America’s Credibility Problem Persists Despite Obama’s Popularity

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obama.jpg
In today’s New York Times, Ronald Asmus provides a useful summary of the German Marshall Fund’s recently released Transatlantic Trends report.
The report indicates that support for American foreign policy has risen dramatically in Western Europe, but not in Eastern Europe or Turkey. It also notes that Europeans and Americans remain at odds over the issues of the day, including whether to use force in Afghanistan and Iran.
Two additional points related to the report:
1. Western European attitudes toward the United States have improved because the Obama administration has not asked Europe for much yet. As George Friedman remarked back in April, “Europe and Obama loved each other [during Obama’s campaign], but for very different reasons. The Europeans thought that the United States under Obama would ask less, while Obama thought the Europeans would give more.” The truth of Friedman’s statement will become more apparent as Obama asks for more on Iran, Afghanistan, and financial reform.
2. While increased popular support in Europe is nice, it won’t mean anything for America’s strategic interests if the Obama administration cannot restore our credibility.
The Bush administration squandered two kinds of American credibility. The first relates to other governments’ perceptions of whether the United States can achieve the goals that it sets out for itself. As Steve Clemons has noted on this blog, the Iraq war demonstrated America’s limits in dramatic, devastating fashion.
And as Steve pointed out yesterday, the same thing may be happening in Afghanistan, as we escalate our commitment there. The best thing Obama could do to restore American credibility would be to score a big win on some international issue of consequence – something he has yet to do.
The second kind of American credibility relates to whether the United States tells the truth. The “Weapons of Mass Destruction” mess tarnished America’s credibility in this area as well. Whether foreign capitals accept the Obama administration’s statement yesterday that Iran has enough nuclear fuel to make a nuclear weapon may indicate whether America’s credibility has rebounded in this area.
— Ben Katcher

Comments

77 comments on “America’s Credibility Problem Persists Despite Obama’s Popularity

  1. Outraged American says:

    And right on cue Emmanuel Goldstein, the digitally mastered
    bogeyman “Osama Bin Laden” releases a tape, translated by Rita
    Katz’s outfit, SITE, which means we should give it about as much
    credibility as Obama’s promise of “change.”
    http://tinyurl.com/maxmv2
    Are you implying Arthur (or may I call you Art? Although that
    will probably enrage Questions after I accused her of being an
    Art major and she got so worked up she probably gave herself a
    wedgie…) that I have an undescended penis? Because bull
    dykes don’t have lisps.
    Male wh-actors do tend to be wee little men. Almost all of the
    big stars are gay. The ones that aren’t would rock anything with
    a vag that moves including that 107-year-old woman looking
    for her 23rd husband.
    http://tinyurl.com/nfmym4
    A lot of the females are dykes, probably because they had to
    suck so much c*ck on their way up they never want to go near
    one again.
    I learned long ago, well, after I started covering Iraq,
    Afghanistan, the Gaza Strip, Sri Lanka (a war zone that I’ve been
    in) etc., that if you don’t laugh you cry. All the time.
    One of my nieces, who is often accused of being just like me,
    which my family considers about the worst insult they can hurl
    at the kids, accidentally saw some of the pictures on my
    computer of dead Iraqi kids. She was devastated.
    Why aren’t those pictures out there? Why, rather than
    memorializing the absurd official narrative of 9/11, “God Bless
    America” bulls*t, kids aren’t shown pictures of the kids their
    parents’ tax dollars have killed?
    That would stop war, I’m convinced.
    Needless to say my “Catholic” family was enraged. Not at the
    atrocity that is war (and again, my parents have seen atrocities
    with their own, now Limbaugh dittohead, eyes) but at me for
    leaving photos of the results of that war on a computer where
    one of the kids might accidentally stumble upon them. My own
    computer no less. My family is all about Pin the Blame on the
    Donkey.
    This is why I think America is doomed: we are so removed from
    the results of our horrific actions that we can pretend that they
    don’t exist. We’re indoctrinated from birth to believe that
    America is the greatest country on Earth — that we’re Lady
    Bountiful.
    And then we’re fed this Israel Lobby construct of being a “Judeo-
    Christian” nation. There are three Abrahamic religions, so why
    aren’t we a “Judeo-Christian-Muslim” nation?
    Beyond that, a separation of church and state is enshrined in our
    founding documents, and the original settlers came here
    specifically to escape religious persecution. Those stupid
    Indians who taught them how to do whatever we celebrate at
    “Thanksgiving” deserved to be slaughtered en masse.
    “God” was only inserted into the Pledge of Allegiance in the
    1950s and it should be taken out, so should the Pledge. So
    should Capitol Hill. After some steroids, Carrolls going to take
    down DC on her own, Rambo style, with a bandana and a pocket
    knife.
    Seriously the one plane that should have done its damn duty,
    the one that was supposed to hit the White House or Capitol Hill
    or a Jewish retirement home in Florida. Outrage at which
    amongst Members of the Tribe would have ensured that we’d
    also be attacking Java now and the clueless peaceniks would be
    screaming “No blood for coffee beans”, had to “crash.”
    Dov Zakeheim really messed-up on that one. Although he or
    one of his cronies did manage to steal trillions from the
    Pentagon before “retiring” to “spend time with his family.”
    Bunch of f-ing bullshit.

