When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

I Corinthians 13:11  (KJV)

Like many kids in the 1950’s my friends and I often played “King of The Hill“, a game in which one of the players seeks to gain and maintain control of the high ground within a limited area.. Of course to do so, the winner needs to ensure her rivals go tumbling back down the hill, the other kids facilitating the champion by eliminating each other as they scramble to reach the top.

For too long, especially since the demise of the Soviet Union, the United States has been playing the game on the world stage. In doing so America is undoubtedly stronger than any of its rivals individually but to gain and maintain this superiority it must far too often spread its resources far too thinly to effectively accomplish all its goals.

As we stand atop the crest challenges come from every direction and there is no practical way to dispatch them all without serious damage to ourself.

Yet, we persist in trying.

The United States, through its many adventures, overt and covert, obviously is in denial that, because it outlasted the Soviets of the Cold War, it is THE supreme nation on Earth. Indeed, our leaders seem to believe we are entitled to this supremacy.

It is time to put away childish things.

Michael Klare explores this issue in this essay on

In “Delusionary Thinking in Washington (The Desperate Plight of a Declining Superpower)” Klare discusses the trends in American foreign policy, more precisely the trends in exerting American military power to effectuate that policy, in the past tewnty-five or so years.

He quotes both George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush as to their vision of America in a post Cold War world and, though Bush 43 first formulated his vision as a peaceful one in 1999 early in his campaign for President, that vision obviously morphed into quite something else once he assumed office. (Some would argue the peaceful vision was only a  smokescreen but that argument is for another time.)

To Klare this “delusionary”  thinking extends across the aisle as he credits only Rand Paul and Bernie Sanders as totally removed from it among the D.C. lawmakers and power brokers.

He notes that other powers, big and small did not simply  kowtow to the undeniable singular supremacy of the United States as its superpower rival met its demise. General Colin Powell acknowledged this fact when he declared

We have to put a shingle outside our door saying, ‘Superpower Lives Here,’ no matter what the Soviets do, even if they evacuate from Eastern Europe.

Klare is both wary of and dismissive towards the more bellicose version of this notion of American supremacy mostly coming from the right, but does not spare President Obama.

President Obama, who is clearly all too aware of the country’s strategic limitations, has been typical in his unwillingness to retreat from such a supremacist vision.

Klare is not alone in his analysis even coming from a conservative perspective. Christopher Layne of the George H.W. Bush School at Texas A&M writing in The American Conservative in 2010 made many of these same points

Though the path Layne takes to make his point diverges in many ways from Klare’s his conclusion is

U.S. decline means that in the 21st century the United States will pay a high price if it endlessly repeats its mistakes.To change our foreign policy—to come to grips with the end of the Pax Americanawe first need to chage the way we see the world.

And I see no change in this view at all.

Too, the idea of American supremacy is pretty laughable on any level. This century has already witnessed the utter inability to unilaterally exert our will by force no matter how antagonistic nor how much we spend on our Department of War and all the physical and technological might at our command.

And yes, the current Department of Defense needs to return to its original name of Department of War. After all, we keep seeking ways to dominate others, not protect ourselves. As I recall the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution reads in pertinent part

…provide for the common defence…

not “prepare for war at every opportunity”.

Instead of seeking to exert power over others, I want our military resources devoted to ensuring no one else exerts power over the United States.

To do so, echoing both Klare and Layne, our philosophy towards foreign affairs needs to change.

Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.


  • Devildog  On June 3, 2015 at 3:45 PM

    So, here is the problem. When you (when you and your are used herein, it means UMOC and his similarly situated brothers and sisters) rail against exceptionalism, what you really mean is isolationism. Railing against intervening includes not only militarily but economically, culturally, and everything else one can think of. Now railing against exceptionalism may be good for us or may be bad for us (or may be good or bad for the world) but it brings up another issue/problem.

    You want us to concentrate all our efforts, our ingenuity, our finances on the homeland in areas such as the elimination of poverty, racism, educational inadequacy, failing infrastructure, etc. So what is the problem with that, you ask. The problem with that, I respond, is that your programs, the liberal/progressive agenda, have failed, are failing and will fail (you best hope SCOTUS rules against you on Obamacare because if it doesn’t, what the 53% and others will be subjected to in the next 18 months will destroy your party for a long time to come).

    But, of course, your claim is that failure is/was due to obstructionist Republicans in Congress, who did not allocate enough money for the programs. The solution-larger taxes on the rich and on corporations. I’ve heard that lament before.

    This talk about exceptionalism is bogus. Everyone knows our resources are limited and our challenges unlimited. It’s just a difference of opinion on which challenges should be met, foreign and domestic, how they should be met and the resources that should be allocated. Isolationism once was the province of the Republicans. Now, it is the province of ba minority of Republicans joined by a majority of Democrats.

    • Little_Minx  On June 3, 2015 at 4:20 PM

      UMOC, to “prepare for war at every opportunity” is part and parcel of the ownership of the GOP by war profiteers, who rape our country for their own economic gain. If war weren’t so profitable, there’d be less of it. (Yes, even ideological groups like ISIL also want to control oil, big time).

      • Devildog  On June 3, 2015 at 5:04 PM

        See, even Minx agrees that corporations are people. Or maybe she’s thinking of the millions of people who, directly or indirectly, are the owners of the corporations profiting from war. Other than the Koch Bros., who are the “war profiteers” to whom you refer?

        • Little_Minx  On June 4, 2015 at 11:16 PM

          That’s not what I said. Don’t put words in my mouth, er, fingertips.

          • Devildog  On June 4, 2015 at 11:37 PM

            So, who are the profiteers? Any names you wish to share with us?

  • Little_Minx  On June 3, 2015 at 5:01 PM

    Insightful rumination, “How Obama has used his presidency to redefine ‘American exceptionalism’ — Obama’s new patriotism”:

  • umoc193  On June 16, 2015 at 4:50 PM

    Who says I’m against American exceptionalism and for isolation? I just don’t think there is only one way to measure exceptionalism. It certainly is not measured by how many Gooks, Ragheads, and sundry otther dark skinned people we can kill with our bombs. It certainly is measured by our quality of life and how we treat people as a whole, not just the ones who happen to hjave “made it”. And we do a piss poor job of that.

    But here’s the thing, the better we treat our own people the more secure we are as a nation.

    • Devildog  On June 16, 2015 at 6:49 PM

      Who says you are against American exceptionalism and for isolation? I do!

      How do we treat people as a whole? We try to do right but perhaps, just perhaps, the “Great Society” programs put into effect in the 60’s, as extended, and of which you approve (except for the amount of money allocated), have been counter-productive. Nah, that couldn’t possibly be.

      “The utter inability to unilaterally exert our will” no matter what we spend and no matter what force we use is absurd. Not since WWII have we gone all in (well maybe Kuwait when it was over in short order). In every military action since then, political decisions not military actions ruled the day. There is the lesson to be learned.

      Vacuums get filled. If we are not to lead (to be exceptional), someone else will or there will be utter chaos, which will not inure to our benefit.

Please give me your thoughts.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: