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President Obama just completed his speech at the United Nations. It was a fairly long speech. The speech was very Middle East and Iranian centric.

Most of the speech was a regurgitation of policies those that follow politics and international issues would have found repetitive. That said the following snippet seemed to be a warning to the rest of the world, specifically to those that constantly accuse the United States of being an empire or meddling.

To summarize, the United States has a hard-earned humility when it comes to our ability to determine events inside other countries. Now, the notion of American empire may be useful propaganda, but it isn’t borne out by America’s current policy or by public opinion. Indeed, as recent debates within the United States over Syria clearly show.

The danger for the world is not an America that is too eager to immerse itself in the affairs of other countries, or to take on every problem in the region as its own. The danger for the world is, that the United States after a decade of war, rightly concerned about issues back home, aware of the hostility that our engagement in the region has engendered throughout the Muslim world, may disengage creating a vacuum of leadership that no other nation is ready to fill.

… I believe America must remain engaged for our own security, but I also believe the world is better for it. Some may disagree. But I believe America is exceptional. In part because we have shown a willingness through the sacrifice of blood and treasure to stand up not only for our own narrow self interest, but for the interest of all.

I must be honest though, we’re far more likely to invest our energy in those countries that want to work with us, that invest in their people instead of a corrupt few, that embrace a vision of society where everyone can contribute … nations that have persevered on a democratic path, have emerged more prosperous, more peaceful and more invested in upholding our common security and our common humanity.

The president in effect is warning the world that US citizens are bordering on being isolationist. He however believes in an America that must remain engaged fully internationally.

The President may have done a slight disservice to his message when he states the reasons why America is exceptional. Granted, America is exceptional because of its abundant resources, natural and human. America is exceptional because of a malleable constitution where a citizenry has the ability to adapt it to the times and modify it to make America truly a better country for all. 

The hypocrisy that every informed listener is well aware of in the President’s statement is that currently Americans are fighting a losing battle in the land of plenty. This exceptional country has a Supreme Court that has given special rights to corporations, the powerful that have been progressively sucking the prosperity out of the many and transporting it to the few. This exceptional country that is willing to spill American blood generally spills it only when the interests of its Plutocracy are at stake.  This exceptional country is engaging in treaties like the Trans Pacific Partnership that does little to keep the country exceptional but just another pawn of an international wealthy few.

America is still exceptional in much. It is however on track to be so for not much longer unless its citizens remember that one must engage in its own body politic to maintain that which it holds dearly.

Originally posted to ProgressiveLiberal on Tue Sep 24, 2013 at 09:56 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I have a somewhat different take (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Duckmg, Calvino Partigiani

    But it's past by bedtime and I have to work early tomorrow so maybe come back then to comment in detail. It probably reflects the fact I'm not American so maybe perceive some things differently, but I think, on a few points, Obama overplayed his hand or made some unnecessary remarks better left unsaid at the UN, like the shot he took at Putin.

    But thanks for posting.

  •  To be fair (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    other countries can change their constitution. Many have done it more recently than america. Other countries also have natural resources. If america is exceptional, it is probably because of how it has all these great things and mismanages them so much.

    I get what the president was trying to say, and of course, he's a politician, he has to say that america is exceptional.

    •  He's not saying we're exceptional, (5+ / 0-)

      but that our military is the backbone of the world order.  We have bases all over the world and other countries lean on us for their security.

      That's simple fact, not exceptionalism.  

      •  Security for unfettered capitalism to flourish (6+ / 0-)

        and expand. Any other "security" benefits that accrue are only incidental to that prime motivator.

      •  you mean (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Indiana Bob, Don midwest

        like saudi arabia and afghanistan?

        The cold passion for truth hunts in no pack. -Robinson Jeffers

        by Laurence Lewis on Tue Sep 24, 2013 at 07:25:12 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Well, it's an exceptional number of bases (5+ / 0-)

        that reduces the US to being very unexceptional domestically.

        Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man; we shall this day light such a candle by God's grace in England as shall never be put out.

        by Bollox Ref on Tue Sep 24, 2013 at 07:26:40 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  now is the least violent time in history (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          on a per capita basis; and also the time with by far the most self government.  it is also the time when the most humans have escaped poverty.  life expectancy has increased more in last few decades than in any other time in history.  life expectancy, poverty, violence and self government are 4 of the most important things in human life.

          those are very obviously not just creations of US and allies, and US often acts against those things (supporting dictatorships, farm subsidies, bad wars, favoring business over people, etc), but it is not a coincidence that those have occurred under US hegemony.  US does much to contribute to current progress.

          much of the international political structure (UN, NATO, OAS, WHO, G20, etc) was created and is led by the US with the goal of enforcing world order and preventing world wars and other humanitarian catastrophes.  US model of influence through economy and alliance rather than conquest is generally followed by other potential imperial powers like china, russia, brazil, nigeria, etc.

          US commonly is the largest donor of aid in disasters and is usually/often the leader in global public health with things like vaccines, grants to NGOs and PEPFAR.

          US often props up foreign governments for the sake of stability (obviously including dictatorships).  foreign countries very often ask the US to protect them from hostile neighbors or to do things for them, including militarily (which allows them to save on military spending). even some hostile countries make these requests -- iran wanted and sometimes got specific military actions in both afghanistan and iraq from GWB during those wars.  US, russia and iran apparently stopped syria from using a shitload of chemical weapons in december of 2012.

          simple things like US navy keeping sea lanes open is very important, as that used to be a common source of conflict that led to war, and world economy depends on maritime trade.


          it's obviously not the most moral system, but it is easily the best and most moral world order humans have achieved so far.

          •  Very interesting comment. I'm not aware of (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            Iran requesting specific actions from GWB, or cooperating with the US and Russia to block Syrian use of chemical weapans in 2012.  Any links I could explore?

            The importance of keeping sea lanes open -- I hadn't thought about the US doing that in general, for all comers, as opposed to simply for us and our close allies.  

            Can you offhand mention other examples of that sort of background function, maintaining order in ways that nations in general benefit form?

            Creating and funding the UN, WHO, and other international organizations was very important.  These organizations aren't puppets (despite the disparity of US power), have become genuine forums for communication and cooperation between nations,  and are key to hopes of increased international cooperation.  The decision of the US after WWII to work largely through alliances (NATO and others) helped prevent the US from simply becoming the next naked empire, and put some checks on our militarism (in some cases and not others, obviously).

            It's hard to think of the US as anything but imperialistic when considering the overthrow of Iran's government, the overthrow of Allende in Chile, the ravaging of Nicaragua by US-funded death squads, the Iraq war fought to get Cheney's oil law, etc.  In this as in other things the US is perhaps best described as exceptionally contradictory.

            --------------------- “These are troubling times. Corporation are treated like people. People are treated like things. …And if we ever needed to vote, we sure do need to vote now.” -- Rev. Dr. William J. Barber

            by Fiona West on Wed Sep 25, 2013 at 02:28:55 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  The US is the only world superpower (0+ / 0-)

      and that's just a fact, not an opinion.

      "let's talk about that"

      by VClib on Tue Sep 24, 2013 at 11:30:52 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Were exceptional bc we keep Constitution the SAME (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BearCan, kurt

      In 1787 the constitution laid out our highest principles: due process, limited governmental power, protection of personal liberties, balance btw state and federal powers, checks and balances.

      We have applied those principles to modern times by recognizing formerly despised groups as full citizens and by keeping pace with new technology.

      Calling the constitution "malleable" is what has gotten us in trouble recently. A malleable constitution means unlimited executive power over congress/SCOTUS, unlimited federal power over states, NSA wiretapping, widespread surveillance, and special rights for corporations.

      This bullshit has nothing to do with our constitutional principles and are the result of assholes like John Yoo (Bush's lawyer) and Judge Lewis Powell twisting and distorting the constitution for malicious purposes.

      "Poor man wanna be rich, Rich man wanna be King, and the King ain't satisfied till he rules everything." Bruce Springsteen.

      by Johnnythebandit on Tue Sep 24, 2013 at 08:38:05 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  btw, I hope you remembered to clean you musket (0+ / 0-)

        so you can serve in your local well-ordered militia...

        And I'm sure you remembered to give your slaves their daily 3/5 ration of corn...

        Yes thank goodness we have no power to alter the Constitution.

  •  As far as the Trans-Pacific Partnership's... (6+ / 0-)

    ...concerned, it's very "telling" that the President recently appointed Michael Froman (a hardcore Hamilton Project/Rubinist, Fix-the-Debt and Third Way type, in the mold of Larry Summers, Tim Geithner et al) to take the lead on international trade and, consequently, the government's very strong efforts to have Capitol Hill "Fast-Track" and pass the legislation.

    It's of the most notable hyprocrisy that, on the one hand, the White House claims it's "concerned" about the 99%, the middle and lower classes, income inequality, and the implications of the Citizens United SCOTUS ruling while, on the other hand--when and where it matters most--it's doing virtually everything it can to support the corporatocracy's ongoing efforts to both circumvent and rise above the law of nations (not the least of which being our own); reiterating: acting, where and when it really matters, to fully realize the diametrically opposite objectives.

    "I always thought if you worked hard enough and tried hard enough, things would work out. I was wrong." --Katharine Graham

    by bobswern on Tue Sep 24, 2013 at 10:13:17 AM PDT

    •  Wrong/Bad link for Michael Froman... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Indiana Bob, Don midwest's the CORRECT LINK. As you'll see when you click upon this link, Froman's a hardcore, Citigroup alumnus, and the very person that introduced the President to Robert Rubin, when Obama was a Senator.

      "I always thought if you worked hard enough and tried hard enough, things would work out. I was wrong." --Katharine Graham

      by bobswern on Tue Sep 24, 2013 at 10:19:50 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  "American exceptionalism"... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sunbro, Lepanto, Fixed Point Theorem

    Putin would have to stick his thumb in Obama's eye tho, wouldn't he?

    Not sure which presidential administration coined it, but every president (and iirc, every presidential candidate) in my life-time has used it... there has never been a time when the hypocrisy in that claim shouldn't have been called out.

    It's a shame we ever had to "see ourselves" in that light. Even in the best of times.

    "Show up. Pay attention. Tell the truth. And don't be attached to the results." -- Angeles Arrien

    by Sybil Liberty on Tue Sep 24, 2013 at 10:22:15 AM PDT

    •  Yes, agreed, Sybil Liberty. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Sybil Liberty
      "Hey world!......Look at us!.....We're the greatest!....We're the......"   -Comedian Albert Brooks, in his "New National Anthem"

      -4.75, -5.33 Cheney 10/05/04: "I have not suggested there is a connection between Iraq and 9/11."

      by sunbro on Tue Sep 24, 2013 at 07:36:18 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Just look at that gigantic lie: (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Fixed Point Theorem
      Now, the notion of American empire may be useful propaganda, but it isn’t borne out by America’s current policy or by public opinion.
      America isn't an empire, he says.

      One could be overly charitable and assume he means that international corporations are the empires now, and the US military, legal structure, and diplomatic corps are merely their instrument...

      Government and laws are the agreement we all make to secure everyone's freedom.

      by Simplify on Wed Sep 25, 2013 at 01:28:40 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Syria (0+ / 0-)

    I really found his speech incredibly interesting today.  It seemed a bit like a temper tantrum almost.  It was as if President Obama was saying "hey, do what I want and act now or else" which reminds me of a child.  I think he could have done a much better job at articulating his position.

    check out my website here for some more political news.

  •  Curious formulation: (4+ / 0-)
    That said the following snippet seemed to be a warning to the rest of the world, specifically to those that constantly accuse the United States of being an empire or meddling.
    Is it even a question that the US is an empire?  Or "meddles" in other countries affairs?  

    And "the rest of the world"?  

    I consider myself warned.

    "Trust me... I've been right before." ~ Tea party patriot

    by Calvino Partigiani on Tue Sep 24, 2013 at 07:19:43 PM PDT

  •  Mr. President .... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    fly, Fixed Point Theorem

    Go for it. You're threatening to stop interfering in the internal affairs of other nations? Go for it. The world will be a much better place. Just don't change your mind when some corporate entity wants the US military to do their bidding.

    A proud member of the Professional Left since 1967.

    by slatsg on Tue Sep 24, 2013 at 07:26:35 PM PDT

  •  The exceptionalism that America asserts (8+ / 0-)

    ...that the rest of the world does not like is the assertion that international laws and norms do not apply the the US because it must "exert its leadership when others fail to act".

    They do not like the special carve-outs in international law or the fact that the US has not ratified the treaty on land mines or the International Criminal Court.

    And they do not like the hypocrisy about being lectured about human rights while Guantanamo is still open, the people who perpetrated Abu Ghraib's atrocities are still free, and the US has allowed Israel to violate the Geneva Conventions on occupied territories for 46 years with impunity (shielding Israel from condemnation with US vetoes in the UN Security Council).

    And they especially do not like the persistent assertion that the US will act unilaterally when it chooses.  The privilege of the powerful.

    50 states, 210 media market, 435 Congressional Districts, 3080 counties, 192,480 precincts

    by TarheelDem on Tue Sep 24, 2013 at 07:31:04 PM PDT

  •  I think American exceptionalism is a really (4+ / 0-)

    dangerous idea that has caused much grief to many people both inside and outside the US.

    •  Try it in the context of climate change (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      fly, Simplify

      From Obama:

      But I believe America is exceptional. In part because we have shown a willingness through the sacrifice of blood and treasure to stand up not only for our own narrow self interest, but for the interest of all.
      Earlier today I saw Ken Salizar say that we can't do anything about change without "China and India" doing something first. I almost puked.

      I have one question for these lunkheads: If America is the leader then why do you expect CHINA to be the leader on climate change? Its BS. We have to be the leader in climate change, as we are the leader in other things.

      A true craftsman will meticulously construct the apparatus of his own demise.

      by onionjim on Tue Sep 24, 2013 at 08:04:28 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Oh why can't you just be an honest imperialist? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    fly, Simplify, Fixed Point Theorem

    I don't see "imperialism" as a propaganda charge.  It seems to me an incontrovertible statement of fact.    If true, it would, Obama recognizes, be unacceptable.  So he prefers to simply deny it.  The reality of US bases around the world, a military poised to strike anywhere, total (or nearly so) monitoring of world communications - all of that somehow doesn't add up to "imperialism".   Maybe in his mind it's only imperialism if you have coal fired battle ships and colonies in Africa and Asia.   To me, imperialism means you dominate with a mixture of force, persuasion and forceful persuasion, and order the economic affairs of others to suit your interests.  Naturally you claim that you do so for the benefit of all, and it is possible that you even do so.  But because you ultimately act in your interests, you are an imperialist and the network of power that you control is an empire.

    Here is Obama fully owning the Bush war in Iraq - speaking proudly of the blood and treasure we spent doing good there - evidently he believes it.

    Here is Obama describing the American people and the world lined up against a narrow class of power interests in Washington DC - military and military industries, financial industries - the American power structure who see their future security in our basing and listening posts and the endless outspending of the world on military equipment. He describes the reality, and this man who was once proudly self represented as being of the people says - "my people want us to come home, your people want us to go home - please fellow power brokers of the world - let's fight together to keep this American imperium (don't call it that! God forbid!) alive in the world.  

    We could do with a lot less American power projection.   I'm actually very realistic about the need for military power.  The amount of power projection capability we have is so far beyond the legitimate needs of this country, or the economic ability to sustain it, that it boggles the mind.  

