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American exceptionalism bulletin, 2013

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[Dec 15, 2013] Washington Drives the World Toward War By Paul Craig Roberts

"According to this self-righteous doctrine, America is the indispensable country. What this means is that the US has been chosen by history to establish the hegemony of secular "democratic capitalism" over the world. The primacy of this goal places the US government above traditional morality and above all law, both its own and international."
December 14, 2013 | Information Clearing House
Washington has had the US at war for 12 years: Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Libya, Pakistan, Yemen, and almost Syria, which could still happen, with Iran waiting in the wings. These wars have been expensive in terms of money, prestige, and deaths and injuries of both US soldiers and the attacked civilian populations. None of these wars appears to have any compelling reason or justifiable explanation. The wars have been important to the profits of the military/security complex. The wars have provided cover for the construction of a Stasi police state in America, and the wars have served Israel's interest by removing obstacles to Israel's annexation of the entire West Bank and southern Lebanon.

As costly and destructive as these wars have been, they are far below the level of a world war, much less a world war against nuclear armed opponents.

The fatal war for humanity is the war with Russia and China toward which Washington is driving the US and Washington's NATO and Asian puppet states. There are a number of factors contributing to Washington's drive toward the final war, but the overarching one is the doctrine of American exceptionalism.

According to this self-righteous doctrine, America is the indispensable country. What this means is that the US has been chosen by history to establish the hegemony of secular "democratic capitalism" over the world. The primacy of this goal places the US government above traditional morality and above all law, both its own and international.

Thus, no one in the US government has been held accountable for unprovoked aggression against other countries and for attacking civilian populations, unambiguous war crimes under international law and the Nuremberg standard. Neither has anyone in the US government been held accountable for torture, a prohibited crime under US law and the Geneva Conventions. Neither has anyone been held accountable for numerous violations of constitutional rights--spying without warrants, warrantless searches, violations of habeas corpus, murder of citizens without due process, denial of legal representation, conviction on secret evidence. The list is long.

A person might wonder what is exceptional and indispensable about a government that is a reincarnation of Nazi Germany in every respect. People propagandized into the belief that they are the world's special people inevitably lose their humanity. Thus, as the US military video released by Bradley Manning reveals, US troops get their jollies by mowing down innocent people as they walk along a city street.

With the exception of the ACLU, constitutional rights groups and independent Internet voices, the American people including the Christian churches have accepted their government's criminality and immorality with scant protest.

The absence of moral denunciation emboldens Washington which is now pushing hard against Russia and China, the current governments of which stand in the way of Washington's world hegemony.

Washington has been working against Russia for 22 years ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. In violation of the Reagan-Gorbachev agreement, Washington expanded NATO into Eastern Europe and the Baltic states and established military bases on Russia's borders. Washington is also seeking to extend NATO into former constituent parts of Russia itself such as Georgia and Ukraine.

The only reason for Washington to establish military and missile bases on Russia's frontiers is to negate Russia's ability to resist Washington's hegemony. Russia has made no threatening gestures toward its neighbors, and with the sole exception of Russia's response to Georgia's invasion of South Ossetia, has been extremely passive in the face of US provocations.

This is now changing. Faced with the George W. Bush regime's alternation of US war doctrine, which elevated nuclear weapons from a defensive, retaliatory use to pre-emptive first strike, together with the construction on Russia's borders of US anti-ballistic missile bases and Washington's weaponization of new technologies, has made it clear to the Russian government that Washington is setting up Russia for a decapitating first strike.

In his presidential address to the Russian National Assembly (both chambers of parliament) on December 12, Vladimir Putin addressed the offensive military threat that Washington poses to Russia. Putin said that Washington calls its anti-ballistic missile system defensive, but "in fact it is a signifiant part of the strategic offensive potential" and designed to tip the balance of power in Washington's favor. Having acknowledged the threat, Putin replied to the threat: "Let no one have illusions that he can achieve military superiority over Russia. We will never allow it."

Faced with the Obama regime's murder of the nuclear weapons reduction treaty, Putin said: "We realize all this and know what we need to do."

If anyone remains to write a history, the Obama regime will be known as the regime that resurrected the cold war, which President Reagan worked so hard to end, and drove it into a hot war.

Not content to make Russia an enemy, the Obama regime has also made an enemy of China. The Obama regime declared the South China Sea to be an area of "US national security interest." This is akin to China declaring the Gulf of Mexico to be an area of Chinese national security interest.

To make clear that the claim to the South China Sea was not rhetorical, the Obama regime announced its "Pivot to Asia," which calls for the redeployment of 60% of the US fleet to China's zone of influence. Washington is busy at work securing naval and air bases from the Philippines, South Korea, Vietnam, Australia, and Thailand. Washington has increased the provocation by aligning itself with China's neighbors who are disputing China's claims to various islands and an expanded air space.

China has not been intimidated. China has called for "de-americanizing the world." Last month the Chinese government announced that it now possesses sufficient nuclear weapons and delivery systems to wipe the US off of the face of the earth. A couple of days ago, China aggressively harassed a US missile cruiser in the South China Sea.

The militarily aggressive stance that Washington has taken toward Russia and China is indicative of the extreme self-assuredness that usually ends in war. Washington is told that US technological prowess can prevent or intercept the launch of Russian and Chinese missiles, thus elevating a US pre-emptive attack to slam-dunk status. Yet the potential danger from Iran acquiring nuclear weapons is said to be so great that a pre-emptive war is necessary right now, and a massive Department of Homeland Security is justified on the grounds that the US remains vulnerable to a few stateless Muslims who might acquire a nuclear weapon. It is an anomalous situation that the Russian and Chinese retaliatory response to US attack is considered to be inconsequential, but not nuclear threats from Iran and stateless Muslims.

Not content with sending war signals to Russia and China, Washington has apparently also decided to torpedo the Iranian settlement by announcing new sanctions against companies doing business with Iran. The Iranians understood Washington's monkey wrench as Washington probably intended, as a lack of Washington's commitment to the agreement, left Geneva and returned to Iran. It remains to be seen whether the agreement can be resurrected or whether the Israel Lobby has succeeded in derailing the agreement that promised to end the threat of war with Iran.

American citizens seem to have little, if any, influence on their government or even awareness of its intentions. Moreover, there is no organized opposition behind which Americans could rally to stop Washington's drive toward world war. Hope, if there is any, would seem to lie with Washington's European and Asian puppets. What interests do these governments have in putting the existence of their countries at risk for no other purpose than to help Washington acquire hegemony over the world? Cannot they realize that Washington's game is a death-dealing one for them?

Germany alone could save the world from war while simultaneously serving its own interests. All Germany has to do is to exit the EU and NATO. The alliance would collapse, and its fall would terminate Washington's hegemonic ambition.

Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy and associate editor of the Wall Street Journal. He was columnist for Business Week, Scripps Howard News Service, and Creators Syndicate. He has had many university appointments. His internet columns have attracted a worldwide following. His latest book, The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism and Economic Dissolution of the West is now available.

[Nov 28, 2013] A SUBTLE KIND OF FASCISM by John Chuckman

June 5, 2009 | CHUCKMAN'S WORDS

The word fascism is used a lot, often pejoratively. The image that immediately comes to mind is Mussolini in a steel helmet, hands on hips, head tipped back, jaw thrust out. It is an image that influenced other fascists. Young Hitler was a great admirer.

It is always helpful for any discussion to define the subject carefully, a seemingly obvious principle often ignored. What exactly is fascism? Can fascism coexist to any extent with democratic institutions?

Fascism certainly is not the same thing as communism, although both these systems are represented by strongmen or tyrants and the state apparatus needed to support them. Those who like the nomenclature of the French Revolution might say that the two political extremes, right and left, almost meet somewhere in a bend of political space.

Private enterprise, of course, has been regarded as incompatible with communism, although contemporary China with its New Economic Zone begins to confuse the issue. Things have always been quite different with fascism. Fascist governments are favorable to the interests of enterprise, at least the interests of large-scale enterprises. Great private combines existed and were encouraged under Hitler, Tojo, and Mussolini. Fascism represents, if you will, a kind of large-scale, public-private partnership.

Fascism, much like the mental image of Mussolini, tends to be about power, generally a raw display of political and military power. These two things are welded together in a fascist state. Flags, banners, strutting, and marching feature prominently, with political occasions sometimes difficult to distinguish from military ones.

Fascism's strutting-peacock displays serve several purposes. One, with their rise to power, fascist parties brag about getting things done (the reality of entrenched fascism proves another matter altogether), as opposed to the mundane, boring inefficiency of ordinary deliberations. This kind of promise appeals to the frustrations of many people who yearn for decisive change. Their yearnings may concern anything from building public projects to imposing moral rules..

There likely is a built-in component in human beings which finds authority attractive, at least over certain limits. Society mimics the show of power in many institutions from popes to presidents.

The display of power also intimidates enemies. Political opponents are not a common feature of fascist states, which always feature secret police, secret prisons, and heavy domestic spying, although they are sometimes allowed to exist in a neutered form for show or internal political purposes.

Aggression is closely associated with fascism. Partly the aggression is simply the result of having large standing armies and all the state and corporate apparatus associated with them. Large standing armies simply tend to get used – historians have offered this as one of the important explanations for the First World War – and the impulse to use them is undoubtedly increased by the psychology of fascism.

The psychology of fascist states tends to include penis-fixation – big guns, big flags, and big monuments. Aggression is a direct outgrowth of all the strutting, bragging, and marching.

Aggression also grows out of the fascist tendency to regard the nation as somehow specially blessed or endowed or entitled. There follows an assumed inherit right or even obligation to rule over others or at least to direct their destinies.

When you consider these characteristics, every one of them is an intrinsic part of contemporary American society. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that America is a kind of fascist state, certainly a softer-appearing one than some in the past, but then America excels at marketing, perhaps its one original intellectual gift to the world.

America does cling to ideals of human rights, something which it never fails to remind the world at international gatherings, but the truth is international gatherings are only regarded as useful for just such announcements. Despite clinging to human-rights ideals, at the very same time, America refuses to deal with others on the basis of these rights, and it often fails even to enforce the rights of selected categories of its own citizens.

This ambiguity about human rights is not so odd if you consider the many American Christians who enshrine Jesus' great commandment and the Ten Commandments and yet stand ready at a moment's notice to kill others in meaningless wars.

Genuine respect for human rights is surely more a matter of prevailing day-to-day attitudes in a society than words written on old pieces of paper.

But America is a democracy, isn't it? It certainly has many of the forms of a democracy, but when you closely examine the details, as I've written previously, American democracy resembles a badly worn wood veneer. The ugly structural stuff underneath sticks out the way elbows do in a threadbare coat.

[Nov 20, 2013] America's Deadliest Export Democracy - The Truth About US Foreign Policy and Everything Else by William Blum

Gary Corseri

William Blum's "Cri de Coeur" February 9, 2013

Like Howard Zinn, Ralph Nader, Paul Craig Roberts, Cindy Sheehan and Bradley Manning, Blum is committed to setting the historical record straight. His book is dangerous. Steadfast, immutable "truths" one has taken for granted--often since childhood--are exposed as hollow baubles to entertain the un/mis/and dis-informed. One such Blumism recollects Lt. General Ricardo Sanchez's account of a videotape with a very undiplomatic Secretary of State, Colin Powell, and cowboy George Bush: "`We've got to smash somebody's ass quickly,'" Powell said. "`We must have a brute demonstration of power.' Then Bush spoke: `Kick ass! If somebody tries to stop the march to democracy, we will seek them out and kill them! ... Stay strong! ... Kill them! ... We are going to wipe them out!'"

Blum's intellectual resources are as keen as anyone's writing today. He also adds an ample measure of humanity to his trenchant critiques. He juxtaposes the noble rhetoric of our professed values with the mordant facts of our deeds. The cognitive dissonance makes for a memorable, very unpretty picture of how an immensely privileged people lost themselves, while gorging on junk food, junk politics, junk economics, junk education, junk media. Like an Isaiah, a Jeremiah, he lambastes his own--us!--flaying layers of hypocrisy and betrayals while seeking to reveal the core values of human dignity, empathy and moral rectitude.

Joan M McGreevy

Truth of American foreign policy, June 6, 2013

America's deadliest export;Democracy was not a big surprise to me since I have been aware of the nature of our bloody brutal empire for about 10 years when I was 42, but it did reveal to me some things that I was still unaware of. I devoured it. I finished it much quicker than most books I read. I particularly love pages 16 and 17 where he gives 6 main points the empire is interested in.

  1. The US does not mean well.
  2. The US is not concerned with democracy.
  3. Anti-american terrorists are motivated by decades of awful things done to their homelands by US foreign policy.
  4. The US supports terrorism against "OFFICIAL" enemies.
  5. Iraq was no threat to the US.

... ... ...


The Truth Hurts February 7, 2013

Blum lays it all out for you. Like his other books, "Killing Hope" and "Rogue State", he sets out to prove that the United States is absolutely NOT a force for good in the world - quite the opposite.

The ruling class owners of this society don't mean well and just fall short from time to time. All the sanctimonious babbling about freedom and democracy are nothing more than completely cynical hypocrisy.

Blum succeeds in tearing away the curtain and showing the U.S. in its true guise: a deadly empire with no regard for its own citizens or anyone else in the relentless pursuit of power, profit and world domination; ultra-wealthy capitalists at their very worst.

Ted Radamaker

America must know about its governments imperialist policies. William Blum always tells it like it is and for the good of society.

[Nov 19, 2013] Why Russia Critiques the Idea of American Exceptionalism

From pretty right-wing source ;-)

November 9, 2013
Why Russia Critiques the Idea of American Exceptionalism
By Veronika Kyrylenko

Russia has never been particularly sympathetic to the Western civilization and its leader, the United States. Almost 50 years of the last century had lasted in the global confrontation of the Cold War, which repeatedly threatened to grow into a "hot" state. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union created lots of "black" myths about the West and its set of values. It has been more than 20 years since the collapse of the Soviet Union, but certain ideological myths continue to dominate the minds of Russians. And the rhetoric of the Russian leaders provokes an escalation of the anti-Western sentiments among the people.

This logic of events is quite predictable: the creation of an "enemy" image became a favorite technique of propaganda in the political, economic, and social conditions which exist in modern Russia. First of all, the growth of the social and emotional uncertainty caused by the spread of fear of real or fictitious threats, allows firstly, to effectively control people, consolidating them around a political leadership of a country, in which people hope to find protection from threats. Secondly, it diverts people's attention from problems of economic and social nature. Also, the actualization of the image of the "enemy" in the mass consciousness connects all the troubles that occur or may occur with actions of the "enemy."

At the same time, propaganda aims to idealize the deeds of a current government. The media actively describes the achievements of a wise leadership, praises the personal and professional qualities of the leaders. And, of course, it is necessary to constantly demonstrate the successful struggle against the "enemy", constantly reminding people about "enemy's" cruelty and aggressiveness. Here are just a few statements of Vladimir Putin, Russia's three-time president, who is well-known for his anti-Western rhetoric:

Add to these words Putin's own actions: the Dima Yakovlev Act, the Snowden's case, Russia's irreconcilable position in the Security Council, and demonstrative support of non-democratic regimes.

[Nov 09, 2013] Who Really Killed Kennedy 50 Years Later Stunning New Revelations About the JFK Assassination by Jerome Corsi

Yes, the same Jerome Corsi who "Swiftboated" Kerry. The very man Nixon recruited to trash Kerry back in 1971 and funded as part of a larger effort by the same GOP surrogates who smeared POW John McCain and triple amputee Max Cleland. You are warned... Although the personality of Kerry in view of his performance as the Secretary of State (push for Syria war) looks like yet another Hillary.
Scott Greer on September 17, 2013
This book will open your eyes to the case like no other work before

There have been endless works on the assassination of JFK and who was behind it. From a gang of hobos to angry Cuban expats, the list of possible conspirators is numerous and all theories have been covered to some extent. What hasn't been covered before is the larger context that the assassination took place in and how it is still relevant to our current political climate, until now with Jerome Corsi's new book Who Really Killed Kennedy?

Corsi's essential argument is that the plot to kill Kennedy was hatched by military and financial elites who were displeased with Kennedy's unwillingness to go along with their plans for a New World Order. Presenting new and overlooked evidence, Dr. Corsi argues his case with thorough documentation and persuasive analyses that offers an enlightening perspective for the reader.

His argument that it was powerful elements within the government and their allies in the military-industrial complex and financial institutions is also a more plausible theory than others that have been suggested due to the fact that they would've had the ability to cover up the conspiracy and they directly benefitted from the death of JFK. They were able to increase America's involvement in Vietnam and create the kind of military that would be able to protect their interests across the world. It offers a theory for why America would get involved in such conflicts as Iraq and Syria when there seems to be no vested interest for our country to get involved.

Whether you believe his theory or not, this book is an engaging read and offers a new perspective on the assassination that shocked a nation and changed the course of history. I recommend this book as it looks to be the best account of the assassination that has been published so far.

[Nov 09, 2013] The Hidden History of the JFK Assassination by Lamar Waldron

Steven Roberts on October 31, 2013

I have a library of books about the Kennedy Assassination dating back to the fist editions of Mark Lane's paperback release in the 60's on up to the more recent authors varied and sundry investigations of pieces of the story. This is by far the best researched and most comprehensive and understandable explanation tying all the pieces together. I have the paperback version of the Kingfish book about Marcello,and it was very revealing on its own at the time of issue. Lamar Waldron has filled in all the blanks with documentation missing from that original partial story. All of the pieces, the LBJ connection, Warren Commission failures, planting, alteration, and misrepresentation of facts make sense with this global view of the crime. The on going Cuban connections which have been revealed in pieces, the CIA involvement pre and post assassination, the false leads planted to throw off the legions of investigators, and the ultimate purpose for all of the parties are well and thoroughly explained. I have read Mr. Waldron's Legacy of Secrets, and the Hidden History of Watergate in their entirety. Both tomes contain the fine print details for those who want them to check for themselves, with over a third of each book containing detailed footnotes and sources. This work stands out for its thoroughness yet does not get bogged down in minutia that many have complained about in his past endeavors.

I really believe that if you are truly interested in the Kennedy Assassination history, this is the only book you need to buy. It reads very well, and you will understand the depth of the conspiracy, who did what when and where. You will also come away with an understaning of good and evil motives of those who helped obscure the facts from the American public for 50 years.

It is clear that while there were many participants in the cover-up of the facts, that most did so believing the effort was patriotic and intended to prevent a nuclear war with Russia. While some of the evidence still remains buried in the archives, and won't be released for another 25 years; this meticulous effort by Lamar Waldron has shone the light on many documents unwittingly released or pried out by FOIA requests. Together they provide a clear xray/ultrasound picture of the operation which was the Kennedy Assassination. The full fleshed out picture will have to wait, but from these details and analysis anyone can understand what really happened and why. I hope that this book is read by the many Americans who have been misled by the media coverup. I also am excited to learn that the story will soon be a major motion picture with Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert Deniro.

Hopefully that will lead to a final congressional investigation with a revelation of the rest of the story so woefully given by the Church Committee created in response to Oliver Stone's jaded film JFK. It was the cry of American citizens awakened by the film that forced action. I hope the same is true for the coming film. After all, we know there are many low information voters out there who will never read a book like this, but who may be reached through the movie theater!!

Bravo! Congratulations to Lamar Waldron for 50 years of dedicated efforts to reveal the facts.

John G. Jazwiec on October 28, 2013

The Best Narrative Ever Written On The FJK Conspiracy

I have read hundreds of JFK books. I wan't to believe there was a conspiracy to kill JFK. The official facts lean toward a conspiracy. But the story is complex. And almost all of the JFK assassination books - while compelling - still leave the lawyer in me not convinced. I want the truth and I want it verified. Every JFK conspiracy book leaves me wanting.

This book is the most compelling narrative I have ever read. It makes total sense. it provides a lens to view other conflicting/complimentary JFK assassination works, with one over-arching theory, that is the most plausible narrative ever written.

First, though a disclaimer. And its why I make a distinction between a narrative and conclusive evidence. The author doesn't provide the same kind of footnotes that other serious works have used. Even when the author makes certain claims others have made -- he doesn't bother to provide the same footnotes of the other authors. Whether that is because of the publisher or the author I don't know.

The author also generously uses private conversations with government principles and supporting players. There is no way to footnote private conversations. The author seems honest enough. But its impossible to corroborate private conversations.

The main new foundation of the book are the following: a confidential FBI 1980s program wiring conversations by Carlos Marcello in prison where he admits his guilt, a JFK-RFK plot to work with Castro's number three official (army chief of staff behind Fidel and Raul Castro) to overthrow the Castro regime scheduled on December 1, 1963 and Carlos Marcello being in court waiting on a verdict on November 23rd with David Ferrie sitting next to him.

That's the keystone of how to view various actions before and after the assassination. Douglass's "The Unthinkable" citing the same high powered rifle in a tall building with a patsy in Chicago, Tampa and Dallas. Three public events/chances before November 23rd and December 1st. RFK - also well-documented - being distraught after JFK being assassinated. A conspiracy would point to Castro and blowback on him. The well-documented moving of JFK's body from Dallas to Washington. It was Dave Powers and Kenny O'Donnell that fought for the change in venue. RFK than controlled the JFK autopsy (and kept his brothers brain from the national archives) to cover up a conspiracy so it would not blowback on him.

It explains why the CIA. FBI, and the Warren Commission covered up the conspiracy. First as a defensive reaction to not have to invade Cuba and start a potential WWIII; and to protect classified documents well into the future to protect Castro's number 3 who died in 2009.

He also - using the 26 volumes of the Warren Commission - exposes that the members knew there was a conspiracy but were mandated to white-wash their report to not start World War III.

Nixon - who was friendly with the MOB and participated in early CIA-MOB plots - using the same cast of characters (E, Howard Hunt and Frank Sturgis) to break into the Watergate HQ of the find any incriminating files that would kill his reelection efforts.

JFK's need to deal with Cuba - once and for all - before his reelection campaign. But doing so by cutting the Mafia out of reclaiming their influence and revenue-making capability in casinos. But while he used a tight knit group of planners, still involved elements of the CIA, who leaked the plans to the MOB, giving the MOB a way to get RFK off their backs by killing JFK (using foreign sharp shooters) knowing that the country would fear WWIII and knowing that going after the killers (the MOB) couldn't happen because of the blowback.

Jack Ruby, who didn't own the Carousel Club (it was owned by Marcello), skimmed off profits and owed a small fortune in back taxes. He was summoned to Marcello, fearing for his life, and told to use the Dallas police (friends of Ruby) to kill Oswald or do it himself. An offer he couldn't refuse. Then using Belli (MOB influence) to "defend" Ruby in such as matter that, instead of being convicted of a crime of passion with a two year sentence, was convicted of premeditated murder resulting in a death penalty; thus eliminating him form talking.

This is just a small sampling of disparate events that the author is able to weave into one believable narrative.

The book is highly satisfying. And it might be right. And as you read it you will feel that everything now makes sense. But by not using research footnotes and using so many private conversation; when you sleep on the book (I read it over the weekend) the reader's euphoria is ultimately diminished.

[Nov 09, 2013] They Killed Our President 63 Reasons to Believe There Was a Conspiracy to Assassinate JFK Jesse Ventura, Dick Russell, David

Outstanding summary of suppressed information October 5, 2013

Snooper's Mom

Jesse really summarizes all the information that has been suppressed until recently. The alteration of the autopsy results and the body itself, and the alteration of the Zapruder film are finally being revealed to the public. I see much similarity with the way Oswald was identified with no real evidence for JFK's murder with the way L Paul Bremer went on morning TV so coincidentally the morning of 9/11 to say that "Osama bin Laden" was the guy behind it. NO evidence whatsoever. The public just takes it all in, no questioning. 9/11 was another intelligence operation, just like JFK being taken out. Thanks Jesse for a fantastic book, a great response to the drivel of O'Reilly, Posner, and Bugliosi.
I was so terribly disappointed with Vince Bugliosi not reporting the truth.

Noam Chomsky The Obama Doctrine

In short, "American exceptionalism" and "isolationism" are generally understood to be tactical variants of a secular religion, with a grip that is quite extraordinary, going beyond normal religious orthodoxy in that it can barely even be perceived. Since no alternative is thinkable, this faith is adopted reflexively.

Others express the doctrine more crudely. One of President Reagan's U.N. ambassadors, Jeane Kirkpatrick, devised a new method to deflect criticism of state crimes. Those unwilling to dismiss them as mere "blunders" or "innocent naivete" can be charged with "moral equivalence" -- of claiming that the U.S. is no different from Nazi Germany, or whoever the current demon may be. The device has since been widely used to protect power from scrutiny.

... ... ...

Another "political persuasion" is imaginable: the outrage Americans adopt when Russia invades Afghanistan or Saddam Hussein invades Kuwait. But the secular religion bars us from seeing ourselves through a similar lens.

... ... ...

One mechanism of self-protection is to lament the consequences of our failure to act. Thus New York Times columnist David Brooks, ruminating on the drift of Syria to "Rwanda-like" horror, concludes that the deeper issue is the Sunni-Shiite violence tearing the region asunder.

[Oct 28, 2013] Sample Chapter for Ignatieff, M., ed. American Exceptionalism and Human Rights

Chapter 1



Defining Exceptionalism

Since 1945 America has displayed exceptional leadership in promoting international human rights. At the same time, however, it has also resisted complying with human rights standards at home or aligning its foreign policy with these standards abroad. Under some administrations, it has promoted human rights as if they were synonymous with American values, while under others, it has emphasized the superiority of American values over international standards. This combination of leadership and resistance is what defines American human rights behavior as exceptional, and it is this complex and ambivalent pattern that the book seeks to explain.

Thanks to Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt, the United States took a leading role in the creation of the United Nations and the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.1 Throughout the Cold War and afterward, few nations placed more emphasis in their foreign policy on the promotion of human rights, market freedom, and political democracy. Since the 1970s U.S. legislation has tied foreign aid to progress in human rights; the State Department annually assesses the human rights records of governments around the world. Outside government, the United States can boast some of the most effective and influential human rights organizations in the world. These promote religious freedom, gender equality, democratic rights, and the abolition of slavery; they monitor human rights performance by governments, including--and especially--the U.S. government. U.S. government action, together with global activism by U.S. NGOs, has put Americans in the forefront of attempts to improve women's rights, defend religious liberty, improve access to AIDS drugs, spread democracy and freedom through the Arab and Muslim worlds, and oppose tyrants from Slobodan Milos evic ΄ to Saddam Hussein.

The same U.S. government, however, has also supported rights-abusing regimes from Pinochet's Chile to Suharto's Indonesia; sought to scuttle the International Criminal Court, the capstone of an enforceable global human rights regime; maintained practices--like capital punishment--at variance with the human rights standards of other democracies; engaged in unilateral preemptive military actions that other states believe violate the UN Charter; failed to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women; and ignored UN bodies when they criticized U.S. domestic rights practices. What is exceptional here is not that the United States is inconsistent, hypocritical, or arrogant. Many other nations, including leading democracies, could be accused of the same things. What is exceptional, and worth explaining, is why America has both been guilty of these failings and also been a driving force behind the promotion and enforcement of global human rights. What needs explaining is the paradox of being simultaneously a leader and an outlier.

While the focus of this book will be on human rights, exceptionalism is also a feature of U.S. attitudes toward environmental treaties like the Kyoto Protocol as well as the Geneva Conventions and international humanitarian law. Since the attack of September 11, it has been accused of violating the Conventions as well as the Torture Convention in its handling of prisoners at Guanta ΄ namo, Abu Ghraib, and other detention facilities.

This pattern of behavior raises a fundamental question about the very place of the world's most powerful nation inside the network of international laws and conventions that regulate a globalizing world. To what extent does the United States accept constraints on its sovereignty through the international human rights regime, international humanitarian law, and the UN Charter rules on the use of force? To what degree does America play by the rules it itself has helped to create?

In this book, we do not revisit wider historical and sociological debates about why Americans have seen their society as exceptional at least since the Pilgrim Fathers, or why America has been exceptional in its absence of a socialist movement.2 Nor is this another discussion of American unilateralism in foreign policy, since unilateralism and exceptionalism are different phenomena, requiring different explanations. Instead the volume is closely focused on U.S. human rights performance in comparative perspective, since this approach highlights new questions about the relation between U.S. rights traditions and political culture and their influence on U.S. projection of power, influence, and moral example overseas.

The book is the result of an academic collaboration by the scholars in this volume, initiated at a seminar series held at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government and generously funded by the Winston Foundation. What began as a scholarly exercise has been given topical urgency by the war in Iraq and the war on terror. While the volume's contributors engage with both, the aim of the book is wider: to situate and explain current administration conduct within a historical account of America's long-standing ambivalence toward the constraining role of international law in general.

In this introduction, I will set out a three-part typology of American exceptionalism; identify and examine four central explanations offered by the contributors; and finally raise two questions about policy: What price does the United States pay for exceptionalism in human rights? What can be done to exercise human rights leadership in a less exceptional way?

Distinguishing Types of American Exceptionalism

American exceptionalism has at least three separate elements. First, the United States signs on to international human rights and humanitarian law conventions and treaties and then exempts itself from their provisions by explicit reservation, nonratification, or noncompliance. Second, the United States maintains double standards: judging itself and its friends by more permissive criteria than it does its enemies. Third, the United States denies jurisdiction to human rights law within its own domestic law, insisting on the self-contained authority of its own domestic rights tradition. No other democratic state engages in all three of these practices to the same extent, and none combines these practices with claims to global leadership in the field of human rights.

The first variant of exceptionalism is exemptionalism. America supports multilateral agreements and regimes, but only if they permit exemptions for American citizens or U.S. practices. In 1998, the United States took part in the negotiations for the International Criminal Court but secured guarantees that its military, diplomats, and politicians would never come before that court. The Clinton administration signed the treaty before leaving office, only to have the incoming Bush administration unsign it.3 The Bush administration then went on to negotiate agreements with allied countries requiring them to guarantee that they would not hand over U.S. nationals to the ICC.4 Over the Land Mines Treaty, America took part in negotiations but sought exemption for American military production and deployment of land mines in the Korean Peninsula.5

Exemptionalism, of course, is not confined to the domains of human rights-related treaties. U.S. withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change fits into the same pattern.6 Exemptionalism has also been on display in the war on terror in the U.S. insistence that while conditions of detention at Guanta ΄ namo and elsewhere will comply with Geneva Convention standards, interrogation procedures and determination of status will be determined by executive order of the president.7

Exemptionalism is not the same as isolationism. The same administration that will have nothing to do with the ICC is heavily engaged in the defense and promotion of religious freedom abroad, the abolition of slavery, the funding of HIV/AIDS relief, and the protection of victims of ethnic and religious intolerance in Sudan.8 Nor is exceptionalism a synonym for unilateralism. An administration that will not engage on the ICC is insistently engaged with the UN and other allies on the issue of HIV/AIDS. While some of the U.S. human rights agenda, like the promotion of religious freedom abroad, is exceptional in the sense that other democratic states place less emphasis upon it, much U.S. human rights policy is aligned with those of other European countries and is advanced through multilateral fora like UN Human Rights Committees.

Exemptionalism also involves the practice of negotiating and signing human rights conventions but with reservations. Thus the United States ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in 1991 while exempting itself from the provisions banning the infliction of the death penalty on juveniles.9 America is not the only country to insist on this type of exemption. Saudi Arabia, for example, insists that international human rights convention language relating to free marriage choice and freedom of belief remain without effect in their domestic law.10 These exemptions are simply the price that any universal rights regime has to pay for country-by-country ratification. Indeed, it is doubtful that the framework would exist at all if it did not allow latitude for countries to protect the specificity of their legal and national traditions.

While European states also ratify with reservations and exceptions, they question whether a U.S. exemption on the right to life--a core human rights principle--can be justified.11 Allowing a state to pick and choose how it adheres to such a central principle threatens to empty international conventions of their universal status. Moreover, exemptionalism turns the United States into an outlier. The United States now stands outside an abolitionist consensus vis-ΰ-vis capital punishment that applies to all democratic states and most nondemocratic ones, with the exception of China.12

Even when the United States ratifies international rights conventions, it usually does so with a stipulation that the provisions cannot supersede U.S. domestic law. 13 Thus, with a few exceptions, American ratification renders U.S. participation in international human rights symbolic, since adopting treaties does not actually improve the statutory rights protections of U.S. citizens in domestic law.

Exemptionalism also takes the form of signing on to international rights conventions and then failing to abide by their requirements. The U.S. record of treaty compliance is no worse than that of other democracies, but because of the superpower's exceptional political importance, U.S. forms of noncompliance have more impact than those of less powerful states. Examples of noncompliance include failing to inform UN human rights bodies when derogating from treaty standards; failing to cooperate with UN human rights rapporteurs seeking access to U.S. facilities; and refusing to order stays of execution in compliance with the Vienna Treaty on Consular Obligations.14 Both the Canadian and German governments have sought stays of execution for their nationals in U.S. courts, on the grounds that these nationals were convicted without prior access to their consular officials. Neither Virginia nor Texas paid any attention to these foreign requests, and these states allowed the executions to proceed.15

A third element of exemptionalism is the practice of negotiating treaties and then refusing to ratify them altogether or ratifying them only after extended delays. For example, the Senate refused to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child, leaving the United States the only nation besides Somalia not to do so. The United States took nearly forty years to ratify the Genocide Convention.16 Failure to ratify doesn't mean that the United States fails to comply: no one has complained that the United States is currently guilty of genocide. Nor does failure to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child mean that standards of child protection in the United States are as poor as those of the other nonratifier, Somalia.17 Nonratification simply means that U.S. child advocates cannot use international standards in domestic U.S. litigation. Likewise, U.S. refusal to ratify the Convention on Eliminating Discrimination against Women does not leave American women without protections and remedies. Nonratification means that UN instruments and standards have no legal standing in U.S. courts. How serious this is depends on the extent of the gap between current U.S. federal and state standards and international norms. Where this gap is large, Americans may lack rights and remedies available in other democratic states.

The second feature of American exceptionalism is double standards. The United States judges itself by standards different from those it uses to judge other countries, and judges its friends by standards different from those it uses for its enemies. This is the feature that Harold Koh identifies as the most costly and problematic aspect of American exceptionalism. The United States criticizes other states for ignoring the reports of UN rights bodies, while refusing to accept criticism of its own domestic rights performance from the same UN bodies. This is especially the case in relation to capital punishment in general and the execution of juveniles in particular, as well as conditions of detention in U.S. prisons.18 Overseas, the United States condemns abuses by hostile regimes--Iran and North Korea, for example--while excusing abuses by such allies as Israel, Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, and Uzbekistan. It has been condemned for arming, training, and funding death squads in Latin America in the 1980s, while condemning the guerrillas as terrorists. Hence when the United States called for a global war on all forms of terrorism after September 11, it faced accusations that its own policies toward attacks on civilians had been guilty of double standards. 19

The third form of exceptionalism--legal isolationism--characterizes the attitude of the U.S. courts toward the rights jurisprudence of other liberal democratic countries. The claim here is that American judges are exceptionally resistant to using foreign human rights precedents to guide them in their domestic opinions. As Justice Antonin Scalia remarked, when rejecting a colleague's references to foreign jurisprudence in deciding Printz v. US, "We think such comparative analysis inappropriate to the task of interpreting a constitution."20 This judicial attitude is anchored in a broad popular sentiment that the land of Jefferson and Lincoln has nothing to learn about rights from any other country. As Anne-Marie Slaughter points out in her contribution, this American judicial self-sufficiency is exceptional when compared to other judiciaries, with judges in Israel inspecting Canadian precedents on minority rights cases, and judges in the South African Constitutional Court studying German cases to interpret social and economic rights claims.21 Historically, the American judiciary has stood apart from the trend toward comparative legal problem solving, although as Slaughter also points out, law is being globalized, like commerce and communications, and in the process American lawyers and judges are being drawn into the global conversation.

The American legal profession in general has not ignored global human rights developments, and American academic experts like Thomas Franck, Louis Henkin, and Thomas Buergenthal have played key roles in international rights institutions.22 American constitutional scholars assisted their Eastern European and South African counterparts in drafting constitutions, and U.S. programs of democracy development abroad have an increasingly important rule-of-law component.23 But the trade in legal understanding continues to be mostly one-way, with the U.S. legal tradition teaching others but not learning much itself. As Frank Michelman points out in his contribution, American judicial interpretation is marked by what he calls "integrity-anxiety," a concern to maintain rules of judicial interpretation that are stable, continuous, and legitimate. These stable canons can appear threatened by indiscriminate or undisciplined recourse to foreign precedents and sources. In addition to concerns about the stability of the interpretive canon, there is the belief of some American judges that foreign judicial attitudes are too liberal--on issues like the death penalty, abortion, sentencing, and so on--and should be resisted as alien to the American mainstream.24

American mainstream values are more than just the artifact of American conservatism since the 1960s. These values are structured legally by a rights tradition that has always been different from those of other democratic states and increasingly diverges from international human rights norms. As Frederick Schauer shows in his essay, in its free speech and defamation doctrine the United States has always been more protective of speakers' rights than any other liberal democratic state. Canada, France, and Germany permit the punishment of Holocaust deniers. New Zealand criminalizes incitement to racial hatred. UK libel laws provide more remedies against UK newspapers than would be conceivable in the United States.

U.S. law and international human rights standards also diverge markedly. International human rights laws allow more infringements of private liberty, in the name of public order, than do U.S. laws. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights mandates specific overrides of free speech if the free speech involves a threat to public order, the defamation of a religious or ethnic group, or the promotion of war propaganda. When the United States ratified the ICCPR, it specifically exempted itself from these provisions, just as it exempted itself from the ICCPR prohibition on juvenile execution.25 The European Human Rights Convention permits states to suspend political and civil rights in times of national emergency, while the U.S. Constitution has no provision for the declaration of national emergencies and only a single reference to presidential power to suspend habeas corpus.26

The U.S. Constitution makes no reference to socioeconomic and welfare rights--entitlements to food, shelter, health care, and unemployment insurance--that are standard features of both international rights regimes and the constitutions of European states. As Cass Sunstein points out in his contribution, U.S. rights, moreover, are defined in negative terms ("Congress shall make no law"), while modern democratic constitutions enunciate rights as positive entitlements to welfare and assistance at the hand of the state. Certain U.S. constitutional rights like the right to bear arms do not feature in other democratic systems.27 Hence no American ally approaches the problem of regulating the international trade in small arms with this constitutional restraint in mind.

While the West presents an appearance of a common rights identity to the non-Western world, its leader--the United States--increasingly stands apart. As international rights conventions proliferate, as newer states like South Africa adopt new rights regimes and older states like Canada constitutionalize rights in new charters of rights and freedoms, the American Bill of Rights stands out in ever sharper relief, as a late eighteenth-century constitution surrounded by twenty-first-century ones, a grandfather clock in a shop window full of digital timepieces.

There is more to the distinctiveness of American rights culture than the fact that the U.S. Constitution is one of the oldest in existence. As various contributions to this book make clear, U.S. rights guarantees have been employed in the service of a political tradition that has been consistently more critical of government, more insistent on individual responsibility, and more concerned to defend individual freedom than the European socialist, social democratic, or Christian democratic traditions.

Changes in European law have widened the legal gulf that now divides the North Atlantic states. The U.S. legal tradition once shared a great deal with British common law. Thanks to the UK's recent incorporation of the European Human Rights Convention into its domestic law, the British rights system now shares more with the Europeans than with the Americans. The British have accepted the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights; whenever that court hands down a ruling requiring legislative or administrative change, Parliament obliges.28 Such deference to a transnational legal authority would be unthinkable in the United States. All of this helps to reduce the commonality of the common law tradition and to increase the degree to which American rights culture has become an outlier among the other liberal democracies.

Explaining American Exceptionalism

Four types of explanation for American exceptionalism have been offered by the scholars in this volume: a realist one, based in America's exceptional power; a cultural one, related to an American sense of Providential destiny; an institutional one, based in America's specific institutional organization; and finally a political one, related to the supposedly distinctive conservatism and individualism of American political culture.


A realist explanation of American exceptionalism would begin with America's exceptional global power since 1945. Exceptionally powerful countries get away with exemptions in their multilateral commitments simply because they can. Human rights and humanitarian law instruments are weakly enforced in any event. The United States can exempt itself from the ICC--and try to block its operation--because no other country or group of countries has the power to stop it. No other state has the capacity to sanction the United States if it ducks compliance with the Vienna Law of Treaties, ignores the derogation procedures of human rights conventions, and delays ratification of other treaties for decades.

On a realist account, support for international law and willingness to submit to its constraints would be in inverse relation to a state's power. The less powerful a state, the more reason it would have to support international norms that would constrain its more powerful neighbors. The more powerful a state, the more reluctant it would be to submit to multilateral constraint. Support for international law is bound to be strongest among middling powers like France, Germany, and Canada, democratic states that already comply with multilateral rights norms in their own domestic rights regimes, and that want to use international law to constrain the United States. As Joseph Nye, Jr., has put it, "multilateralism can be used as a strategy by smaller states to tie the United States down like Gulliver among the Lilliputians."29 Thus for middling powers the cost of their own compliance with human rights and humanitarian law instruments is offset by the advantages they believe they will derive from international law regimes that constrain larger powers. For the United States the calculus is reversed. Moreover, as a country with a substantive commitment to the rule of law, not to mention vigilant human rights NGOs, the United States has to take treaty obligations seriously. Faced with strong domestic NGO lobbies seeking actual compliance with human rights treaties, administrations of both parties have rational reasons to endeavor to minimize the sovereignty constraints introduced by international human rights agreements.30

Realist explanations of this sort do help to explain why the United States would want to minimize the constraints imposed on it by a multilateral human rights and humanitarian law regime. A realist would argue that the United States seeks to maintain its power in a global order of states at the lowest possible cost to its sovereignty. In this, it behaves just like other states. The problem with realist explanations is that the United States has wanted to do much more than this. It has promoted the very system of multilateral engagements--human rights treaties, Geneva Conventions, UN Charter rules on the use of force and the resolution of disputes--that abridge and constrain its sovereignty. Realism alone cannot account for the paradox of American investment in a system that constrains its power. Strident unilateralism or strict isolationism are easier to explain on realist grounds than is the actual pattern of exceptionalist multilateralism.


What realism fails to explain is why multilateral engagements that do constrain American power have appealed to American leaders as different as Roosevelt and Reagan. It seems impossible to explain this paradox without some analysis of culture--specifically, of the way in which American leaders have understood the relation between American constitutional values and human rights. Across the political spectrum since 1945, American presidents have articulated a strongly messianic vision of the American role in promoting rights abroad. This messianic cultural tradition has a long history, from the vision of the Massachusetts Bay Colony as a "City upon a Hill" in the sermons of the Puritan John Winthrop, through the rhetoric of Manifest Destiny that accompanied westward expansion in the nineteenth century, the Wilsonian vision of U.S. power making the world safe for democracy after World War I, and Roosevelt's crusade for the "four freedoms" in World War II.31 The global spread of human rights has coincided with the American ascendancy in global politics and has been driven by the missionary conviction that American values have universal significance and application. What is important here is the conflict between national interest and messianic mission. Messianism has propelled America into multilateral engagements that a more realist calculation of interest might have led the nation to avoid. In American domestic politics, this sense of mission has refigured the ideal of a multilateral order of international law, not as a system of constraints on U.S. power, but as a forum in which U.S. leadership can be exercised and American intuitions about freedom and government can be spread across the world.

This desire for moral leadership is something more than the ordinary narcissism and nationalism that all powerful states display. It is rooted in theparticular achievements of a successful history of liberty that U.S. leaders have believed is of universal significance, even the work of Providential design. For most Americans human rights are American values writ large, the export version of its own Bill of Rights.

But if human rights are American values writ large, then, paradoxically, Americans have nothing to learn from international human rights. In the messianic American moral project, America teaches the meaning of liberty to the world; it does not learn from others.32 Messianism does help to explain the paradox of exceptional multilateralism. Indeed, it suggests that American exceptionalism is not so paradoxical after all: since 1945 the United States has explicitly sought to fulfill its messianic mission at the lowest possible cost to its national interest and with the lowest possible impingement upon its own domestic rights system. U.S. policy, across administrations both Republican and Democratic, has been designed both to promote American values abroad and to safeguard them from foreign interference at home.

As Paul Kahn observes in his chapter, this concern to ward off foreign influence is more than just a powerful state's attempt to make the rules and exempt itself from them. The United States defends these exemptions in terms of the democratic legitimacy of its distinctive rights culture. The rights that Americans accept as binding are the ones written down in their own sacred texts and elaborated by their own courts and legislatures. These rights, authored in the name of "we the people," are anchored in the historical project of the American Revolution: a free people establishing a republic based in popular sovereignty. A realist account would explain exceptionalism as an attempt to defend U.S. sovereignty and power. The messianic account adds to this the idea that the United States is defending a mission, an identity, and a distinctive destiny as a free people.

Despite the fact that ratification of international conventions through the Senate is supposed to vest them with full domestic political authority, international human rights law, Kahn argues, continues to lack the full imprimatur of American democratic legitimacy. Only domestic law, authored in American institutions, meets the test of legitimacy as an authentic expression of national sovereignty. This point can be illustrated by the most controversial issue at stake, discussed by Carol Steiker in her contribution, the death penalty statutes enforced in twenty-eight American states. If the people of the state of Texas conscientiously believe that the death penalty deters crime, eliminates dangerous offenders, and gives public expression to the values that ought to hold Texas society together--as repeated polls indicate that they do--it is hardly surprising that such majoritarian political preferences should trump international human rights.

The contrast between American and European practice on the death penalty may depend on the institutional power that American voters possess in defining the balance between individual rights and collective moral preferences. Capital punishment has been abolished in most European societies not because electoral majorities support abolition--most polls across Europe indicate continuing support--but because political elites, especially ministers of the interior or home affairs, do not want the moral burden of ordering executions. These moral scruples are in direct contradiction to the expressed preferences of their own citizens.

If this is true, then the European human rights conventions that sustain the abolition of capital punishment are playing an antimajoritarian role in counterbalancing electoral preferences. It seems unlikely that international rights conventions or instruments could ever play such a role in the United States. Rights in America are the rules that a democratic polity constructs to define the scope of public authority. American exceptionalism may be anchored in a fundamental difference with other democratic states about the appropriate relation between rights and majority interests, and in turn the relation between rights and national identity. From an American perspective, rights cannot be separated from the democratic community they serve; they are enforced by that community, and their interpretation must therefore depend solely on the institutions of that community.33

America is not the only powerful state that has articulated its identity in terms of its rights and believed in a special mission to export its vision of government. From Napoleon onward, France sought to export its legal culture to neighbors and colonies as part of a civilizing mission.34 The British Empire was sustained by the conceit that the British had a special talent for government that entitled them to spread the rule of law to Kipling's "lesser breeds."35 In the twentieth century, the Soviet Union advanced missionary claims about the superiority of Soviet rule, backed by Marxist pseudoscience. Indeed the United States and the Soviet Union each battled for the allegiance of developing nations by advancing messianic claims about the universal validity of their own rights systems. The Soviets sought to convince newly independent countries in Africa and Asia of the superiority of Soviet social and economic guarantees, while the Americans insisted that civil and political rights, guaranteeing property and political participation, were the sine qua non of development. It was not until a faltering Soviet regime signed the Helsinki Final Accord in 1976, allowing the formation of human rights NGOs in the Eastern Bloc, that the Soviets effectively admitted that there were not two human rights cultures in the world but one, in which social and economic rights enjoyed equality of status with civil and political ones.36

Viewed against this historical perspective, what is exceptional about American messianism is that it is the last imperial ideology left standing in the world, the sole survivor of imperial claims to universal significance. All the others--the Soviet, the French, and the British--have been consigned to the dustbin of history. This may help to explain why a messianic ideology, which many Americans take to be no more than a sincere desire to share the benefits of their own freedom, should be seen by so many other nations as a hegemonic claim to interference in their internal affairs.

The realist account, when combined with the emphasis on American messianic destiny, helps to explain the power dynamics and the distinctive ideology that shaped American participation in the postwar human rights order. But neither the realist account nor the messianic account is sufficiently fine-grained to account for the fact that American policy has changed in the past and may change in the future. American exceptionalism is not set in stone. Neither national interest nor messianic ideology dictates that it will persist forever.


A third explanation would get at these fine-grained and contingent features of American exceptionalism by stressing the distinctiveness of American institutions. Frank Michelman points out that judicial review is more strongly entrenched in the American system of government than in any other liberal democracy. With this entrenchment of judicial power goes a strong institutional imperative to safeguard prerogatives of judicial interpretation and keep them immune to foreign influence. Andrew Moravcsik also focuses on institutional factors, stressing the decisive importance of U.S. federalism and the ratification process for treaties in the U.S. Senate.37 The U.S. system devolves significant powers to the states, meaning that key dimensions of human rights behavior--like punishment--remain beyond the legislative purview of the central state, as they are in many European countries. Even if it wanted to do so, the United States lacks a central instrument to harmonize U.S. domestic law in the light of international standards. Next, the U.S. Senate requires two-thirds majorities for ratification of international treaties, thus imposing a significantly higher bar to incorporation of international law than do other liberal democracies. These institutional features, created by the founders to protect citizens from big government or from foreign treaties threatening their liberties, impose exceptional institutional barriers to statutory and nationwide compliance with international human rights.

In addition to different institutions, the United States has had a distinctive history of political stability, which increases its sense of political self-sufficiency and reduces incentives to stabilize its own institutions with foreign treaties. Moravcsik argues that the United States has never faced fascism or occupation at home or a credible threat of foreign invasion or subversion. What drove the Western Europeans to create the European Convention on Human Rights was the catastrophe of two world wars, followed by the vulnerability of their postwar democracies. A common human rights framework, enforced by a supranational court, was accepted by sovereign states because it was held to "lock in" the stability of the new democratic regimes in Italy, Germany, and France, against both communist subversion and the resurgence of fascism. Thus sovereign European states reluctantly accepted an enforceable transnational human rights regime limiting their sovereignty because it appeared to protect their democratic experiment. The United States had no such incentive to surrender its sovereign prerogatives as a state and has continued to regard transnational international law regimes as potential violations of its democratic sovereignty.


Beyond these institutional factors, Moravcsik argues that in comparison to post-1945 Europe, American political culture is significantly more conservative and more influenced by evangelical religious minorities on certain key rights issues relating to abortion, family law, women's rights, and gay marriage. This makes it unlikely that American opinion will ever align with the more liberal international consensus articulated in human rights conventions. The historical strength of American conservatism might qualify as a fourth factor explaining American exceptionalism. It is worth adding, however, that conservatism is not a synonym for isolationism. Evangelical conservatism has been a driving force behind the cause of religious freedom in China and Sudan. Evangelical conservatism also helped to inspire the intervention in Iraq, configuring it for American domestic consumption as a campaign to bring democracy to the oppressed and unfree.

If America has been more conservative on key human rights issues than Europe, and more inclined toward engagement in issues of religious freedom than more secular Europeans, the next question is whether this conservative orientation is a permanent or a passing difference. Cass Sunstein remarks that the conservative ascendancy in American politics since the late 1960s makes it easy to forget just how strong its ideological competitor--social liberalism and liberal internationalism--used to be. Beginning with Roosevelt's speech to the 1944 Democratic Convention, calling for a second bill of rights, guaranteeing rights to work, food, housing, and medical care, a liberal political consensus in Congress and in the courts drove toward statutory creation of social and economic entitlements, culminating in the social reform legislation of Lyndon Johnson's Great Society and the momentous decisions of the Warren Court.38 At the high-water mark of American liberalism in the mid-1960s, America would not have looked exceptional. The attitudes of its courts and legislatures toward welfare rights and entitlements would have seemed consistent with the European social democratic consensus of the period. Likewise, in that decade, as Steiker points out, America seemed poised to join the abolitionist consensus emerging in the North Atlantic countries. In the international sphere, at least until the Vietnam debacle, there were relatively few criticisms of American exceptionalism among its allies. The United States exercised global leadership through multilateral alliances and treaties. This period of North Atlantic convergence, however, was brief. Sunstein argues that the social revolution of the 1960s produced a conservative counterreaction, beginning with the Nixon administration and the Burger Court, that endures to this day. In international politics, the conservative ascendancy in American politics has been marked, since Ronald Reagan, by a reassertion of nationalist and exceptionalist rhetoric and policy.

The conservative counterrevolution in American politics does help to explain why America's human rights performance, at home and abroad, has diverged from those of its democratic allies since the 1960s. But there remains a question of whether this is a permanent or a passing phenomenon. If Sunstein is correct, American exceptionalism may wax and wane according to the political fortunes of conservatism and liberalism, evangelicalism and secularism, in American domestic opinion.

Already, one key explanatory factor driving American exceptionalism in human rights--America's particular experience of slavery and racism--may be passing into history. Slavery and segregation made America exceptional among liberal democratic states, and southern politicians led the opposition to American adoption of international rights regimes from the late 1940s to the 1960s.39 Eisenhower withdrew the United States from participation in the drafting of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in the 1950s largely to appease southern conservative senators. The same politicians who wielded states' rights arguments against the use of federal power to desegregate the South invoked national sovereignty arguments to resist adoption or implementation of international rights regimes. Conservative southern hostility to the use of federal power to promote civil rights at home extended to the use of international human rights to promote racial equality.40 This dire historical experience may now be over. In the wake of the success of U.S. federal civil rights legislation, U.S. and international human rights norms on racial equality largely coincide. The United States is rarely in the dock of international opinion on matters of domestic race relations, and the rejectionist stance of southern Democrats and Republicans to international human rights standards on race is losing its political influence.

Southern conservatives, however, are still bastions of opposition to international law. Jesse Helms and other southern senators have fought measures like the ICC while they also oppose conventions on the rights of the child and the elimination of discrimination against women because these appear to impose secular and liberal doctrines about family discipline.41 The United States is thus alone among liberal democracies in having a strong domestic political constituency opposed to international human rights law on issues of family and sexual morality. The same constituency has succeeded in turning the ICC into an issue of patriotism--that is, a question of how to preserve U.S. service personnel from vexatious international prosecutions by anti-American foreign prosecutors.42 For the moment at least, the domestic conservative forces that have made America exceptional remain in the ascendant.

Evaluating American Exceptionalism

If the previous analysis is correct, then current American exceptionalism, therefore, is fundamentally explained by the weakness of American liberalism. American commitment to international human rights has always depended on the political fortunes of a liberal political constituency, and as these fortunes have waxed and waned, so has American policy toward international law.

The first question in evaluating American exceptionalism is whether it is likely to be an enduring or a passing feature of American involvement in the international order. The contributors to this volume disagree on this matter. Sunstein emphasizes contingency, the unique combination of factors that produced the conservative counterrevolution of the sixties. If exceptionalism in social and economic rights is tied to this alone, then there is good reason to think that the tide of political opinion will turn. Such a view might draw further confirmation from Carol Steiker's essay on the death penalty: she notes that far from always having been in favor of capital punishment, the United States had joined in the abolitionist tide moving through other liberal democracies, like Canada, the UK, Germany, and France, and reversed itself only in the 1970s. This suggests that death penalty exceptionalism may not be as enduring as America's current outlier position might imply.

Other contributors also think American exceptionalism may be a passing phenomenon, but they do so for different reasons. Anne-Marie Slaughter, John Ruggie, and Frank Michelman focus on the rapid growth of transnational networks that have emerged to address problems that can't be resolved solely within national jurisdictions. These networks--anchored within the UN, the WTO, the European Union, and other international frameworks--are drawing American lawyers, NGOs, and policy makers into an ever tighter web of negotiations and deal making on issues ranging from human rights, to climate change, to corporate social responsibility, international trade, company law, and market regulation. Slaughter argues that the United States cannot remain disengaged from these developments. It will have ever stronger incentives to become less exceptional, to align its laws, markets, trade practices, and even its domestic rights with those of other states. Some of its most urgent national security problems, like terrorism, cannot be solved unilaterally and require ever closer multilateral cooperation with other states. Exceptionalism, in other words, may be out of step with globalization and with the convergence of state interests and practices in an interdependent world.

Other contributors, especially those who stress the historical distinctiveness of American institutions and rights, are skeptical that globalization equals convergence. Frederick Schauer sees no evidence that as America interacts with the free speech doctrines of other democratic states, its First Amendment doctrine will begin to change. Nor does he see any evidence that other nations are converging toward American norms in free speech and defamation law. Andrew Moravcsik, likewise, sees no evidence that the differences of institutional history and political culture between the United States and Europe are diminishing. Increasing integration of economic and security policy across the North Atlantic does not necessarily produce convergence in political vision or rights policy. Finally, Paul Kahn is probably the most intransigent believer in the unchanging nature of American exceptionalism. In his analysis, exceptionalism will endure because it is so deeply tied to the American commitment to sovereignty as an ideal of republican self-rule born of a revolutionary act of national self-creation.

Whether exceptionalism is an enduring or a passing phenomenon, it remains to determine whether it is a good or a bad thing. Here too the contributors divide sharply and so has academic debate.

From the 1950s through the 1970s, the liberal academic consensus held American exceptionalism to be a very bad thing indeed. The liberal international lawyers, like Thomas Franck and Louis Henkin, who believed passionately in America's role as a creator of international law, regarded American withdrawal from the international human rights drafting table from 1953 onward with unqualified dismay.43 They believed that international law could not develop without American leadership, and they believed that the international order should reflect American values. Yet this liberal consensus never went unchallenged. It always faced opposition from an influential strand of conservative and nationalist legal thinking, represented in the American Bar Association, some of whose chief members, suspicious of international law and of international organizations, led the opposition to the Genocide Convention and other international agreements.44 Beginning in the 1980s, a conservative legal counterattack gained ground, taking a strongly Americanist or nationalist view of international law. Academic lawyers like John Bolton, Jeremy Rabkin, and Jack Goldsmith questioned the liberal assumption that American rights conduct needed to measure up to international standards.45 By 2000, the conservative nationalist consensus had influential support inside the George W. Bush administration, and their influence helped to drive the administration's fierce opposition to the ICC, its withdrawal from Kyoto, and even its insistence that the United States had the right to interpret the Geneva Conventions and the Torture Convention as it pleased. For conservative nationalists, the most powerful state cannot be tied down, like Gulliver, by international human rights norms. Its effectiveness as a world leader depends on being free of such constraints. Besides, its rights performance at home does not stand in need of lessons from abroad. The conservatives did more than defend American national pride and national interest. They raised a key argument of principle: why should a republic, based in the rule of law, be constrained by international agreements that do not have the same element of democratic legitimacy?

In addition to a "nationalist" justification for exceptionalism, conservatives offer a "realist" argument as well. Far from being a problem, exceptionalism might be a solution. By signing on to international human rights, with reservations and exemptions, by refusing to be bound by agreements that would constrain its sovereignty, the United States manages to maintain leadership in global human rights at the lowest possible cost to its own margin of maneuver as the world's sole superpower.46 Exceptionalism, therefore, achieves a balance: the United States remains within the framework of international human rights law, but on its own terms. Given its preponderant power--and therefore its exceptional influence in the global order--it can dictate these terms. The rest of the world can choose to concede these exceptional terms, or to see the United States stand aside and take either a unilateralist or an isolationist turn. Exceptionalism is the functional compromise, therefore, that enables America to be a multilateral partner in the human rights enterprise.

A liberal internationalist would reply that if America wants to be a human rights leader, it must be consistent. It must obey the rules it seeks to champion. Leadership depends on legitimacy and legitimacy requires consistency. Certainly double standards increase resistance to American leadership, whether the issue is Palestine or Iraq. Double standards also diminish the lure of American example. But the argument that American exceptionalism is a costly mistake cannot be pushed too far. The fact that the United States exempts itself from some international norms does not diminish its capacity to enforce others. U.S. resistance to a permanent criminal court did not preclude its supporting the Hague tribunal or using its influence with Serbia to bring Slobodan Milos evic ΄ to justice. In Iraq, the United States behaved in an exceptional and unilateralist manner, but the overthrow of the Ba'athist regime was a substantively just outcome. If it had bowed to world opinion on the use of force, a rights-violating regime would still be in power. Multilateralism is a good thing, therefore, only if it produces substantively just results.

Nor has American exceptionalism prevented the development of international human rights and humanitarian law. Other states have taken the lead in developing the ICC statute, and the Land Mines Treaty is in existence despite U.S. opposition. The European Convention on Human Rights did not wait for American inspiration. Of course, there are limits to what other states can achieve when the world's most powerful state opposes or refuses to engage. But equally, American leadership has not proven as crucial, nor its opposition as damaging, to international law as either American internationalists or their European allies are prone to believe.

As John Ruggie points out, American opposition cannot stop multilateral transnational institutions and problem-solving networks from emerging. America may be exceptional in its illusion that it can exempt itself from these processes, but this, Ruggie argues, would be to swim against the tide of increasing international cooperation to master the problems that national governments cannot master on their own. So whether exceptionalism is a good or a bad thing, it may impose increasing costs on the United States in a globalizing world.

Exceptionalism can also directly damage U.S. national security interests. Stanley Hoffmann argues that America's unilateral arrogance in Iraq has alienated friends, made needless enemies, forced the United States to go it alone, and increased the cost of its projection of power overseas. To this might be added the evidence from Abu Ghraib prison. A country that thinks it is too virtuous, too exceptional, to pay respect to the Geneva Conventions and begins to write its own rules about detention, interrogation, and special status can end up violating every value it holds dear. In other words, what Jefferson called "decent respect for the opinions of mankind"--voluntary compliance with international humanitarian law and human rights law--may be essential for the maintenance of American honor and its own values overseas.

Human rights exceptionalism, especially double standards, may also end up endangering U.S. security. America's Iraq policy over the past twenty years demonstrates that when the United States supports authoritarian regimes, ignoring their human rights performance, these authoritarian rulers can metamorphose into a national security threat. Ignoring the rights behavior of Saddam Hussein in the 1980s turned out to be a disaster for U.S. interests in the Gulf region, as did turning a blind eye to the abuses of Sukarno of Indonesia. Pressuring them, before it was too late, to make changes, or quarantining them as a future danger, would have paid better dividends to U.S. security than keeping quiet about their abuses. Reducing double standards requires rethinking the supposed conflict between human rights and security interests. If U.S. policy consistently used human rights standards as a predictor of internal stability and external dangerousness, it would make better national security judgments about whom to trust and whom it can rely on. If it used its security relationships to pressure regimes toward better human rights performance, it would contribute something to stabilizing the regions where U.S. security interests are at stake.

This complementarity between human rights and national security interests is acknowledged, at least at the rhetorical level, in the national security policy of the George W. Bush administration. President Bush's speech in 2003 to the National Endowment for Democracy contends that America's national security interests in the Arab world depend upon the promotion of women's rights, political participation, and market reforms.47 It is by no means certain that this rhetoric will be transformed into practice, or even whether it can be. What is certain is that turning a blind eye to the human rights abuses rampant in the Arab regimes has eroded U.S. influence by rendering the United States complicit with regimes that have lost the confidence of their people.

Finally, any evaluation of American exceptionalism fundamentally expresses a certain preference for a certain type of America. Those who wish America were less exceptional are actually expressing the desire for it to be a certain kind of good international citizen, one bound, despite its exceptional power, by multilateral definitions of appropriate state responsibility toward its citizens and rules relating to the use of force against other states. The virtue of this multilateral identity is that it would make America more attractive to itself, a benevolent superpower voluntarily restricting its sovereignty for the sake of the greater global good.

The question to ask of this benevolent liberal internationalism is whether it has any sustained electoral appeal among the American public. Under Franklin Roosevelt's leadership, this image was briefly anchored in a constituency of political support. But the fate of this image of American identity has been tied to the fortunes of American liberalism, and these fortunes have not fared well in the past thirty years. For now a liberal multilateralism is more liberal than most Americans would be comfortable to be: against the death penalty, in favor of allowing American citizens to be tried in international courts, and in favor of surrendering some freedom of maneuver to the United Nations. The country that is often called the last fully sovereign nation on earth has yet to be convinced that it stands to gain from this identity.


As a language of moral claims, human rights has gone global by going local, by establishing its universal appeal in local languages of dignity and freedom. As international human rights has developed and come of age, not much attention has been paid to this process of vernacularization. We must ask whether any of us would care much about rights if they were articulated only in universalist documents like the Universal Declaration, and whether, in fact, our attachment to these universals depends critically on our prior attachment to rights that are national, rooted in the traditions of a flag, a constitution, a set of founders, and a set of national narratives, religious and secular, that give point and meaning to rights. We need to think through the relation between national rights traditions and international standards, to see that these are not in the antithetical relation we suppose. American attachment to its own values is the condition and possibility of its attachment to the universal, and it is only as the universal receives a national expression that it catches the heart and the conviction of citizens.

American exceptionalism lays bare the relation between the national and the universal in the rights cultures of all states that have constitutional regimes of liberty. The question is what margin of interpretation should be allowed these nations in their human rights performance, and what margin shades into a permissive surrender of those values that should be universal for all nations. If all nations are, at least to their own citizens, exceptional, we want an international rights culture that welcomes, rather than suppresses, authentic national expressions of universal values. Americans will not believe any truths to be self-evident that have not been authored by their own men and women of greatness, by Jefferson and Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Sojourner Truth. The American creed itself--because it speaks so eloquently of the equality of all peoples--enjoins Americans to deliberate, to listen, to engage with other citizens of other cultures. This is what a modern culture of rights entails, even for an exceptional nation: to listen, to deliberate with others, and if persuasive reasons are offered them, to alter and improve their own inheritance in the light of other nations' example. The critical cost that America pays for exceptionalism is that this stance gives the country convincing reasons not to listen and learn. Nations that find reasons not to listen and learn end up losing.

[Oct 28, 2013] stan van houcke The End of Hypocrisy


Hypocrisy is central to Washington's soft power -- its ability to get other countries to accept the legitimacy of its actions -- yet few Americans appreciate its role. Liberals tend to believe that other countries cooperate with the United States because American ideals are attractive and the U.S.-led international system is fair. Realists may be more cynical, yet if they think about Washington's hypocrisy at all, they consider it irrelevant. For them, it is Washington's cold, hard power, not its ideals, that encourages other countries to partner with the United States.

Of course, the United States is far from the only hypocrite in international politics. But the United States' hypocrisy matters more than that of other countries. That's because most of the world today lives within an order that the United States built, one that is both underwritten by U.S. power and legitimated by liberal ideas. American commitments to the rule of law, democracy, and free trade are embedded in the multilateral institutions that the country helped establish after World War II, including the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the United Nations, and later the World Trade Organization. Despite recent challenges to U.S. preeminence, from the Iraq war to the financial crisis, the international order remains an American one.

This system needs the lubricating oil of hypocrisy to keep its gears turning. To ensure that the world order continues to be seen as legitimate, U.S. officials must regularly promote and claim fealty to its core liberal principles; the United States cannot impose its hegemony through force alone. But as the recent leaks have shown, Washington is also unable to consistently abide by the values that it trumpets. This disconnect creates the risk that other states might decide that the U.S.-led order is fundamentally illegitimate.

Of course, the United States has gotten away with hypocrisy for some time now. It has long preached the virtues of nuclear nonproliferation, for example, and has coerced some states into abandoning their atomic ambitions. At the same time, it tacitly accepted Israel's nuclearization and, in 2004, signed a formal deal affirming India's right to civilian nuclear energy despite its having flouted the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty by acquiring nuclear weapons. In a similar vein, Washington talks a good game on democracy, yet it stood by as the Egyptian military overthrew an elected government in July, refusing to call a coup a coup. Then there's the "war on terror": Washington pushes foreign governments hard on human rights but claims sweeping exceptions for its own behavior when it feels its safety is threatened.

The reason the United States has until now suffered few consequences for such hypocrisy is that other states have a strong interest in turning a blind eye. Given how much they benefit from the global public goods Washington provides, they have little interest in calling the hegemon on its bad behavior. Public criticism risks pushing the U.S. government toward self-interested positions that would undermine the larger world order. Moreover, the United States can punish those who point out the inconsistency in its actions by downgrading trade relations or through other forms of direct retaliation. Allies thus usually air their concerns in private. Adversaries may point fingers, but few can convincingly occupy the moral high ground. Complaints by China and Russia hardly inspire admiration for their purer policies.

The ease with which the United States has been able to act inconsistently has bred complacency among its leaders. Since few countries ever point out the nakedness of U.S. hypocrisy, and since those that do can usually be ignored, American politicians have become desensitized to their country's double standards. But thanks to Manning and Snowden, such double standards are getting harder and harder to ignore.

Imperial 'Exemptionalism' by Nebojsa Malic --

September 21, 2013 | Nebojsa Malic

Just as it seemed the Empire was going to embark on yet another evil little war, a miracle happened on the road to Damascus. A sensible solution proposed by Moscow caught the Washington warmongers off-guard, and removed their justification for war. Between that and the overwhelming lack of popular support, the Empire backed down – for now.

Rage Against Russia

In an unprecedented move, the New York Times published an op-ed by Russian president Vladimir Putin, on September 12. Wishing to address Americans directly, Putin laid out a case for international law, reason and caution, and not allying with Al-Qaeda.

While the response of the general public was overwhelmingly positive, the establishment frothed in rage. The Imperial establishment has long been disdainful of the "uppity" Russians not knowing their place in the brave new world. Putin's chiding about American "exceptionalism" – mentioned in Obama's speech the night before – incensed them even further.

What the Russian president was objecting to wasn't so much the notion of Americans seeing themselves as "exceptional" – after all, what nation does not? – but taking this to mean they are exempt from rules they expect everyone else to follow. The last time a world power construed exceptionalism in this fashion, over 20 million Russians died before that misunderstanding was buried by the rubble of Berlin.

The point of Putin's persuasion was clearly lost on the Beltway bombers. Republican Senator John McCain, who never saw a war he didn't like, went so far as to publish an anti-Putin rant in the Communist daily Pravda a week later.

Unlike Americans, Russians seem to have learned from history. McCain's words ring hollow after the decade-long betrayal of Russian trust following Gorbachev's move to end the Cold War, during which Russia was looted by a pro-American cabal of oligarchs, and humiliated by a belligerent and expanding NATO. The 1999 attack on Serbia was the breaking point, prompting the Russian security establishment to oust the Yeltsin regime in what was effectively a palace coup. Yet despite U.S. officials and US-funded "activists" in Russia repeatedly disputing Putin's legitimacy, the Russian electoral process is far more transparent and accountable than its American counterpart, and Putin enjoys margins of support US presidents can only envy.

For all that, Russia has never been hostile to the US – only to the notion of a world-spanning absolute Empire the US seems to have become. Demonizing Putin and Russia has actually harmed America's national security, as Stephen Cohen recently argued. Except the Empire doesn't care about national interests any more: white-knighting around the world is the default foreign policy in Washington.

A Shining Example

Though Bosnia in 1995 was the pilot episode for "bombs for peace," the 1999 attack on Serbia is usually considered the first true "humanitarian" intervention. Everything that Putin's op-ed listed as wrong and irresponsible in Empire's approach to Syria applies to the Kosovo War: wanton violation of international law, support for terrorism and jihad, false-flag operations and propaganda.

Nor did any of that stop in 1999, when the war officially ended. Just the other day, there was an attack on a EU police patrol, in the north of the occupied province (declared an independent state in 2008). The media quickly implied that the culprits were local Serbs, who have resisted attempts to subject them to Albanian authority.

The particular spot where the EU police was ambushed, however, is in an area controlled by ethnic Albanians, and has already been the site of three attempted false-flag attacks. The last one, in April 2003, failed spectacularly when two terrorists (then members of the NATO-sponsored "Kosovo Protection Corps") died as their demolition charge went off prematurely.

In all likelihood, the latest false-flag attack is another attempt to brute-force the local Serbs into submitting. Under the terms of the "agreement" between Belgrade and the Albanian "government" in Pristina, existing Serbian institutions in the province are to be dismantled and replaced by new local governments, elected on November 3 under "Kosovian" laws. Belgrade has been pushing hard, but the local Serbs have largely refused to go along.

Altered Awareness

Even as such staunch Imperial allies as the UK withdrew support for a war in Syria, the Balkans client states supported it loudly. One could understand Hashim Thaci, the "Prime Minister of Kosovo," backing a scenario that put him in power; or Zlatko Lagumdzija, the Muslim foreign minister of Bosnia, joining his Turkish colleague in hyperbolic comparisons of Syria with the Bosnian War. NATO member Croatia has already taken part in the weapons airlift to the Syrian rebels with enthusiasm. But what possessed the regime in Montenegro to clamor for war?

For its part, the occupied Serbia has declared it would "await guidance from Brussels" on what to think about the whole affair. Such behavior is part of the government's program to "alter the awareness" of the general public into something more acceptable to Brussels and Washington.

After his deputy Aleksandar Vucic went on a media blitz back in August, PM Ivica Dacic followed suit with a recent op-ed in Financial Times (aimed at Western elites, not the masses, since it ended up behind a paywall). In it he waxed pathetic about his "historical" mission to change Serbia into a "normal" country – by giving up land, culture and identity in exchange for a Bright European Future. That such a "future" is most likely to resemble the present of Spain, Portugal, Greece, Ireland, Romania, Bulgaria, etc. is a thought Dacic and his regime absolutely refuse to acknowledge, much less entertain.

To them, it is a heresy, crimethink of the worst kind, to even imagine an alternative to unconditional surrender to the EU and the Empire. They've managed to achieve the same level of reality denial as their masters in Brussels and Washington.

A Dangerous Narrative

It is precisely this internalization of Imperial discourse – coming to love Big Brother, to borrow Orwell's phrase – that enables Empire's delusions about the world to continue, though. After all, how can they be delusions if someone else believes them as well?

Thus fortified, Washington warmongers are trying to shoehorn Syria into the Balkans narrative, even though in reality a Syrian war would be far more destructive and dangerous, not just to the region but to America itself.

Particularly cynical is the claim that they are doing this to "save civilians." In 1999, NATO was fully aware that intervention would endanger the civilians in Kosovo more, yet they attacked anyway. Even activists sympathetic to the Empire now hope there won't be a war against Syria, and don't have fond memories on being on the receiving end of "democratic ordnance."

One of the reasons for the (un)civil war in Syria in the first place is that the Empire has already intervened there, from the very beginning. Just like in Kosovo, however, its proxies are being soundly thrashed by the government, so an escalation to overt war is a way to save their hides, as well as Empire's prestige.

Empire's blundering on Syria has been compared to that of Germany's Kaiser Wilhelm on the eve of WW1. Perhaps that explains the ongoing push to rehabilitate Berlin and Vienna – while shifting the blame onto Russia and Serbia – as the centenary of the Great War approaches.

Reality is not something that can be changed with enough wishful thinking. There is no such thing as a humanitarian bomb. Those who consider themselves above the law aren't police, but rogues. So "exceptional" is the establishment in Washington, these simple truths continue to elude them.

[Aug 18, 2013] LA area Port Traffic Import Traffic Increases in July Hoocoodanode

8/16/2013 Bubblisimo Gerkinov

Someone here linked to this the other day ...

The extreme individualism of Americans is evident on many demographic and political measures. In American Exceptionalism, sociologist Seymour Lipset (1996) documents a long list of the ways that Americans are unique in the Western world.

At the time of Lipset's surveys, compared with other Western industrialized societies, Americans were found to be the most patriotic, litigious, philanthropic, and populist (they have the most positions for elections and the most frequent elections, although they have among the lowest turnout rates). They were also among the most optimistic, and the least class-conscious. They were the most churchgoing in Protestantism, and the most fundamentalist in Christendom, and were more likely than others from Western industrialized countries to see the world in absolute moral terms. In contrast to other large Western industrialized societies, the US had the highest crime rate, the longest working hours, the highest divorce rate, the highest rate of volunteerism, the highest percentage of citizens that went on to post-secondary education, the highest productivity rate, the highest GDP, the highest poverty rate, the highest income inequality rate, and were in the least support of various governmental interventions.

The U.S. is the only industrialized society that never had a viable socialist movement, and was the last country to get a national pension plan, unemployment insurance, accident insurance, and remains the only industrialized nation that does not have a general allowance for families or a national health insurance plan. In sum, there's some reason to suspect that Americans might be different from other Westerners, as Tocqueville noted.

You guys are really conflicted.


Thank you for retrieving this paper. Its earnest attempts to incorporate diverse hypotheses (if not empirical data) in alternative ethnographic categories makes for entertaining reading. For example,

In data on spatial reference systems from 20 languages drawn from diverse societies-including foragers, horticulturalists, agriculturalists, and industrialized populations-only three languages relied on egocentric frames as their single preferred system of reference. All three were from industrialized populations: Japanese, English, and Dutch (Majid et al. 2004).

However, see Majid et al. 2004, "Table 1. Frames of reference [FoR] and ecological determinism," p 5

(Henrich's ahh herring, "only three languages," rather contradicts the salient results of Majid et al. test of the atavistic "language-cognition interface" --a/k/a Whorfian effect-- belatedly formalized by Roger Brown (1986) et seq.)

His mixture of jargon (between WEIRD "evolutionary" social science disciplines) is funny, too.

Mary wrote on Sat, 8/17/2013 - 4:49 am
In the previous section, we discussed Herrmann et. al.'s (2008) work showing substantial differences in punishment between Western and non - Western societies.

While Western countries all clump at one end of Figure 4, the Americans anchor the extreme end of the West's distribution . Perhaps it is for this same reason that Americans have the world's highest worker productivity. Henrich:31 ...wipes tears...

[Aug 14, 2013] Umpire Strikes Out By Andrew J. Bacevich

Review of American Umpire, Elizabeth Cobbs Hoffman, Harvard University Press, 440 pages
August 13, 2013 | The American Conservative


I could make a strong argument about the benefits to mankind of imperial regimes. Certainly this was the case with the Han Chinese, Roman, Ottoman, and British empires. But we would be amiss if we didn't briefly address the downsides to empire.

Maintaining empire is an expensive proposition. I am not familiar with the Chinese dynasties, but I do know that the Roman, Ottoman, and British empires all eventually became financial basket cases. In virtually all of these instances imperial overreach was a major factor. Does this sound familiar? Read David Stockman's latest book to get an idea of how America's warfare state is leading it to financial ruin.