    Reply

  2. arthurdecco says:

    Sometimes I post the most inopportune, awkward things… Whoops! Comes from laughing at everything…and everybody…including me.

    Reply

  3. arthurdecco says:

    “Not that there’s anything wrong with
    being gay or a midget, I’m both.” posted by Outraged American
    Of course you are – you’re in media! heh heh heh. Name anyone over 5’6″ without a natural lisp in Hollywood. (wink)

    Reply

  4. arthurdecco says:

    Outraged American? I laughed. And then I laughed again and I think I’m about to start agai

    Reply

  5. Outraged American says:

    If you really want to laugh, which I doubt, there’s a celebrity
    gossip site where the posters are about as funny as it gets.
    I used to work in gossip, back when I worked for a paper that
    can be found on any street corner in the world, including those
    in the Amazon.
    Whenever I get depressed, which is rare because the possibility
    of World War III is laughtastic, I go to this site and see what the
    snarkers have to say about Megan Fox, who I have to say I like
    because she’s as randomly inane as I am.
    Guarantee this site will resurrect (what’s with all the Christian
    terminology anyway?) any sense of humor you ever had.
    http://princessmc.proboards.com/index.cgi?board=Celebrities
    I interviewed the Tiny Gay Midget Dwarf years ago (Tom Cruise)
    it was like interviewing a cereal box that could smile. I love
    how the posters nail it. Not that there’s anything wrong with
    being gay or a midget, I’m both.

    Reply

  6. arthurdecco says:

    Like Kathleen, I haven’t laughed out loud like this in a long time. Thank you all for your contributions – especially those of you who weren’t trying to be funny.

    Reply

  7. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Note the use here of the term “illicit”. This is not the first time this term has been used by this Administration to describe Iran’s nuclear program. Its notable that the term was first coined by the AIPAC website, way before our own government started misusing it. I’m just a bit curious, as I’ve mentioned before, what exactly is “illicit” about the Iranian nuclear program? Fully in compliance with the NPT, Iran has done nothing “illicit”.
    As far as credibility goes, do we think that the global community fails to note when the United States’ government adopts the EXACT propagandist terminology of the racist and criminal state of Israel?
    Note too the way the AP headline is worded; “Iran’s’s Nukes”.
    What nukes?
    Note too, this lying sack of shit Gibbs refers to Iran’s “illicit nuclear weapons program”. Are these fucking cowards in the press corps afraid to ask “what evidence exists of an Iranian nuclear weapons program?”, or is that just too much of a deviance from their script?
    “Fourth Estate”, my ass.
    When our press starts talking about an Iranian “illicit nuclear weapons program” as if it is a known fact, all Americans should be very afraid, because these racist ghouls at the helm of Israel are about to drag us into the third world war.
    http://wire.antiwar.com/2009/09/12/white-house-wants-talks-to-focus-on-irans-nukes-2/
    White House wants talks to focus on Iran’s nukes
    White House spokesman: Iran talks should focus on country’s `illicit’ nuclear weapons program
    JIM KUHNHENN
    AP News
    Sep 12, 2009 12:46 EST
    The White House said Saturday that international talks with Iran should focus on the country’s nuclear program, a topic Tehran had ruled off limits until its foreign minister opened the door.
    “We’re not talking for talking’s sake,” presidential spokesman Robert Gibbs said. “This may not have been a topic they wanted to be brought up, but I can assure you it’s a topic that we’ll bring up.”
    “The Iranians have a responsibility to the international community to walk away from their illicit nuclear weapons program,” Gibbs added. “That’s what the focus from our side will be in these talks, and that’s our goal.”
    continues………

    Reply

  8. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Kotz, what shorted out your synapses?
    Up until recently, you were prone to short succinct indicators of insanity, typed musings that were pulled directly out of Cheney’s ass.
    Now, suddenly, you have discovered a vocabulary and manner of expression that implies long hours of tossing the dictionary in the air, and composing comments based upon whatever page lands face up on the floor. I must say its amusing, but unfortunately it also telegraphs a worsening state of dementia.
    And I’d be careful if I was you, lauding this clusterfuck in Iraq, and trying to take credit for the formulation of certain strategies. History is not going to be kind to the framers of this mess, and even though your involvement is only a figment of your imagination, you still will leave a personal legacy, and on your current course it is going to be a sadly pathetic one. Have some dignity and delete your blog before its too late.

    Reply

  9. kotzabasis says:

    POA
    If the Muses of thinking had passed any laws you would have been shot as a war criminal in the discourse of thinking.

    Reply

  10. PissedOffAmerican says:

    What a crock of shit, Kotz.
    “Encirclement”??? “Defeat the insurgents”??
    Petraeus bought them off, and now that the flow of money has been cut off, the “insurgency” is rekindled, soon to be an inferno. No one was “defeated”, except of course, the million or so Iraqi non-combatants that were murdered because of the sickos like yourself who slithered their way into positions of power within our government. Most of them should hang.

    Reply

  11. kotzabasis says:

    Kervick
    Now as to proof. In many papers of mine I predicted that all the critics of the war about its outcome would be wrong and with ‘eeriness’ I foresaw even the strategy that Petraeus would use, i.e., encirclement, to defeat the insurgents, in a paper titled “Blueprint for Victory In Iraq,” which I wrote on December 2006 and published much later for obvious reasons. In another paper of mine, “Will the Sleeping West Fall into the Terrorist Inferno,” written at the beginning of 2006, I proposed how to stop the flow of recruits of al- Qaeda and how to defeat it, which The Guardian depicted in a recent article that you suggested we read. In several articles starting twelve months ago I predicted that Obama’s soft power policy and diplomacy would fail and Obama would make a weak president. One can read all of the above on my blog “Nemesis.” I could go on and on but I’m a modest man and I don’t need any stars on my jacket.

    Reply

  12. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “Actually I think that everyone in the bar got a rousing lecture on US foreign policy, the Threat of Radical Zionism and POA’s penis size”
    Hey, I resent that! Thats was only an estimate on Wig-wag’s part! “Alleged” is the key word you’re omitting.
    Harruumph.

    Reply

  13. Outraged American says:

    I don’t know any Japanese beyond, “Grand Canyon, where Grand
    Canyon?” I hope that they all fall off the edge of the canyon and
    take the Chinese with them. Thelma and Japanese.
    Paul, we need to talk about your eimeimatheis — have you seen a
    therapist? Did he or she advise you to change your underwear at
    least once a month? It’s important. The lice living down there and
    in your beard might try to attack Sweden.
    Forget India and Pakistan, Israel and Iran, those determined foes,
    Sweden and where do you live again, might bring on the
    Apocalypse. Certainly the Scandinavians are a blood-thirsty lot.

    Reply

  14. Paul Norheim says:

    You bet, Outraged.
    I thought that whale meat and Japanese beer (yes, you`re right:
    I`m actually a Japanese geisha from Kyoto, and I don`t
    understand a word of Japanese) would strengthen my immunity
    system and protect me against eimeimatheis – but alas! in vain…

    Reply

  15. Outraged American says:

    ” dangerously’ eimeimatheis” -is this infectious?

    Reply

  16. Dan Kervick says:

    “Let me be clear, I consider you, Clemons, and Norheim as being ‘dangerously’ eimeimatheis and weak on geopolitical issues and strategic thinking. I don’t know all three of you with your high intelligence might exceptionally excel in your own disciplines. But geopolitics and strategic thinking is not your vocation. Each to his own!”
    You may be right, Kotzabasis. But again my point is that you need to prove it, not just continually say it. We have yet to see the actual evidence and analysis that supposedly informs your positions. If you have a deep understanding about what is going on in Iran, Afghanistan, Russia and China then why don’t you spend some time writing, in depth, about what is going on in Iran, Afghanistan, Russia and China. This site provides ample opportunity for that.

    Reply

  17. nadine says:

    Paul, yes, if you want to have an honest argument about American exceptionalism you must engage with your opponents’ definition of it, not just define it down to something trite and indefensible so you can set up a straw man argument.
    Barack Obama is not a proponent of American exceptionalism. He doesn’t even know what it means. He displayed his ignorance when he was asked if he believed in American exceptionalism at his April press conference, and he replied:
    “I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism. I’m enormously proud of my country and its role and history in the world. If you think about the site of this summit and what it means, I don’t think America should be embarrassed to see evidence of the sacrifices of our troops, the enormous amount of resources that were put into Europe postwar, and our leadership in crafting an Alliance that ultimately led to the unification of Europe. We should take great pride in that. ”
    Obama thinks American exceptionalism means, “We think we’re special, like everybody else thinks they’re special.” Well what the heck is “exceptional” about that? Nothing! So what’s left? Only size and power. So you are left to define American exceptionalism as, America thinks they are better than everybody else because they are rich and powerful. How very convenient. It’s SO much easier to argue against solipsism like that, rather than engage a debate about the importance of individual liberty in political systems.

    Reply

  18. kotzabasis says:

    The third sentence from the bottom of the first para: should read, It’s these I attack and not the person.

    Reply

  19. kotzabasis says:

    Kervick
    Thank you for your generous instruction. It goes without saying that empirical evidence is the fuel of a “compelling argument.” Obviously you consider a person’s character as “secondary’ in “important global affairs.” But such an evaluation is flauntingly contrary to historical evidence. As a recent example from history just place Churchill and Chamberlain next to each other. And weakness and ignorance are not irrelevant in critical issues. You must know that in hard times the hard men/women prevail. And as a disciple of Hume and Russel you must also know that one of the great enemies of mankind is to have superficial knowledge (What the ancient Greeks called eimeimatheia, half-learned) about great matters of a critical nature and to ‘hubristicaly’ pontificate ex cathedra about these matters with this smattering knowledge. It’s these that attack and not the person. Arguments that stem from weak and ignorant people, like you have done when you attacked the ignorance of Palin in her lunge for the vice-presidency. I don’t separate the argument from the character of a person, as apparently you do, as I consider them to be inextricably connected to each other.
    Let me be clear, I consider you, Clemons, and Norheim as being ‘dangerously’ eimeimatheis and weak on geopolitical issues and strategic thinking. I don’t know all three of you with your high intelligence might exceptionally excel in your own disciplines. But geopolitics and strategic thinking is not your vocation. Each to his own!

    Reply

  20. Kathlee Grasso Andersen says:

    OutragedAmerican…I get such a kick out of your comments/insights…my sense of humor has been in the ICU and we were just about to pull the plug on it for good but your sharp wit is like CPR…I can actually laugh again….thanks…

    Reply

  21. Outraged American says:

    Actually I think that everyone in the bar (whoops — I meant
    restaurant — because two Catholics would never drink anything
    except the blood of Christ, even if they’re both now apostates.
    There’s a reason they’re called “Bloody Marys…) got a rousing
    lecture on US foreign policy, the Threat of Radical Zionism and
    POA’s penis size.
    Far from being easy, I firmly believe now that “easy e” is a closet
    jihadist because he does look like an A-Rab and made endless
    comments about how women need to cover-up their asses more
    to stop him from being tempted to forcibly do the nasty.
    I made easy drop me off in front of my nasty sister’s house (the
    one who can and does blame her divorce on Israel — we all
    should) so that she’d think I was a hooker. I’m sure she called
    Mom first thing in the morning and Mom’s now attempting to do
    Novenas in her wheelchair.
    If you want to hear what we said about you, just ask. Easy did
    not cut out my tongue, instead he plied me with copious
    amounts of tequila, so I probably did forget most of the
    conversation before I blacked out.
    I’m personally convinced that Norheim can’t speak Norwegian,
    much less any other language, and lights his hut with whale
    blubber bought off of the money he makes turning in beer
    bottles for recycling, most of which he drank himself.
    Easy and I had a fist fight over whether Wig and Questions were
    girlfriends. And if they’re having a threesome with Nadine.
    I think that Arthur Decco is a butler. And that … just has a
    stuck keyboard.
    And that POA, protestations aside, is an Iranian spy.
    It all makes sense now — thanks easy!

    Reply

  22. ... says:

    dan kervick on the health care issue… – have you read this article?
    Sick and Wrong
    How Washington is screwing up health care reform – and why it may take a revolt to fix it
    http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/story/29988909/sick_and_wrong

    Reply

  23. easy e says:

    Posted by Dan Kervick, Sep 12 2009, 11:24AM
    People in Pheonix want to hear about TWN?
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>.
    The sheeple in Phoenix don’t have a clue about TWN. Inquiring minds do/should, wherever they may reside.
    As to the gossip……….Omertà.

    Reply

  24. Dan Kervick says:

    People in Pheonix want to hear about TWN?

