Trump, US ‘exceptionalism’

If Donald Trump is still watching Fox News he will love this: Donald Trump, exceptionalist

A lot of the world could be rather worried though.

If you wondered what American exceptionalism looks like, the 59,000 pounds of U.S. warheads raining down on Syria’s air force is a pretty good snapshot.

America, the apex power of the world, does not tolerate the use of chemical weapons. We forbid it. Another country used chemical weapons – repeatedly – in its civil war, so the United States punished that nation by depleting its military.

So now a precedent has been set by Trump and praised – to draw the US further into the Syrian civil war all someone (it doesn’t really make any difference who)needs to do is gas a few kids and circulate video of it. Or maybe just threatening would probably be enough, the Trump regime has made it clear it won’t rule out ‘pre-emptive strikes’.

There are other countries in the world with the capability to deliver that kind of firepower and spend something approaching $100 million to send a message about the rules of war. But only the United States has the wherewithal to do so without even breaking a sweat.

There may some sweating to come over the consequences though. One sneak attack does not win a war.

And, we dare say, that no other country in the world combines such capabilities with our moral authority.  As much maligned, sometimes rightly, as America’s overseas interventions have been, no great power in history can match our track record of the use of force without conquest.

It depends on how you define ‘conquest’.

Members of Congress, Democratic and Republican, want President Trump to get congressional authorization if he intends to keep up the strikes or undertake, ahem, a forward strategy of freedom to remove Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad from power and install a Western-style liberal democracy in his place.

But as for the legality of this attack, there’s not much to debate.

Legality, morality, sensibility, who cares if you have the biggest bombs?

We arrange our thinking and pursuits very much around questions relating to the word “can.” Those are simpler since they relate more to the other understanding of being exceptional — can we do it? The hard ones are about “should.” The application of American power, exceptional or not, should always be governed more by the latter than the former.

But as for the question of what America’s rightful role in the world is, Trump, after many years arguing the opposite, has placed himself firmly on the side of the exceptionalists.

Where did the term American exceptionalism come from? Stalin, and it wasn’t a compliment.

In 1929, Communist leader Jay Lovestone informed Stalin in Moscow that the American proletariat wasn’t interested in revolution. Stalin responded by demanding that he end this “heresy of American exceptionalism.” And just like that, this expression was born. What Lovestone meant, and how Stalin understood it, however, isn’t how Gingrich and Romney (or even Obama) frame it.

Neither Lovestone or Stalin felt that the United States was superior to other nations — actually, the opposite. Stalin “ridiculed” America for its abnormalities, which he cast under the banner of “exceptionalism,” Daniel Rodgers, a professor of history at Princeton, said in an interview.

As the Great Depression enveloped the United States, Stalin’s argument — if not his bluster — seemed well grounded. “Exceptionalism was a disease, a chronic disease,” wrote communist S. Milgrom of Chicago in 1930. “The storm of the economic crisis in the United States blew down the house of cards of American exceptionalism,” the American Communist Party declared at its convention in April 1930.

Trump the trigger happy exceptionalist may have just kicked off a disease for which there is no vaccine.