I am an American

Posted: Aug 29, 2005 12:00 AM
With the rise of America, the global balance of power shifted away from the old European powers. One of the more predictable responses has been an undercurrent of jealousy about the relative strength and position of prominence that the United States enjoys in the world. With the war in Iraq devolving into a modern Vietnam, the derisive snorts from the old European powers has become increasingly shrill. They accuse America of trying to take over the world. They point to the abuse of Iraqi prisoners as indicative of the brutal and arbitrary manner with which this country wields its might.

(Notably, they are silent when Americans are decapitated live on the internet.)

If this seems like odd behavior, considering we keep US troops stationed in Europe for their own protection, it is also somewhat predictable. Its basic scapegoating, a way to claim intellectual and moral superiority over the lone superpower, to identify yourself as part of a resistance, and to provide some psychological linkage to the glory days of the old European empires. In short, this is how France, which has the GNP of Georgia, is able to maintain a voice on the world stage.

More shocking is that Americans are starting to believe the rhetoric. Everywhere I go, people equate American foreign policy to a well regimented form of terrorism. They call us murderers. Here at home, leftist newspapers and academics seem to deconstruct America for not being a utopia. They do not compare the United States to other countries. They simply criticize America, as if they were guilty and ashamed for this country’s success. I suppose it is a measure of how good things are in America that its critics chose to focus on the problems of modernity. It is a safe bet that the citizens of Zimbabwe are more worried about whether their children will eat, than on contemplating their own existential angst.

Anyway, given the level of anti-Americanism at home and abroad, I thought it would be appropriate to dwell for a moment on what makes this country great. For starters, this country embodies something utterly unique: History’s first democratic empire. Beginning in the post war era, we have used free trade and democracy to create a series of interlocking relationships that end war.

This has been America’s great gift to the world. It was a gift that was hauled along by two factors in particular: the industrial revolution and the fact that the social hierarchies of older societies didn’t restrain America. These two factors created conditions by which every American citizen felt he could succeed. Of course, the opportunities that the industrial revolution provided were not unique to America. The fact that America nonetheless views such opportunity as its defining characteristic, speaks to a certain cultural spirit which fueled this country’s progress.

It is this uniquely American spirit which has primed the pump of this country’s success and fueled the triumph of democracy and modernity over feudal disunity. We should feel pride, not guilt, for this success. Yes, our foreign policy has rightly engendered criticism. But we should never feel guilty for standing up for ourselves, or for rooting out groups of people who sit around and plot ways to murder as many Americans as possible. At the end of the day, there is no doubt that the unique spirit embodied by this country has worked, not just to make the world safer, but to make it better.