"My working and personal relationship with President Obama is marked by growing trust. I appreciate this. I carefully studied his address to the nation on Tuesday. And I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States’ policy is “what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.” It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different,but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal." Russian President Vladimir Putin's Op Ed in New York Times
Clearly, Mr. Putin does not like the fact that the United States considers itself exceptional. But what does "exceptional" mean?
To me, "exceptional" is just another word for "special". I don't know of any nation that doesn't think they are special in some way and they use it to whip up their own brand of nationalism.
In the case of United States, however, there are genuine reasons based on rational data and facts that establish US as "special" in multiple dimensions. The US is a multi-dimensional hyper-power the likes of which the world has not seen.
The current world order and its institutional framework were architected by post-WW II American leaders. Establishment of international institutions like the United Nations and its multiple agencies, the World Bank, IMF, GATT and WTO was spearheaded by Americans.
Not only is the US the biggest military power many times larger than number two Russia, the US dollar is the world's unchallenged currency which is used for the bulk of international trade and as reserve currency by central banks around the globe. The US is the world's largest economy and the biggest trading partner of most of the countries of the world. The US also boasts the world's top entrepreneurs, most innovative companies and bulk of the top universities with the lion's share of Nobel prizes. The US leadership in wide range of technologies and industries is unquestionable. And the US lead is growing, not shrinking with new developments.
Wild West. With its powerful gun-rights advocates in many western, mid-western and southern states, the US is still a gun-slinging frontier society in many ways which makes it jealously guard its exceptional status in the world.
The US seeks to avoid the fate of other great empires of the past which were brought down by barbarians and desert tribesmen over the centuries.
Here's a excerpt of a piece by NY Times Nobel Laureate economist-columnist on Ibn Khaldun's lessons for established powers: "Desert tribesmen, he argued, always have more courage and social cohesion than settled, civilized folk, so every once in a while they will sweep in and conquer lands whose rulers have become corrupt and complacent. They create a new dynasty — and, over time, become corrupt and complacent themselves, ready to be overrun by a new set of barbarians...I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to apply this story to Microsoft, a company that did so well with its operating-system monopoly that it lost focus, while Apple — still wandering in the wilderness after all those years — was alert to new opportunities. And so the barbarians swept in from the desert".
US intelligence analyst and author George Friedman in his book "The Next 100 Years" describes the United States as "young and barbaric" with the barbarian instincts to fight off most threats, including those from the rag-tag bands of tribesmen and barbarians who have toppled great empires of the past like the Roman empire, the Byzantine empire, the Persian empires, the Umayyid empire, the Abbasid empire and the Soviet empire.
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