Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
Which is how Kissinger opens his book Diplomacy:

"...both the American and the European approaches to foreign policy were the products of their own unique circumstances. Americans inhabited a nearly empty continent shielded from predatory powers by two vast oceans and with weak countries as neighbors."


"...European diplomacy had been forged on the school of hard knocks."


"The nations of Europe did not choose the balance of power as the means for regulating their relations out of innate quarrlesomeness or an Old World love of intrigue...Europe was thrown into balance-of-power politics when its first choice, the medieval dream of universal empire, collapsed and a host of states of more or less equal strength arose from the ashes of that ancient aspiration."

To me, the spirit of American exceptionalism is evident in our insistence that democracy be the goal of every nation around the globe. That the nation which adopts democratic institutions has somehow "arrived," when what the US is much more comfortable with is a free market open to capital formation regardless of regime. (Think China, for instance.) I think I'm more comfortable with the vaguer notion of "self-determination," whatever peaceful, stable form or mechanism that might take. Be it clan, tribe, ethnic group, or religion, if the citizens regard their government as legitimate, that's basically ok by me - though I may have reservations over some local practices (like convicting the victim of rape, for instance, and sentencing her to be flogged, a la Saudi law).

The problems of equal opportunity, economic development, human rights, security, and the various freedoms to exercise are goals that can be sought with whatever mechanism of governance a particular state exercises at the moment. That they tend toward a democratic power structure is moot. Right now, it seems to me that democracy as a mechanism of governance is less of a holy grail than those conditions and rights themselves.

Anyways. Can you think offhand of any other developed nation as culturally isolated as the US? Russia, with its open borders and historical distrust of foreigners/invaders? China, the ancient Middle Kingdom and oldest of great civilizations? Japan, with its finely honed traditions of honor and fidelity? Any others?

See? Now you've gone and done it. You got me thinking, and the smoke's rising out of my ears. Maybe we're all exceptional. Maybe it's exceptional chauvinism that troubles me.

"It Can't Be Just About Us"
--Frank Schnittger, ETian Extraordinaire

by papicek (papi_cek_at_hotmail_dot_com) on Thu Sep 11th, 2008 at 01:11:09 AM EST
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