    Reply

  25. Outraged American says:

    George Washington also said, “Observe good faith and justice
    toward all nations. Cultivate peace and harmony with all.”
    How exactly is Iran spitting in our face? It has every right to
    enrich uranium being a signatory of the NPT and is being
    monitored by the IAEA. It offered UsRael everything we should
    have wanted back in 2003.
    Israel doesn’t even just spit in our faces, she shoves her dick
    down our throats.
    The latest example of Israel itching to start WW III is this bogus
    claim that rockets were fired from Lebanon into Israel. Yeah,
    sure they were fired — by Israeli commandos who crossed into
    Lebanon (the “Blue Line” is a dirt road in some places) so that
    Israel would have an excuse to pound Lebanon for the ??? time.
    And the sniveling ninnies are holding the Lebanese government
    responsible and are complaining to, of all places, THE UN. You
    can’t make this sh*t up.
    Israel Blames Lebanese Govt Following Exchange of Fire
    http://tinyurl.com/q4kmkr
    Israel is baiting Iran with yet another false flag attack. This
    “attack” will then be paraded before the US Congress as proof
    that poor widdle Israel is constantly under threat from Iran’s
    proxies.
    Amazing how this “attack” by Lebanon comes just as the Israel-
    Firsters in Congress (all of them except for Paul and a few
    others) start once more beating the war drums on Iran.
    Iran War Drums Begin Beating in Washington
    http://tinyurl.com/lu4xfh
    Nadine, why don’t you comment on why I, a middle-aged US
    citizen, atheist, with no criminal record, light skin and hair, blue
    eyes, no “terrorist” links, now cannot go into the West Bank if I
    want to go to Israel?
    Wonder what all those Christian Zionazis think about Yisrael now
    that they can’t see Bethlehem, the place where their imaginary
    god was born, if they also want to see the place where he was
    crucified and buried?
    Israel’s going to lose her “Christian” Zionist voter base – nyah,
    nyah, nyah, nyah. nyah, nyah.
    The other TWN poster living in hell (Phoenix) went for drinks last
    night and shut the place down gossiping about all of you — your
    ears should have been burnt to crisps by the end of the night.

    Reply

  26. Dan Kervick says:

    Kotzabasis,
    The positions you defend deserve to be debated and evaluated, and given their fair hearing. But you frequently do damage to your case by neglecting to assemble evidence and put together compelling arguments for those positions. If you would do that more often, then people could judge for themselves which parties to the debate have the greater share of knowledge on their side, and could even make judgments about the character of the participants – although the latter is really a secondary issue when important global affairs are at stake.
    Just saying, “my opponent is weak and ignorant” never convinces anybody. You need to lay out the best case for the positions you are trying to persuade people to believe. Strenuous debates are bound to get personal from time to time. But if someone descends as quickly and frequently as you do into personal attacks, people are just going to conclude that your outlook on the world is more the result of a hostile temperament, and difficulty relating to people, than any kind of informed judgment about the existence and degrees of actual threats and opportunities in the world.

    Reply

  27. Paul Norheim says:

    Nadine, Frank Gaffney, and Barack Obama all regard
    themselves as “proponents” of American
    Exceptionalism, all with rather different
    definitions of the concept. Do you, Nadine, expect
    me to go on all four and accept your interpretation
    of the concept as the only correct definition?
    Forget it.

    Reply

  28. nadine says:

    Kotz, yes the Obama charm offensive is failing. Even Steve Clemons in the April discussion with Frank Gaffney, knew that Obama had attempted way more than he could handle. Frank Gaffney understood the reality that Steve Clemons has talked himself out of believing: that soft power only works where it is backed by credible hard power, and that is why all the vaunted talk of transnational organizations can never become functional reality until they have one leader and one army. Until they turn into a de facto empire, in other words.
    Meanwhile, Iran spits in his face, and Obama wipes himself off with his handkerchief and says, “Thank you for engaging with me.” The Iranians offered talks on terms which proclaimed beforehand that they intended to do nothing but waste more time to enrich more uranium in; and we accepted. As an Iranian government controlled newspaper sniggered this summer, “Their entire strategy is to beg us to talk to them.” Seems accurate to me.

    Reply

  29. nadine says:

    “I have no idea how exactly he imagined that the Constitution was transfered from God to
    the human realm, but when he said he believed that it was God-given, I suppose that he
    meant something with those words.”
    I suppose he meant something too, and I gave a mainstream interpretation to his words. You gave an interpretation that had him calling the Constitution an “act of God,” not of men. This is rubbish entirely unsupported by his words or the whole previous discussion. But it does allow you to YET AGAIN avoid engaging the idea of American exceptionalism based on the definition used by and of its proponents.
    Which I suppose was the purpose of the exercise. Seize on some pretext to sneer at the whole, that seems to be the preferred method.