Second, all imperial regimes become arrogant and smug in their attitudes and actions toward outsiders and internal dissenters, which result in constant wars or domestic repression. Britain and France fought numerous wars over the centuries as did the Mongols and the Han Chinese and the Romans and the Persians. Wars and imperialism go hand in hand.

Finally, the idea that the United States is not an imperial power is preposterous on its face. Ask Evo Morales, whose presidential plane was forced down recently on the rumor he just might have Mr. Snowden on board. Or ask the leaders of countries in Latin America who have had to endure in recent decades death squads, resource exploitation, and invasions directed by the Washington elites. Or ask former President Morsi of Egypt, if you can locate him. The idea that America is not an imperialist power is amazing rubbish!

James Canning:

Yes, how convenient to omit discussion of the idiotic and illegal American invasion of Iraq in 2003.


I don't think this article denounces American Umpire strongly enough for its clear triumphantilism and exceptionalism; it's a shameless case of propaganda and imperial apologetics.

As is usual for propagandists, Hoffman claims that it's really the ones who CRITICIZE American imperialism who are contributing to Islamist terrorism, and not American imperialism itself; those who claim the latter are anti-American and, evidently if not directly, pro-Islamist. It's a sick joke and shouldn't be taken seriously as scholarship; it is not only a selective memory, but a deliberate falsification and misdirection of memory.

[Jun 17, 2013] Lying politicians and the voters who elect them by Don Nash

Jan. 25, 2005 | Unknown News

If America was ever faced with a politician who spoke truth to the people, no-one would know what to make of the oddity. This politician could probably not get elected to office. Sadly, Americans can't handle the truth.

In the 'land of the free and the home of the brave', one would think that Americans should be the most enlightened people on our wobbly little planet. On paper and in theory, American democracy is a significant achievement for freedom loving people. "All men/women are created equal." America has a government "of the people, by the people, and for the people." In theory, all Americans are assured "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." The actual day-to-day reality is a sorry imitation of democracy's premise and promise.

Today's America is "post 9/11/01", and isn't that just a pathetic giveaway of our rights and liberties? America's corporate media outlets are barraging the American people with our government's message of "danger, terrorists, Islamist extremists, threats, and remember to trust us." Americans are caught in a Homeland Security hurricane of horrendous warnings. The official talking head for the White House, Scott McClellan, comes on the television almost daily with the official message: "Danger Will Robinson, danger!"

The world is a dangerous place and the funniest little thing is, the world has always been a dangerous place. That isn't any kind of revelatory news. Most of the "dangers" in today's world are the direct result of misguided American governmental intrigues. Third world countries are littered with the wreckage of dictatorships that were propped up by the United States. This global wreckage includes staggering numbers of brutally murdered innocents.

In the wake of America's wreckage is global animosity and outright hatred of all things American, especially America's government. The world usually views America in the shroud of the CIA, which is essentially followed by the obligatory U.S. military's wholesale destruction of whatever third world nation is on the military's search and destroy list. Meanwhile, since little of this murder and mayhem is reported in America's media, the American people scratch their preoccupied heads and wonder at the intensity of global mistrust and the cries for "death to America."

Following World War II, America planted itself into the Korean conflict, the Cold War, the Vietnam War, miscellaneous misadventures in the Middle East that oddly orbit the State of Israel, the Granada War, the Panama War, more miscellaneous misadventures at the behest of Israel, the Gulf War I, and today it is the Preemptive War on Iraq. With the exception of World War II, all of these conflicts were shrouded by the American government in deceit, deception, disingenuous obfuscation, brutal murder, and little by little the lessening of America's freedoms and liberties.

There also needs to be tossed into this mix, various proxy wars on the African continent, obscene Latin American brutalities, and blatant violations of the Geneva Conventions in Southeast Asia. The secret bombings of Laos and Cambodia by Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger will someday be recorded by history as what it was, the horrific genocide and slaughter of innocent people for no reason. And Americans continue to scratch their lied-to heads and wonder why most of our planet's peoples truly hate America.

The American people let their theoretical democracy slip away a little piece at a time. During the war on Vietnam, watching the crush of the world's misery being broadcast into America's living rooms and kitchens nightly on the television, replete with burning Buddhist priests and Vietcong guerillas tossed from helicopters, it all came to be entirely too much. America had to stand back and ask the burning question, "why is this happening?"

America's government couldn't tell the American people the whole truth and nothing but the truth -- that would have required trials for war crimes and crimes against humanity. The U.S. military couldn't tell the American people how they had dropped more bombs on Laos and Cambodia than in all of World War II -- America wasn't even supposed to be in Laos or Cambodia.

So America's politicians stood before the American people and lied. Damnable hellacious lies that covered up for genocide and mass murder. The American people couldn't handle the truth about what American government had, in reality, turned into -- the world's single largest perpetrator of brutal and heinous murder without remorse, without conscience, and without restitution to the global wide families of America's victims.

America's politicians stood before the American people and smiled and told us that everything was fine and that America was the "light of liberty" to the world. The world knows otherwise. The world knows America to be a genocidal maniac and conqueror without moral restraint.

America had its dissident voices that tried to make its citizens aware of the actual plight of America's victims. These voices were drowned out in the din of commercial American indulgence. Crass commercialism became America's mantra for tomorrow, and we have passed this heritage on to America's children. The entire world is America's oyster, fat and ready to be harvested. Americans became brainwashed into corporate compliance and meager servitude to corporate and political America.

A dissident voice spoke out and told America that "the truth is out there," but America decided that was too much work and it is just easier to believe what our government says. The government told America what the American people wanted to hear. The government and the corporate media conspired to blitzkrieg the American people with innuendo and half truth and the illusion of empire.

September 11, 2001 and America gets one deluxe reality check. The American people are never going to get the whole truth from the American government as to why this atrocity happened. America gets "Islamist extremists" and Osama bin Laden. America gets the collapse of the World Trade Towers, broadcast on television over and over and over. America gets "the war on terrorism," without any explanation of why it's become necessary to fight those that hate America. The politicians haven't the courage to stand before the American people and explain that America's blind allegiance to Israel and one-sided approach to the Israeli/Palestinian issues are turning the Muslim world into a cauldron of hate.

American politicians stand before the American people and lie about connections between the sovereign nation of Iraq and 9/11/01, the sovereign nation of Iraq and weapons of mass destruction, the sovereign nation of Iraq and American genocide on the Iraqi people, and the wholesale destruction of the nation that gave the world civilization.

American politicians stand before the American people and lie about how many American service personnel have really been killed in the preemptive war of lies. The politicians lie about the number of American service personnel that have been wounded, their lives are inexplicably changed forever and not for the better.

That then is the heart of a mystery -- why the American people are so fascinated by lies and lying politicians. The American people embrace the lies, and elect politicians that lie, and America calls them its own. Liars seem to never be held to account and therefore, lying genocidal maniacs that have lied their way to the American presidency are elected to second terms of office. And these lying genocidal maniacs lie to America as they swear their oaths of constitutional office.

Lies, then, are the consequential destruction of American democracy. Little by very little, the lies and lying politicians have chipped away at America's Constitution and the American form of government. We the people no longer have access to what was once our government. That is not a lie.

What America receives is a reality-based government that is mere illusion for Homeland Deceit. The descriptive narrative of the death of America's democracy doesn't even receive a footnote, yet, in a history of failed states that were lied into nonexistence by lying politicians and the voters that elect them.

[May 24, 2013] White House Use Metric If You Want, We Don't Care

US is that last semi-literate and hypocritically over-religious nation that thinks that the metric system is the tool of the devil!
May 24, 2013 | Slashdot

Earlier this year we discussed a petition on the White House's 'We The People' site asking the administration to adopt the metric system as the standard system of measurement in the U.S. Today, the administration issued a disappointing response. Simply put: they're not going to do anything about it. They frame their response as a matter of preserving a citizen's choice to adopt whatever measurement system he wants. Quoting Patrick D. Gallagher of the National Institute of Standards and Technology: "... contrary to what many people may think, the U.S. uses the metric system now to define all basic units used in commerce and trade. At the same time, if the metric system and U.S. customary system are languages of measurement, then the United States is truly a bilingual nation. ... Ultimately, the use of metric in this country is a choice and we would encourage Americans to continue to make the best choice for themselves and for the purpose at hand and to continue to learn how to move seamlessly between both systems. In our voluntary system, it is the consumers who have the power to make this choice. So if you like, "speak" metric at home by setting your digital scales to kilograms and your thermometers to Celsius. Cook in metric with liters and grams and set your GPS to kilometers. ... So choose to live your life in metric if you want, and thank you for signing on."


A good place to start would be on all of the federal highway signs.


As I recall, it was required nation-wide during the late 70s. Then Reagan happened.


Reagan said it was a waste of money, so the government spent a lot of money to take the signs down again.


When Canada was switching to metric, dual signage was common. The km/h value was shown first, and the mph was shown in a smaller (but still quite readable) font below it. Usage of "km/h" or "mph" was explicit, to ensure there was no ambiguity.

This transition period lasted for quite some time, and after a while, the signs were ultimately replaced with speed limits listing strictly in km/h (and often the "km/h" was no longer present as well).


This. I think most folks have the wrong idea about how a society actually changes. The people themselves don't change. Once someone is about in their mid-20s or 30s, their habits and preferences become ingrained and are highly unlikely to ever change for the rest of their lives. You're not going to be able to convince them to use metric, so don't even bother trying. Instead, you take advantage of the fact that people grow old and die, and are constantly replaced by younger people.

You introduce a new system in a way that it doesn't upset the older generation while giving the younger generation a chance to get used to it. Then you wait for the older generation to die off. Then you abandon the old system. So introduce signage in both metric and English. Wait a generation or two until the bulk of the population is used to both systems. Then you phase out the English system.


They didn't wait a generation.... the conversion started in Canada, in earnest, in about 1971, and was completed over the course of about 10 years.

Oddly enough, about 5 years after the decade-long process of Canada's conversion to Metric was completed, our then-prime minister ended up abolishing the regulations that really enabled the conversion to happen in the first place. Switching back, since it was not actually legislated any more, was simply too inconvenient, and Canada remained on the metric system ever since.

Anonymous Coward:

Ever since I was in the Army, I've always written my dates as 12-FEB-09, and sometimes when I do so, somebody gives me shit because I don't use the same date format that "everybody else" uses, and it is never a conservative or liberal thing. I could see maybe if I wrote 12/02/09, which would easily be interpreted as either december 9th or february 12th, but I like that date format for the same reason that the Army uses it as standard: There is no ambiguity

So is that 12th Feb 2009, or 9th Feb 2012?


It's not that the US system is hard to use, it's that you're the last outliers (among major developed countries at least) not to switch. It's for the sake of consistency rather than anything else. No more having to program two separate measurement systems into every bit of software. No more wondering WTF 'letter' size paper is anymore when your printer demands it for some reason (i.e. someone in the US has emailed you a document that wants to print on that size paper). Etc.

It'd be no different if everyone ELSE used the US system, and the US were the only people using metric - it would make sense to change. It's not about which system is better, it's about being consistent.

If there were several major countries not using metric yet, then I don't think there'd be the same 'annoyance' with the Americans. But you guys are literally the ... last ... ones. Cmon! :)


Every time a state starts printing metric speed limits, it inevitably ends up rounding the limit DOWN.

I remember one failed experiment where FDOT (Florida) tried to be cute and put up signs declaring "44kph" to be the metric equivalent of 30mph (it's only 27mph). The signs were SO hated, most of them got vandalized beyond recognition within a month, and pretty much ALL of them had the "44" spray painted, X'ed (with black markers), or shot out (with BBs, paintball pellets, or real honest-to-god bullets) by the time FDOT took them down and replaced them with 30mph signs. FDOT later admitted that it was a mistake.

If you want the public to accept metric speed limits, roll them out with a big public campaign that emphasizes that the limits are being RAISED everywhere by up to 5mph. Instantly, metric speed limits will become popular and cool among drivers. Declare 115kph (71.45mph) to be the equivalent of 70mph, and drivers will like them. Round it up to 120kph (74.56mph), and drivers will LOVE them. Try pulling another FDOT stunt by putting up signs saying "70mph/111kph", and they'll get vandalized beyond recognition within days.


That would be the last place to start, as it would cost a fortune to replace all of the highway signs. Not only that, but also all of the mile markers, for which most states have every 1/10 of a mile. Moreover, contrary to what some people have implied, the numbers are generally not painted on, they're fabricated from other materials and overlaid. And for what? So we can convert the length of our commute into a multiple of our height, or something else of the sort? Yes, it's absolutely absurd that there are 12 inches in a foot, 3 feet in a yard, and I-don't-even-know-how-many yards in a mile (and yes, I've heard of Google/Wikipedia; but I just don't care). The truth is, I never need to convert inches into miles. You measure human-scale things in feet and inches, travelling distances in miles.

On the other hand, you know where we should start: volumetric measurements. I have frequently had a recipe that takes some number of teaspoons of a liquid, while having measuring cups measured in (naturally) cups, and nutritional information in ounces. Oh, and keep in mind that most tea spoons are significantly larger than a teaspoon. And then there's tablespoons, pints, quarts, gallons, barrels, and who knows what else. This is a lot harder to keep straight, and unlike miles to inches, sometimes you actually need to convert between these.

Add into the mix the problem that pints differ from place to place (either 16 or 20 oz), and "ounce" is both a volumetric measure and a weight measure. Obviously, if you have something that's clearly a solid or a liquid, it's clear which is which. But what about, say, frozen yogurt. When the self-serve froyo place sells by the ounce, and posts calories by the ounce, it would only be reasonable to think that these are the same ounces. It would also be wrong.

Moreover, in the case of volumetric measures, not only do you have a real problem, but an easier solution: most of the containers that hold liquids are disposable anyways, and constantly manufactured (i.e. food). All that would need to be done is to make containers that are metric-sized, and printed with metric labels, rather than Imperial. In fact, we're closer to that already. By law, all wine and distilled alcohol must be sold in one of several metric sizes (for distilled, it is 375 mL, 750 mL, 1L, 1.75 L, if I recall correctly). Soda is frequently sold in 2 L bottles.

Do that, let people see that metric actually saves time and hassle, and then go about changing other measurements. Weight would probably be the easiest to transition next, followed by lengths for things other than highway signs. (No one will care that they can't easily convert meters into miles, just as they don't care that they can't convert feet into miles). But please don't try to start with highway signs. Or bother with highway signs at all, for that matter. They are the death of metricfication in the US, and insistence on them is only counterproductive to the rest of your goals.


Take your awkward, unnatural metric system back to europe where it belongs

I agree this is nothing the USA can afford to do right now. After all, you need that money to fight the drug war and build more aircraft carriers.

However, while the metric system is many things, 'awkward and unnatural' isn't one of them. You look up 'awkward' in the dictionary and there's the Imperial system. 5280 feet in a mile? 16 ounces in a pound? Water freezes at 32 degrees?

What the hell? It's like if my toddler invented a system of weights and measures.


" It's like if my toddler invented a system of weights and measures." Unlike today, where many units are defined by fundamental physical properties which can be duplicated (to a high accuracy) anywhere, Imperial measurements came from the need to be able to specify units which would be suitably accurate across geographies.

So, we ended up with a foot being, well, the length of a foot. A mile ("mille passus") being 1000 paces, etc. The needs were to measure small units (foot), or large distances (mile), so the conversion wasn't often needed (who builds a mile long building, or steps toe-to-heal across Europe?)

Then you get a pound being equivalent to so many grains of wheat (or a different number of grains of barley), etc.

It made sense at the time, and worked well enough.

BTW, 16 oz in a lb is from binary powers, easily divisible. The history of temperature units is interesting and convoluted, but 32 for freezing is based on binary divisions (64 units) between that and human body temperature (96). 0 was ice+salt. So again, it was an attempt at units which could be duplicated independently.

