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Foreign PolicyHistoryInternationalOpinionPhilosophy

Putin: Taking Exception to Exceptionalism

It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation.”  Vladimir Putin, N.Y. Times op-ed recently

Intervening in Syria to save civilians from WMD . . . “ That’s what makes America different. That’s what makes us exceptional.” – Barack Obama, speech on Syria recently

I am fairly certain both Obama and Putin think of themselves as exceptional individuals. They were told from an early age they were exceptional, and they have come to believe it, despite the evidence.

Rather than get our panties in a knot about Putin’s op-ed in the N.Y. Times, it seems to me we’d be better off taking a calm look at what he stated, keeping the meat, throwing the bones.

Two bones I’d throw: comparing Iraq to Syria, and chiding the U.S. for skirting the Security Council. Let’s get real.

The only comparison between Syria and Iraq is two Ba’athist thugs in leadership worshiping Stalin and finding it easy to murder people to retain power. Saddam was a serious threat for decades  Assad is his mini-Me.  Ten years ago, a substantial coalition, the U.N. and the U.S. Congress agreed: something had to be done, and force was the only option left in Iraq. Syria is no comparison, as cruel and tragic as that situation remains.

As to Putin’s chide: I don’t recall the Soviets begging Security Council approval to invade Afghanistan, or seeking U.N. sanction for 40 years during the Cold War as the Soviets infiltrated and subverted other countries worldwide. The Russians have plenty of blood on their hands, making them exceptional in other ways. The moral high ground is not the province of either Obama or Putin.

One of Putin’s parting shots was curious: telling us to be wary of Obama calling Americans exceptional. Putin said that is dangerous. Reading between the lines, he must mean that people encouraged thus are reminiscent of Nazis, and such nationalism causes world wars. Of course Vladimir constantly touts Holy Mother Russia, calling that patriotism.

It was odd hearing Obama invoke exceptionalism, another in a growing list of turnabouts. Early on he homogenized the notion, saying all people are like Americans, everyone is proud of their country. In doing so, he recognized universal exceptionalism which actually means no one is exceptional.

But what do we expect from politicians, straight talk?

The point is, America is exceptional, not that Americans as individuals are necessarily exceptional. This country is exceptional because it is altogether unique, and wildly successful. America ushered forward a culture that prizes liberty, God-given rights, and justice above all, giving rise to incredible prosperity. America remains a beacon of light to the oppressed people of the world.

Our country is exceptional because of the Declaration and the Constitution and our faith in a God of love, and we became the greatest country on earth when we encouraged one another in the paths of goodness.

America will become exceeding unexceptional, like Russia, if we keep listening to people like Putin, and Obama.

Image: Vladimir Putin; source:*/; author: Presidential Press and; Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported Licence;

Allan Erickson

Allan Erickson---Christian, husband, father, journalist, businessman, screenwriter, and author of The Cross & the Constitution in the Age of Incoherence, Tate Publishing, 2012.

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