From a belief in everyone else’s exceptionalism, last week’s West Point speech calls for Obama’s belief in “American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being.” He elaborated on what this means for the unsuspecting world: the US military has “the power to launch unilateral attacks when America’s interests are directly threatened.” Notice the subtle word changes: from the right to intervene when America’s “security” is directly threatened to “interests” directly threatened.
Indeed it is astonishing how American elections can mask the fundamental differences between the Democrats and the Republicans. It can be remembered Obama distinguished himself (and his party) from McCain’s and Bush-Cheney’s global conquest bidding when he famously decalred “I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism” in a NATO summit in 2009.
At the time, this disbelief in a sole American exceptionalism and the enduring threat of isolationism ruffled some feathers, especially among conservatives, and was widely interpreted as vindication of Obama’s plan to retreat America from the world. This meant, first and foremost, rolling back the US war machine from overseas deployment, especially from the dreaded adventurism in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Despite Obama’s proposal to retreat from the Middle East, it can be recalled that during his first few years in office, he proposed and got Congress approval for an increase in the number of troops deployed in Afghanistan, famously known as the ‘surge’, lasting until 2012.
Now halfway into his second term, Obama is no longer a wolf hiding in sheep’s clothing; that the guessing game on what his intentions for America’s global military domination is finally over: American will remain the sole policeman of the world whether you (Russia, China, Iran, Venezuela) like it or not.
Another word change worth nothing includes the shift from “war on terror” of the Bush-Cheney years to “the capacity of terrorists to do harm” and from “coalition of the willing” to “mobilize allies and partners to take collective action.”
Obama’s term, marketed as a move away from Bush’s imperialist policies, have so far been defined by more violations of international law and by increases of some kind, including more eavesdropping (even of allied leaders), astronomical increase in the Pentagon budget, the refusal to close illegal overseas prisons, the hijacking of popular uprisings, and support for disputes against its perceived long-term enemies.
Obama ends his West Point speech in a reassuring note, just in case his audience elsewhere doubts his exceptionalist revelation: “the military that you have joined is and always be the backbone” of US “leadership.”