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Except nobody's feet are exactly 1 foot. Nor is anyone's 1000 paces exactly 1 mile. If those were truly universal measurements, you'd have some point. As they're not, you don't. And in the long term we'd save money by being on the same system as literally every other country in the world by removing the possibility of tooling mistakes, idiocies like NASA Orbiter problem, and additional cost to companies trying to sell in the US of having to have both measurements in their workflows and computer systems.


Fahrenheit is quite useful when you are thinking in terms of human comfort and safety.

Really? Maybe it's because I grew up with only the metric system, but I have absolutely no feeling for fahrenheit. I know that 20 Celsius is a nice summer day, 15 is cool, and -30 is about as cold as it gets where I live. I wouldn't have a clue what "80" or "60" or "20" means in Fahrenheit.

It's all a matter of what you're used to. The US is one of the most conservative and reactionary societies on earth, so I expect it'll still be using Imperial units 50 years from now and probably still retain the penny when you need ten thousand of them to buy a loaf of bread.


It's not a waste of money if the Feds simply say that any new signs paid for with Federal highway funds must have SI units as their primary measure. They should also require auto manufacturers to mark speedometers with km/h (although most already do).

The SI has officially been""the preferred system of weights and measures for United States trade and commerce" since 1975, so it's well past time to make that mean something.

No sympathy for innumerates who find it difficult, because it is in fact much simpler.

Roger W Moore:

It would a frivolous waste of money we dont have to fix something thats not broken.

Ah but it is broken. For a start there is no agreed upon standard for several of the units e.g. fluid ounce for which the Imperial unit is not the same as the US unit which is then further compounded by the fact that there are 20 fluid ounces in a UK pint and only 16 in a US pint. As such it is a completely broken unit system you not only have to memorize an insane number of relationships between units you even have to remember whose imperial-based unit scheme you are using.

However, what makes it s truly broken unit system is that it uses the unit pound for both mass and weight. Yes there have been "hacks" of the system to bring them inline with physical reality so you have the "avoirdupois pound" meaning a mass and the "pound" meaning force. However this means that the units are not clear: when you say "pound" do you mean force or mass? If you need to tweak your unit system to make it consistent with physics that's not really a good sign is it?

If that's still not enough to convince you that there is a problem then consider that there are only three countries in the world still using the old imperial-based system: Liberia, Burma and the USA. There are not many things that practically the entire planet agree upon but apparent metric units is one of them and it is not without good reason!


You want further broken-ness? You cannot just measure the volume of a liquid in US customary units. Nor can you just plop a chunk of stuff on a scale to see how much it weighs. Why? Because different substances use different units. Wine uses different volume units than beer, which is in turn different than the units you would use for water. An ounce of gold is heavier than an ounce of steel, but a pound of gold is lighter than a pound of steel, because the pounds and ounces that you use to measure gold are different than the pounds and ounces you use to measure steel.

Oh, and if you were to dig out your ruler and measure out two survey markers that are supposed to be ten miles apart, you'd find them to be 633601+1/4 inches apart, instead of the 633600 inches you'd expect, because again, the imperial system is broken. Survey miles are different than real miles.

Anonymous Coward:

The metric system is the tool of the devil! My car gets 40 rods to the hogshead and that's the way I likes it. ---- The Simpsons, Abraham Simpson


Not yielding an inch, are they? Imagine the impact it would have on Subway.

the eric conspiracy:

The US is converting gradually to the metric system, and NIST towards that for decades. The definitions of official US units in metric terms was one of those steps.

A lot of things sold in the US are sold in metric containers, for example 2L soft drink containers, many food packages and so on.

The US has also been signatory to every metric measurement treaty.

The petition is really rather silly. Changing the measurement system of a nation is a long and slow process. Even the French had to put it aside for a while (Napolean discontinued the process for a while).

The real shame is the US didn't start this process sooner. Thomas Jefferson actually advocated a decimal system of measures well before the French adopted the metric system but Congress (setting an alarming precedent) failed to act on the proposal. Later Jefferson was successful in getting the US to use a decimal currency, which was the first of it's type in the world.

Is it in contemplation with the House of Representatives to arrange our measures and weights [the same as the coinage] in a decimal ratio? The facility which this would introduce into the vulgar arithmetic would, unquestionably, be soon and sensibly felt by the whole mass of the people, who would thereby be enabled to compute for themselves whatever they should have occasion to buy, to sell, or to measure, which the present complicated and difficult ratios place beyond their computation for the most part

--Thomas Jefferson

Anonymous Coward:

US not ready for globalization

I am european mechanical engineer who worked and lived on 3 continents. The metric system is way superior than the imperial system in many ways but the most important is that it is used everywhere and it is a consistent system*. A lot of companies here in the US have switched to metric (at least for this reason), but soon when asian industrial power will swamp the US market with metric product and parts (in the same way that IKEA did) a lot people in this forum will be lost and realize that a dual system is completly stupid.

* if your not convince ask yourself why in a imperial system electrical power unit is Watt and but heat power it is in Btu/h....


costly and difficult to convert machine tools

I have a machine shop in my garage, which includes a large mill and a lathe. Both have lead screws set to work in thousands of an inch, so one revolution of a handle is a certain subset of inches (.05) with individual tick marks at .001. It is essentially baked into the hardware, and you have to replace the feed wheel dials and lead screws to change it, among other things.

I purchase metal stock that comes in US units as well (1/2" bar stock for example) which corresponds to stock needed for drawings that give all their dimensions in inches. There is a cascading chain of things, all of which need to change.

You will not see me switching my shop to metric in my lifetime most likely.

Converting a large industrial economy over to metric has a lot of hidden costs that make it very difficult to do, because all valves, pipes, fittings, metal stock, screws etc. offerings have to be changed, and imperial parts need to be offered for many decades to come to service older equipment.

The idea itself is a good one as ultimately metric is a more scientifically advanced and clear set of standards than imperial. It's nice to work in a consistently matched base-10 for all scales.

In the case of smaller economies, it is easier to support the change due to much smaller scale and very small industrial base. New Zealand as a country switched over to metric in a single day, after much preparation.

Although the US auto industry has largely gone over to metric, I do not think that the rest of the US is currently in a position to swallow that pill easily. I believe that no matter how much ideologically it makes sense, that it is still political dynamite.

It would be nice if everyone taking up this topic had machine shop and fabrication experience so they would understand just how much it impacts the pipeline from raw stock to finished product. Politicians tend to think in abstracts and statistics and do not always consider all of the consequences. Most of the rest of the population is so far removed from it that they A. don't understand the entirety of the impact and B. as others have said would not benefit significantly from the change.



What's all the whining about, just get it done.

I lived in Canada before, during and after the transition.

Over 30 years later we're all wondering why you're all still whining like little bitches. We'd tell you but you might decide to invade our socialist paradise.


Free to choose

I'd like a car with a metric speedometer/odometer. The only version of the model I want equipped this way is the Euro spec one. The White House says I can have it. NHTSA, the EPA and my state's DOL can go f*ck themselves.

Anonymous Coward

Re:The Spin was Awesome!

Only a left wing extremist, America hating, Kenyan, terroristic, neo-communist, piece of scum like Obama would be pushing this hard for a multicultural approach to a system of measurement.

I demand that my representatives in the House and Senate do everything they can to stop the President in this latest push to destroy what few remaining decent things remain in this once great nation.

We should immediately adopt the metric system as a means to protest this naked grab for power by a mean spirited and hateful administration bent on the destruction of democracy and the last remnants of a Christian faith that sustain us...

[May 13, 2013] Ron Paul: What No One Wants to Hear About Benghazi


Congressional hearings, White House damage control, endless op-eds, accusations, and defensive denials. Controversy over the events in Benghazi last September took center stage in Washington and elsewhere last week. However, the whole discussion is again more of a sideshow. Each side seeks to score political points instead of asking the real questions about the attack on the US facility, which resulted in the death of US Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

Republicans smell a political opportunity over evidence that the Administration heavily edited initial intelligence community talking points about the attack to remove or soften anything that might reflect badly on the president or the State Department.

Are we are supposed to be shocked by such behavior? Are we supposed to forget that this kind of whitewashing of facts is standard operating procedure when it comes to the US government?

Democrats in Congress have offered the even less convincing explanation for Benghazi, that somehow the attack occurred due to Republican sponsored cuts in the security budget at facilities overseas. With a one trillion dollar military budget, it is hard to take this seriously.

It appears that the Administration scrubbed initial intelligence reports of references to extremist Islamist involvement in the attacks, preferring to craft a lie that the demonstrations were a spontaneous response to an anti-Islamic video that developed into a full-out attack on the US outpost.

Who can blame he administration for wanting to shift the focus? The Islamic radicals who attacked Benghazi were the same people let loose by the US-led attack on Libya. They were the rebels on whose behalf the US overthrew the Libyan government. Ambassador Stevens was slain by the same Islamic radicals he personally assisted just over one year earlier.

But the Republicans in Congress also want to shift the blame. They supported the Obama Administration's policy of bombing Libya and overthrowing its government. They also repeated the same manufactured claims that Gaddafi was "killing his own people" and was about to commit mass genocide if he were not stopped. Republicans want to draw attention to the President's editing talking points in hopes no one will notice that if the attack on Libya they supported had not taken place, Ambassador Stevens would be alive today.

Neither side wants to talk about the real lesson of Benghazi: interventionism always carries with it unintended consequences. The US attack on Libya led to the unleashing of Islamist radicals in Libya. These radicals have destroyed the country, murdered thousands, and killed the US ambassador. Some of these then turned their attention to Mali which required another intervention by the US and France.

Previously secure weapons in Libya flooded the region after the US attack, with many of them going to Islamist radicals who make up the majority of those fighting to overthrow the government in Syria. The US government has intervened in the Syrian conflict on behalf of the same rebels it assisted in the Libya conflict, likely helping with the weapons transfers. With word out that these rebels are mostly affiliated with al Qaeda, the US is now intervening to persuade some factions of the Syrian rebels to kill other factions before completing the task of ousting the Syrian government. It is the dizzying cycle of interventionism.

The real lesson of Benghazi will not be learned because neither Republicans nor Democrats want to hear it. But it is our interventionist foreign policy and its unintended consequences that have created these problems, including the attack and murder of Ambassador Stevens. The disputed talking points and White House whitewashing are just a sideshow.

[Mar 26, 2013] Russia thinks USA deliberately trying to wreck the world

March 21, 2013 | American Thinker

This is an excellent piece from Spengler how the Russian leadership - not fringe bloggers or kooks - actually thinks that Presidents Bush and Obama screwed up deliberately and are trying to wreck the world in order to spread our dominion.

"In Russia, most analysts, politicians and ordinary citizens believe in the unlimited might of America, and thus reject the notion that the US has made, and continues to make, mistakes in the [Middle East]. Instead, they assume it's all a part of a complex plan to restructure the world and to spread global domination," writes Fyodor Lukyanov on the Al Monitor website today. Lukyanov, who chairs Russia's Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, laments what he derides as a "conspiracy theory." Nonetheless, he reports, President Vladimir Putin and the Russian elite think that the United States is spreading chaos as part of a diabolical plot for world domination:

From Russian leadership's point of view, the Iraq War now looks like the beginning of the accelerated destruction of regional and global stability, undermining the last principles of sustainable world order. Everything that's happened since - including flirting with Islamists during the Arab Spring, U.S. policies in Libya and its current policies in Syria -- serve as evidence of strategic insanity that has taken over the last remaining superpower.

Russia's persistence on the Syrian issue is the product of this perception. The issue is not sympathy for Syria's dictator, nor commercial interests, nor naval bases in Tartus. Moscow is certain that if continued crushing of secular authoritarian regimes is allowed because America and the West support "democracy," it will lead to such destabilization that will overwhelm all, including Russia. It's therefore necessary for Russia to resist, especially as the West and the United States themselves experience increasing doubts.

It's instructive to view ourselves through a Russian mirror. The term "paranoid Russian" is a pleonasm. "The fact is that all Russian politicians are clever. The stupid ones are all dead. By contrast, America in its complacency promotes dullards. A deadly miscommunication arises from this asymmetry. The Russians cannot believe that the Americans are as stupid as they look, and conclude that Washington wants to destroy them," I wrote in 2008 under the title "Americans play monopoly, Russians chess." Russians have dominated chess most of the past century, for good reason: it is the ultimate exercise in paranoia. All the pieces on the board are guided by a single combative mind, and every move is significant. In the real world, human beings flail and blunder. For Russian officials who climbed the greasy pole in the intelligence services, mistakes are unthinkable, for those who made mistakes are long since buried.

Gee - no wonder the reset isn't working.

Spengler has a point. We elect mediocre people because all the truly excellent ones are running companies, starting a business, or doing something remarkable with their lives. At one time, it might have been true that the upper classes had a sense of noblesse oblige and would offer themselves for national service. Outside of the Kennedy's and a few others, that isn't true anymore. Serving in Congress used to be a sacrifice. Now it's a means to enrich oneself and gain power.

But isn't it kind of scary that the leadership of an important country is so paranoid they have to posit conspiracy theories to explain chaos in the world? Obama isn't interested in increasing American power and influence in the world - something Putin would know if he payed attention at all.

[Mar 02, 2013] Globalisation Recognising that we all live on one small planet

None of us can imagine the world as it really is. Separation of the truth from the fiction about the complex topic called globalisation is difficult. We have to invent a better future.

America acts as though the process of globalisation will inevitably lead the whole world to adopt American ideas and principles. But there is enormous resentment towards the USA in most parts of the world. The USA is seen as a bully with selfish and exploitative objectives. The size of the USA's military budget and the willingness to use the military to "protect America's interests" is a cloud on the horison. America can't be controlled. The question is, "Can America become a democracy and learn to control itself?"

Terrorism isn't the key problem. Poverty, injustice and the lack of effective democratic means to improve local communities is the real problem. Underemployment, insecure jobs, and sweatshop jobs are a curse on every country. Hopelessness is a widespread reality. Economic growth, as commonly understood is not a viable solution. Steady-state Economics might be a solution.

Good governance is an essential key to making any progress. That seems to pose a challenge nobody wants to face. We might begin by making the United Nations a democratic organisation. That means removing the power of veto, and installing a voting system that's more representative of world populations.

[Feb 08, 2013] On Judging American Foreign Policy Human Rights, Political Realism, and the Arrogance of Power by Stephen Eric Bronner

Human rights and political realism offer two very different ways of approaching international affairs.[1] Here is not the place for an extended philosophical disquisition on the relationship between them, let alone their connection with the history of American foreign policy. Human rights and political realism have their unique traditions that are usually seen as starkly opposed to one another. But the interplay between them has become ever more apparent in an increasingly global society. This new blending of human rights with political realism penetrates the basic questions that citizens should be asking in judging American foreign policy in a meaningful way - now and in the future.

Human rights gripped the popular imagination in the aftermath of World War II. It seemed to offer a response to the cynical political realism of totalitarian leaders as well as the barbarism associated with what Daniel Rousset termed "the concentration camp universe" exemplified by Auschwitz and the Gulag.

With the liberation of the formerly colonized world, and the passing of socialism as a mobilizing ideology, the idea of human rights provides new hope for a more civilized world. Human rights have their roots in the Bible, natural law, and classical humanist notions concerning the "dignity of man." But the modern idea of humanity derives from the Enlightenment and the republican revolutions that extended roughly from 1688-1789. This was the era of the rising bourgeoisie whose vision of national self-determination was tied to the liberal republic and a universal understanding of rights.

Each nation, in principle, was seen as having the right to determine its own destiny and the exercise of that right was seen as requiring a liberal state in which individuals enjoyed the benefit of civil liberties.[2] As for political realism, its beginnings can be found in the "Melian Dialogues" from Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War (410 BC) and, even further back, in The Art of War by Sun Tzu (610 BC). Works such as these anticipated Machiavelli's The Prince (1532) – what might be termed the Bible of political realism - and Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan (1651).

