-all-over-africa-2015-1

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *