Austin Bay

Once again, it's time for Candidate Obama, circa 2007-2008, to condemn President Barack Obama. For that matter, the April 2009 Obama avatar should also sneer at the current version -- if he can't find the time to attend a Washington-area protest demonstration.

So why should Candidate Id kvetch about President Ego? Let's start with the third paragraph of Obama's speech addressing Libya's War of Liberation. The paragraph begins his argument for intervention:

"For generations, the United States of America has played a unique role as an anchor of global security and advocate for human freedom. Mindful of the risks and costs of military action, we are naturally reluctant to use force to solve the world's many challenges. But when our interests and values are at stake, we have a responsibility to act."

With this paragraph, which stresses America's "unique" role in the world, President Obama becomes an American exceptionalist. Moreover, Obama becomes a muscular American exceptionalist, since he not only reiterates a compelling ideal, but uses it as an essential and pragmatic guide to formulating and implementing policy.

Later he added: "To brush aside America's responsibility as a leader and ... our responsibilities to our fellow human beings under such circumstances would have been a betrayal of who we are. Some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries. The United States of America is different."

This represents a radical change from April 2009, when President Obama said in Strasbourg, France: "I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism." That amounted to a put-down of American exceptionalism as an ideal and definitely its rejection as a force shaping sound foreign policy and global security decisions.

American exceptionalists argue that Earth's first constitutionally grounded representative democracy, dedicated to the still radical principles that "all" people are created equal and "endowed" with inalienable rights (such as the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness), plays a special role in world affairs. Exceptionalists believe America is an empowering experiment in individual freedom and a pragmatic example of liberal democracy that serves as a prototype for mitigating and potentially bridging ethnic and religious divisions. At some point, dedication to its founding principles means acting on behalf of freedom, to include, on occasion, waging war.

Austin Bay

Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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