    Reply

  30. kotzabasis says:

    Because all three of you in your political and intellectual weakness and lack of depth are strengthening the dangerous fantasies of soft power and policing methods as an antidote to the dangerous realities emanating from apocalyptic fanaticism that are hovering over the head of Western civilization and threatening it with ‘decapitation’. Of course such an existential threat you and Kervick, if not Clemons, would diagnose it as paranoia. But anyone who has studied history, without being a prisoner of it, might come to the conclusion that the art, the vocation of a statesman is to identify an irreconcilable implacable enemy and destroy him before he becomes stronger.
    Already the soft power fantasy as embodied in the new foreign policy of Obama is irreversibly failing, as I predicted it would 9 months ago. In the diplomatic overture to Iran, in resolving the Middle East conflict, and in clinching a concord cordial with Russia, of which Obama was so confident that he would have the support of the latter on the issue of Iran. Now we have Putin and his foreign minister Lavrov declaring that they would veto any resolution in the Security Council that would impose new sanctions on Iran.
    Clemons, Kervick, and you, with your characteristic geopolitical and strategic myopia and romanticism could not foresee the failure of this new foreign policy of Obama based on ‘loving- holding hands’ and soft power that is unravelling now before everyone’s eyes.

    Reply

  31. Paul Norheim says:

    “So, just because Gaffney include the words “I believe God-given” as an aside, he’s a
    religious nutjob who thinks God handed the Constitution to the Founders from on high,
    like the Ten Commandements on Mt Sinai?” (Nadine)
    I have no idea how exactly he imagined that the Constitution was transfered from God to
    the human realm, but when he said he believed that it was God-given, I suppose that he
    meant something with those words.
    ——————————————————
    “Now that you have become conscious of the shallowness and fragility of your inchoate
    argument you have shifted the point of its reference to certain individuals, like
    Gaffney, and your terms of “atavism” and “superstition” apply only to them.”
    (Kotzabasis)
    How did you reach those conclusions, Kotz? I do not regard my arguments as shallow or
    fragile. And I didn`t “shift the point” to Frank Gaffney. I STARTED with Frank Gaffney:
    The part of my argument that I quoted on this thread was originally written in the
    context of the Clemons/Gaffney discussion I explicitly recommended people to read about
    or watch, which Nadine actually has done.
    It`s you who want me to shift the point by asking me questions about Perikles and the
    use of words like “barbarians”, and nit picking about definitions of words according to
    the Oxford dictionary – words YOU, not I brought up etc.etc.
    To find “the core of my case” you may click on the link I provided.
    Here is the Readers`Digest version for you: Basically I claimed that by regretting the
    puncturing of “the mystique of the superpower”, the analytical rationalist Steve
    Clemons was closer to his opponent Frank Gaffney (with his exceptionalism and God-given
    Constitution), than he perhaps wished to be. As you will discover if you click on the
    link, Steve had no problem understanding my arguments.
    If I wished to change or clarify one thing, it is this: I didn`t say – as you claimed –
    that “the “mystique of the superpower” (America) that has been TRANSFORMED into a
    “dangerous sense of EXCEPTIONALISM”. I said:
    “But also America itself has often been a victim of this mystique. It GENERATES
    arrogance. It generates hubris. It generates unrealistic expectations, and a dangerous
    sense of exceptionalism among the American people and its leaders.”
    If I had written it now, I would have preferred to say that the “mystique” ENHANCES
    (and not “generates”) a dangerous sense of exceptionalism.
    ———————————————————
    But I have a suspicion that you are not so interested in clarity as you pretend.
    The biggest mystery to me is this: Why are you, Kotzabasis, dedicating 90% of your post
    to attacking Steve Clemons, Dan Kervick and myself? Why do you invest almost all your
    energy at TWN attacking, insulting, ridiculing us in particular? Why do you spend
    practically all your time here claiming that we are weak, comical, don quijotic,
    intellectually and politically bankrupt? Why invest all this time on us, if you really
    think so? Couldn`t you chose someone more worthy of being your opponents?
    Is it so boring to be retired in Australia?

    Reply

  32. ... says:

    mentioning god has typically been a cover up for a whackadoodle of bullshit, something you are pretty good at nadine.. perhaps you can reference god more regularly when you comment on all things israeli…it will shine a better light on it..
    dan kervick – ever read any doris lessing? your comments are starting to remind me of her venture into shikasta land…

    Reply

  33. nadine says:

    Thanks for the link, Paul. It was an interesting discussion between Steve Clemons and Frank Gaffney on what America ought realistically to be doing in foreign policy.
    But your reaction to Frank Gaffney’s closing words, in which he expresses his belief in the exceptionalism and superiority of the American system to UN General Session-type international law BECAUSE OF the Constitution is just whacky:
    “Those of us who believe that there is something unique,
    something special, something extraordinary… I dare say
    exceptional about America, recognise that that it is so in at least
    substantial measure because of our constitution.”
    “…by far the most extraordinary society on the planet”
    “and to impute into that organization (the UN) some higher
    moral stature and authority than we have as a result of our… I
    think God given constitution…is… I think a serious mistake.”
    “Gaffney`s statements imply that America is not only on a
    historic, but also moral, even metaphysical mission, initiated
    when God gave the constitution to America and the world
    through the founding fathers. On a fundamental level, the
    constitution was not the act of the founding fathers, created
    through their judgement, their analytical and political skills,
    their experience, and their studies of different states, laws, and
    governments through history. The constitution was an act of
    God.”
    So, just because Gaffney include the words “I believe God-given” as an aside, he’s a religious nutjob who thinks God handed the Constitution to the Founders from on high, like the Ten Commandments on Mt Sinai? This after a full hour of entirely secular discussion. To draw this conclusion from an four-word aside is whackadoodle. Frank Gaffney thinks the Constitution is an extraordinary document written by the Founders, an extraordinary group of men.
    You seem to be unaware that God as the driver of history is a basic tenet of both Christianity and Judaism and that men who are believers may make some reference to the hand of Divine Providence. George Washington certainly did, often. I suppose that makes him a religious nutjob too. So did the other Founders. What a surprise that this collection of religious nutjobs conceived of a separation between church and state.
    During the whole discussion, Frank Gaffney promotes a “liberty agenda” based in the ideas of individual liberty as promulgated in the Constitution. You make it sound like he favors some unilateral American crusade as a Divine mission. This is just twisting his position into yet another straw man argument.
    Proponents of any idea do get the chief position in defining it. Opponents may then point out its weaknesses, or describe it in their own words. BUT they don’t get to redefine it any way they like. If Muslims say that jihad is a basic tenet of Islam and it is incumbent upon the believer to make all the world submit to Allah, then I don’t get to redefine Islam as a religion of peace.

    Reply

  34. JamesL says:

    TonyForesta @ 2:48 was indeed far off topic, but his entry was made on Sept 11 and thus, like 9-11-2001, his post pried its way into the everyday, semi-comfortable political discourse of TWN. He is, however, correct that America will not survive as the America we each like to think of unless the multitude of questions regarding September 11 are addressed. Those questions–and Escobar managed only a small fraction of them–are growing rot in American culture. But then again, perhaps America is really nothing at all like the myth Americans love to love.

    Reply

  35. Dan Kervick says:

    “You all notice of course the all of a sudden silence of the lamb, Dan Kervick.”
    I didn’t want to be sued for practicing multiversality without a license. And since it is the anniversary of 9/11, I am doing what all good Americans do on this day – cowering in a basement with my shotgun and baseball bat, and listening on my ham radio for reports on the invading Islamofascist army that we are anticipating any day now, and that is expected to come loaded for bear with those Saddamist WMD’s dug up from their secret bunker in Syria. Wait … I think I hear something …
    But, seriously, here in the US we are having a raging health care debate, and when I wasn’t working today, I have been wrapped up in debating that issue on other sites all day. So I might not be able to come up with more right now on credible exceptionalism, exceptional credibility and the worthy celestial kingdom of Dubai.

    Reply

  36. kotzabasis says:

    Paul Norheim
    Initially the core of your argument was the “mystique of the superpower” (America) that has been transformed into a “dangerous sense of EXCEPTIONALISM (M.E.) among the American people and its leaders.” Now that you have become conscious of the shallowness and fragility of your inchoate argument you have shifted the point of its reference to certain individuals, like Gaffney, and your terms of “atavism” and “superstition” apply only to them. And further, so you can have another bugbear in support of your revised contention, you quote Wikipedia that refers to exceptionalism not as “American uniqueness than with asserting its IMMUNITY (M.E.) to international law.” With the three-tiered reference compass of confusion in your hand you cannot find your cognitive path to your argument.
    Nadine is right! In your total inability to argue the core of your case you are crafting “straw men.” In other words, you are becoming intellectually unhinged.

    Reply

  37. Paul Norheim says:

    As WigWag correctly says, Wikipedia is not always correct. In any case, here is a quote on
    “Exceptionalism” from a longer article liked to above – the quote is relevant to what I said above:
    “During the George W. Bush administration, the term was somewhat abstracted from its historical
    context. Proponents and opponents alike began using it to describe a phenomenon wherein
    certain political interests, and Americans subscribing to the political theory of neoconservativism,
    among others, view the United States as being “above” or an “exception” to the law, specifically
    the Law of Nations. (This phenomenon might be called a priori exceptionalism or
    “neoexceptionalism,” since it is less concerned with justifying American uniqueness than with
    asserting its immunity to international law.)”
    It doesn`t seem outlandish of me to regard Frank Gaffney as one of those “proponents”
    supporting this interpretation, does it? And since I talked about Gaffney in the discussion with
    Steve Clemons that I linked to, that was roughly the definition of exceptionalism that I though
    about when I used the word above.
    So, there are other definitions of that word – but I happened to use it in a specific context related
    to a specific neocon ideologue and his opponent, the “progressive realist” Steve Clemons.
    Fair enough?