    Obama's full scale adoption of the military imperial state's perspective raises the question of whether anyone has the capacity once the move into the White House to think an original or unapproved non-imperial thought.   I don't know.

  •  I'm not sure us going isolationist would be... (0+ / 0-)

    a bad thing for the world. The EU, China and Russia are fully capable of handling things themselves.

    MIC wouldn't like it though, which is why he had to use reverse psychology and pretend like its some kind of possibility.

    The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function [Albert A. Bartlett]

    by fToRrEeEsSt on Tue Sep 24, 2013 at 07:57:15 PM PDT

    •  yes, China has shown a willingness to handle them- (0+ / 0-)

      selves a great big sphere of resource control in the Pacific Ocean.  That's just not going to end well.  I'd be ok with the EU having a major role in "handling things" but China, Russia not so much....

      •  China isnt hording those resources and much... (0+ / 0-)

        of the rare earth elements used in modern devices are mined in China.

        I'm not some wide eyed peacenik (Maybe a peacenik, but not wise eyed :p) who believes everything will be 'fine' but we don't have to be sticking our noses in everything to let other powers know we will be there if they stick their nose where they shouldn't.

        Not to mention most of Chinas economy is based around creating resources and goods for the west and I doubt they would want to lose that.

        The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function [Albert A. Bartlett]

        by fToRrEeEsSt on Wed Sep 25, 2013 at 12:23:08 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  We were never exceptional (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Simplify, Fixed Point Theorem

    Our history is wrought with strife and angst in one way or another. The vernacular history likes to ignore this strife, or underplay it as some sort of guise or agenda.

    We were "lucky" that the last major war front to occur on this continent, aside from our Civil War, was the Mexican–American War. And while both wars left their mark of death and destruction, our modern senses have little images or impressions of being subjected to martial presence. We have not had the pleasure of becoming numb to the era of modern weapons and the conditions of hunger and death they deliver. I don't want to sound like I am downplaying the tragedy of 9/11, but it was the most intense thing this country faced since Pearl Harbor and the later game of chicken with the Cuban Missile crisis. And instead of it being a wake up call to our indolence to foreign affairs, we drop the ball and instead make things worse.

    The fact that the average American citizen has no concept of war or human tragedy, and thus no ability to fathom the poor conditions facing over one billion, if not more, of our human brothers and sisters worldwide, speaks volumes to our chutzpah. We are not exceptional. We are ignorant. Ignorant of the world, and ignorant of ourselves.

  •  We need to clean our own house. (0+ / 0-)

    If we are going "to invest our energy in those countries... that invest in their people instead of a corrupt few, that embrace a vision of society where everyone can contribute..."

    We are not that country at this time. But with a lot of work over the next couple of years (and beyond), I believe we can be better than ever before.

  •  the most exceptional thing about us is how we (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Fixed Point Theorem, Fireshadow

    endlessly crap on about being exceptional

    We're shocked by a naked nipple, but not by naked aggression.

    by Lepanto on Wed Sep 25, 2013 at 02:29:00 AM PDT

  •  The "vacuum of leadership" canard (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Fixed Point Theorem

    This is the same old cover for U.S. meddling/intervention, particularly in the middle east-- because of the OIL.

    It's not exactly true no other nation can step up-- Russia did so and now this week there's barely, if any talk about attacking Syria.

    "The 1% don't want SOLUTIONS; they've worked very hard the last four decades to get conditions the way they are now".

    by Superpole on Wed Sep 25, 2013 at 03:55:16 AM PDT

  •  Once upon a time in the (0+ / 0-)

    West would be a good title to the speech. "Once upon a time there were these exceptional cowboys ..."

  •  American Peacekeepers (0+ / 0-)

    One of the great myths we have perpetuated since the post war years and continue to this day is America as Ambassadors of peace.With our all American can-do optimism we have long flexed our formidable global muscles confident that our take charge performance would be gladly received wherever we went.Once upon a time the American military even advertised their soldiers as "Ambassadors of Peace." Take a look

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