Reflecting the rise of the modern absolutist state, these classics evince a fear of democracy, chaos, privilege, authority and stability. They introduce the ideas of raison d'etat and balance of power, sovereignty and leadership, national interest and geopolitical advantage, as well as a modern understanding of the claim that "might makes right." The perspective now associated with human rights, by contrast, were always employed to mitigate the exercise of arbitrary power on the part of states guided by little more than political realism. Thus, human rights and political realism have traditionally been seen as political opposites.

Human rights are predicated on universal assumptions like the liberal rule of law and political realism on national interests. Ethical ends associated with law and liberty fuel human rights while the short-term means for securing power animates political realism. Human rights always privilege the freedom of the individual against the state while political realism champions the exigencies of raison d'etat. Leaving things at that, however, works to the detriment of both human rights and the prudent exercise of political power. If the pursuit of human rights is undertaken without reference to political interests then the policy will prove blind to existing realities. Political realists have noted how often the road to hell has been paved with good intentions. Leading representatives of the realist tradition like George Kennan and Hans Morgenthau always insisted that recognizing the crass reality of power is the necessary condition for both defending and furthering freedom. But it is not sufficient. Simply trumpeting interest and power is just as dangerous. It breeds distrust (especially for a superpower like the United States in a multi-polar world) as well as a moral climate in which all means are legitimate for all participants in the struggle for power. These implications are worth considering with regard to the use of terrorist tactics including those that brought about the tragedy of 9/11. Bluster about the dangers of "moral equivalency," indeed, it is relevant only for those who have already been convinced. Using human rights cynically in order to further narrow forms of national interest is ultimately self-defeating. Noam Chomsky has been relentless in chastising those policymakers interested in nothing more than the short-term calculus. Any politics predicated purely on immediate and instrumental interest generates precisely the kind of instability – and potential for "blowback"[3] –that genuine realism should supposedly inhibit. Making judgments with regard to its effectiveness, however, involves asking certain basic questions – that are still too rarely asked.

What is the strategic goal? The United States has a defense budget of more than $700 billion, a military of 1 million members, and 750 bases throughout the world. It is already present everywhere and political realists seek to strengthen that presence especially in "hot spots." What this means, however, is not self-evident. "Mission creep" is becoming a defining characteristic of American foreign policy in the Middle East. It can apply to both a supposedly unconscious expansion of practical aims by decision-makers in the pursuit of a policy but also to the shifting justifications required to garner support from the citizenry for that policy. American intervention in Afghanistan in the aftermath of 9/11 was initially predicated on capturing Osama bin Laden. But that undertaking soon turned into a bombing assault on the Taliban, regime change, and nation-building with the support of the corrupt Karzai government that lacked both competence and legitimacy. As for Iraq, though conservative policymakers had been planning to unseat Saddam Hussein since 1991, the regime change they planned was more difficult than they anticipated. There was the anger directed against American "liberators," the subterranean ethnic and religious conflicts always ready to explode into outright civil war, and the new state without legitimacy or a monopoly over the means of coercion. Mission creep has permeated many contemporary conflicts. It has fostered an image of the United States as self-interested, imperialist, and completely arbitrary in its goals and tactics – and that impression is not always erroneous.

Is there an ethical purpose? Ethical confusion in terms of justifying American policy in the Middle East has mirrored the practical confusion in carrying it out. Human rights fell by the wayside as the Bush Administration began substituting and then mixing one faulty ideological justification for another in Iraq. Identified with the "axis of evil," which called forth a "war on terror," Iraq was then castigated as a threat to Israel and, with its control of oil, the American national interest. But this argument stood at odds with the weakness of the Iraq military and the fact that Iraq's secular Baathist regime was never a major supporter of terrorism in general or Islamic fundamentalist movements like al Qaeda in particular. False accusations concerning the existence of "weapons of mass destruction" were then introduced along with wild claims that Saddam Hussein was intent upon launching them against Israel and the United States. Once it became apparent that this, too, was not the case, hyper-realists began talking about human rights and spreading democracy to the Middle East.[4] All of this was reinforced by the belief that the Iraqi citizenry enthusiastically supported American intervention and that there existed a groundswell of unified national support for a new democratic order. The same jumbled set off justifications became apparent in Afghanistan. American self-righteousness has only been exacerbated by such miscalculations and misperceptions. Plagued by a confused ethical purpose, compromised by suspect allies and without an exit strategy, the United States has consistently found itself entangled in a murderous – and, occasionally, even genocidal – set of foreign policy actions that serve neither human rights nor the American national interests.

Where is the support? Support for a policy (especially a dangerous policy) rests on a number of contingent factors. Yet, increasingly, basic conflicts of interest over foreign policy have appeared between the political establishment and the citizenry. Political realists have always considered foreign policy the prerogative of the sovereign – or, better, the state that incarnates sovereignty. It is the state (or better its officials and their advisors) that supposedly determines the national interest and, by extension, whether intervention in the name of human rights is warranted in any particular instance. Since the time of Machiavelli, political realists have justified the insular formation of foreign policy on a number of grounds: superior expertise (that apparently was lacking in Afghanistan and Iraq); the importance of decisive action (that has, too often, been indecisive and misguided) and the need to preserve national security (whose self-righteous invocation has produced the last refuge of the modern political scoundrel). Traditional political realists leave little room for democratic input in official decision-making. Demands for democratic input surfaced during the 1960s with the rise of "new social movements." Calls for expanding democracy and social welfare at home generated demands for ethical accountability and transparency for policies undertaken abroad. Political realism thus encountered human rights. What is known as the "Vietnam syndrome," indeed, involves less the loss of a war than the lingering distrust of interventionist undertakings by much of the citizenry. Such skepticism proved warranted given the fabrication of evidence, the collusion, the sloganeering and the outright lying to justify the invasion of Iraq by so many in the Bush administration. Memories of Vietnam, fear of dissent, and fear of full disclosure contributed to the rise of a national security state along with the constriction of civil liberties beginning with the "patriot act." Attempts to artificially fabricate consent over the long haul for any policy – let alone one that justifies itself in terms of moral claims or human rights – can only prove self-defeating in the world of Wiki-leaks and an age of global media.

Who benefits? Calculating costs is a normal and necessary element in determining whether to engage in any particular foreign policy. Costs are an ineradicable element in determining what is possible in any given situation and their underestimation will surely erode whatever original consensus existed for the policy in question: the Iraq conflict at its height cost the United States over $380 million per day, the American policy in Afghanistan stands at $300 million per day, and that the costs for involvement in the Libyan conflict are $55 million per day and rising. But the issue is not merely the costs undertaken by the United States. Too often, political realists fail to take into account the costs paid by the nations supposedly reaping the benefit of American policy. Lenin liked to say that you cannot make an omelette without breaking eggs: but sometimes breaking eggs results only in a mess. Costs always amount to more than dollars and cents. The United States has suffered a loss of moral capital through use of rendition, torture, and cynical talk about collateral damage. Its officials and its citizens, however, are amazed when the supposed beneficiaries of such policies appear ungrateful. They forget that others pay the often much steeper price for their decisions. Even should a democratic state emerge in Iraq, it will have come at virtually genocidal cost: A study conducted by Johns Hopkins University in 2006 estimated 600-800,000 dead in a country of 27 million; between five and ten times that number wounded; thousands in exile; ecological damage, and more –a cost paid by Iraqis not Americans. Calculating the gains and losses of a political policy is not merely a mathematical but a normative endeavor. Both at home and abroad there is a growing and quite legitimate belief that the justifications for American foreign policy in terms of human rights are merely a cover for "oil" and other powerful lobbies (Bechtel, Halliburton, XE) or various geo-political interests. Costs and benefits cannot simply be calculated from the perspective of the United States or in relation to its policy aims. Little wonder that American expressions of concern over human rights abuses are greeted with such skepticism especially by those who should benefit.

Is there a double standard? American foreign policy in the aftermath of 9/11 has increasingly been associated with the use of a double standard by much of the world. The United States employed the doctrine of the "pre-emptive strike," which would allow an assault upon any nation deemed a threat to national security by the American government, to justify the invasion of Iraq in 2003. It has also been bandied about in order to legitimate bombing Iran's nuclear facility at Nantanz and elsewhere. But the right to engage in pre-emptive strikes and support violent regimes and movements is denied to others. American political realists consider self-evident that their country should sponsor authoritarian regimes in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, brand others like Iran as "rogue" states, and appear to the world as the unblemished beacon of democracy. Given this attitude, once again, their often exaggerated moral outrage to attacks and criticisms can only seem hypocritical and self-serving to disinterested or non-committed parties. Finally, in a particularly perverse example of the double standard, the United States – the only nation ever to employ the atomic bomb (not just once, but twice) – finds it can provide nuclear arms for India and other countries of its liking and simultaneously threaten Iran with military action for building a nuclear facility that might produce a nuclear device in about ten years. There are policymakers who never encountered a crisis for which American intervention wasn't a remedy: Richard Barnett called them "white collar militarists." But, then, hundreds of wars, thousands of human rights abuses are taking place as these words are being read. It is always legitimate to ask how egregious is this particular breach of human rights? Why is this particular nation the target? How does this crisis affect the national interest and the world community? One size does not fit all when it comes to foreign policy and the pursuit of human rights. This only makes the justification for any particular action in any particular instance more important. Indeed, what matters is less the inability to intervene everywhere than the ability to fashion a particular foreign policy intervention that is prudent and works to the benefit of the peoples involved.

The Arrogance of Power: Arguments that the end justifies the means have always been tautological - since it is only the means that produce the end. It always remains to be asked: what justifies the end other than the means used to bring it about. Liberal hawks like the journalist Paul Berman or the scholar and policy analyst,[5] Samantha Power,[6] or Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice have consistently endorsed interventionist policies on moral grounds. Emphasizing universal standards of behavior, (though not quite so vociferously when it the culprit is the United States), they stand for human rights wherever they are abused: and, usually, they come up with the same list of proscriptions on a sliding scale whether for Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, Pakistan, Libya, Somalia – or Iran. Sensationalist publicity campaigns begin the process that usually leads to demands for sanctions, "strategic" bombings and - ultimately - regime change brought about my military intervention. These idealists simply assume that because the end is pure, even if the policy itself is somewhat vague, support can be mobilized. The costs are secondary because "the people" – the beneficiaries of their largesse – are always awaiting American intervention with baited breath. A dose of political realism wouldn't hurt these idealists seeking to carry the banner of democracy on their bayonets. Effective foreign policy today rests on recognizing the interplay between human rights and political realism. Principles are not neatly divorced from interests[7] - and advocates of political realism should take heed. The United States has paid dearly for its contraventions of human rights its support for President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and (without even mentioning Israel) other questionable allies in the region like Saudi Arabia. Traditional cynicism about human rights and long-standing support dictatorial regimes clearly created blindness in anticipating and hesitancy in embracing the new movements associated with the Arab Spring.[8] There is an old saying that bears repeating: "Tell me who your friends are and I will tell you who you are." It doesn't help for political realists to insist (with frustration) that the world is a "dangerous place:" not only the victims, but the more disinterested parties, will challenge what the late Senator J.W. Fulbright termed "the arrogance of power."

Credibility is, today, a fundamental tenet of any successful foreign policy endeavor – and this presupposes recognition of the need for transparency and respect for the basic traditions of a democratic polity. Corrupt tactics and the cynical choice of allies have undermined the credibility of America's ethical commitments, the legitimacy of its national interests, and the ability to garner genuine support for American policy in the Middle East. Any intelligent person could see that the successful destruction of the Iraqi state would leave two other powers in the region, Syria and Iran, and that logic dictated a future assault on them in the name of spreading democracy. Circumstances intervened, however, and this kind of policy has (both pragmatically and ideologically) become a bit more difficult to pursue. Rousseau was surely correct in The Social Contract (1762) when he noted that "the strongest is never strong enough to be always the master, unless he transforms strength into right, and obedience into duty." Perhaps the connection between human rights and political realism (or between ends and means) can never prove absolute: such a demand is probably utopian. But it is legitimate to ask of policymakers that they offer a plausible – if not absolute-connection between principles and interests in the policies they propose. That requires vigorous debate and questioning of the usually phony insistence upon national security in the deliberation process. When it comes to human rights and American foreign policy, indeed, there is no finessing the implications of political realism: democracy is what democracy does.


[1] This text is based on a speech originally given at a conference, "The Changing Middle East: Implications for US-Iran Relations," that was sponsored by the American-Iranian Council and Georgetown University on June 7, 2011.

[2]Note the extended discussion in Stephen Eric Bronner, Reclaiming the Enlightenment: Toward a Politics of Radical Engagement (New York: Columbia University Press, 2005).

[3] Note the extended discussion of the unintended future consequences of short term instrumental decisions – a simple example is the support originally extended by the United States to the Muhjadeen in Afghanistan against the Russians - in Chalmers Johnson, Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire (New York: Holt, 2004).

[4] Note the chronology in The Iraq Papers edited by John Ehrenberg, Patrice McSherry, Jose R. Sanchez, and Caroleen Sayej (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010).

[5] See the essay on liberal supporters of the Iraqi war that I co-authored with John Kurt Jacobsen, "Dubya's Fellow Travellers: Left Intellectuals and Mr. Bush's War" in Stephen Eric Bronner, Blood in the Sand: Imperial Fantasies, Right-Wing Ambitions, and the Erosion of American Democracy (Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 2005), pgs. 102ff.

[6] Samantha Power, A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide (New York: Harper, 2007).

[8]Note the hapless discussions over "What Just Happened?" and "Why No One Saw It Coming?" with respect to "The New Arab Revolt" in Foreign Affairs (May/June 2011) and F. Gregory Gause III, "Why Middle East Studies Missed the Arab Spring" in Foreign Affairs (July/August 2011). For an alternative approach, see Stephen Eric Bronner, "Rosa in Cairo" in Reader Supported New (February 8, 2011);

Stephen Eric Bronner is Distinguished Professor (PII) of Political Science and Director of Civic Diplomacy and Human Rights at the Institute for World Challenges: Rutgers University. Author of more than a dozen books, he is the Senior Editor of Logos: A Journal of Modern Society and Culture.

[Feb 03, 2013] Noam Chomsky The Paranoia of the Superrich and Superpowerful

The Clinton doctrine was that the United States is entitled to resort to unilateral force to ensure "uninhibited access to key markets, energy supplies, and strategic resources."

By 1970, the world was already what was called tripolar economically, with a U.S.-based North American industrial center, a German-based European center, roughly comparable in size, and a Japan-based East Asian center, which was then the most dynamic growth region in the world. Since then, the global economic order has become much more diverse. So it's harder to carry out our policies, but the underlying principles have not changed much.

Take the Clinton doctrine. The Clinton doctrine was that the United States is entitled to resort to unilateral force to ensure "uninhibited access to key markets, energy supplies, and strategic resources." That goes beyond anything that George W. Bush said. But it was quiet and it wasn't arrogant and abrasive, so it didn't cause much of an uproar. The belief in that entitlement continues right to the present. It's also part of the intellectual culture.

[Jan 08, 2013] Fascism Why Not Here by Brian E. Fogarty Books


Fogarty builds a clear and cogent case against American exceptionalism on the dark side of the political equation. Though our cultural narrative promises a reliably bright future for the American experiment, it's difficult to maintain that self-assurance in the face of Fogarty's arguments. The clarity of the author's writing is particularly helpful in illuminating a topic fraught with emotional and intellectual pitfalls. An engaging, compelling read.

James T. Powers

Fogarty has said in a well written and researched work what many of us have feared for years, that American exceptionalism, pushed by a number of circumstances, might result in a turn to fascism. He brilliantly compares various cultural themes inherent to American and pre WWII German societies in a frightening yet clear and focused manner. Fogarty's attention to historical and sociological detail help make his comparison a warning we all need to heed. This is a must read for Americans of all political persuasions.

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