    Reply

  38. Paul Norheim says:

    “Was it “atavism” when Periclean Athens in its exceptionalism was calling all other
    people other than Greeks barbarians?”
    Do I admire the particular fact that they called all other people “barbars”? No.
    However, I hesitate to use labels as atavism or superstition on ancient cultures.
    Since the Enlightenment was such an important source for the American
    constitution, and since we now live in the 21. century, I find it more appropriate to
    use such labels on people like Frank Gaffney.
    Nadine, the proponents of an -ism do not have monopoly on defining that word. (Or
    would you perhaps say that only Muslims, and not the critic`s of Islam, have the
    right to attempt to define what Islam “is”? Only Marxists, and not the critics of
    Marxism etc…?)

    Reply

  39. questions says:

    http://www.gseis.ucla.edu/courses/ed253a/american-exceptionalism.htm
    A rough outline full of links on American exceptionalism using the standard definition….
    http://mitworld.mit.edu/video/258
    A video — Zinn on the myth of AE.

    Reply

  40. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “We will soon know, unless he is stuck in the ‘middling’ of the swing”
    Is that grade of cotton in fantasy land, too, Kotz?
    I gotta tell ya, your drooling blather ain’t fair or middlin’. Theres only one grade left, eh?

    Reply

  41. nadine says:

    Paul, the definition of American exceptionalism I’m using is the one used by its proponents, those who say it does exist and it’s a good thing.
    I know it’s very convenient to define as something different and much stupider before you trash it as “atavism” but it is a low and dishonest form of argument. Don’t you believe that you are capable of engaging your opponents’ ideas, that you must willfully set up straw men arguments to demolish instead?

    Reply

  42. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Gads, the rabid fanatic drooler Kotz sure has a corn cob up his ass over Norheim. Its comical.
    What the hell did you do to Kotz, Paul, that put a burr in his studded leather panties?
    And you gotta love the Nadine line about the “success of the surge” horseshit. Its actually going to be quite fitting seeing Obama being taken to task for “pull(ing) defeat out of the jaws of victory” by these effin’ monsters like Nadine and her zionist/neocon Gods. If Obama woulda leveled with the public about what a transient crock of shit the “success of the surge” was, then he might have escaped being blamed for what is essentially a Bush Administration con-job and clusterfuck. But it wasn’t PC to point out the temporary buy-off of the “former Baathists”, “Sunni Insurgents”, and Saddam loyalists” that were busy killing American soldiers before Petreaus started lining their pockets with cold hard American taxpayer cash. So now Obama is going to pay the price by being blamed for the inevitable blazing civil inferno that Iraq is about to become. And this racist witch Nadine will toast each and every Iraqi death with cackles of glee. She really is despicable, you know. A true abomination, she is the essence of what has caused thousands of years of humans murdering humans.

    Reply

  43. kotzabasis says:

    Paul Norheim
    Why you loath and continue to dodge the Athenian interpretation of “exceptionalism,” which was the same kind as America’s, since it was based in its democratic institutions, on knowledge, and military, predominantly naval, power? Is it because you have no cogent answer?
    You all notice of course the all of a sudden silence of the lamb, Dan Kervick. I wonder when he will be posting again that at the start of this thread he was so voluble. Maybe he is in the middle of the swing of the pendulum whether to send us a ‘sublime’ post or a comical one. We will soon know, unless he is stuck in the ‘middling’ of the swing.

    Reply

  44. Paul Norheim says:

    Nadine and Kotz,
    first Kotz; “exceptionalism” in this context refers to a certain tradition in America`s
    interpretation of itself, and is not simply identical with “exceptional” or “excellent” (although
    that interpretation actually is a possible one).
    As a start, you may have a look at this article:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_exceptionalism
    And Nadine, although your definition is a very common one, the meaning or definition of the
    word is not completely fixed, and “exceptionalism” has meant a lot of different things.

    Reply

  45. ... says:

    nadine quote “People can come from all around the world and sign up to the contract and become Americans, in a way they cannot just sign up to any other country and become Norweigian and Japanese or whatever. That’s why America does a better job assimilating immigrants than other places.”
    people come from all over integrate into canada and australia as well… i suppose we need to say that we are exceptional just like the usa, lol…. another country that is exceptional is israel that bases immigration on whether one is jewish or not… that is exceptional in the world today as well…

    Reply

  46. kotzabasis says:

    Paul Norheim
    You are not only a bad political ‘thinker’ but also a very, very bad logician. The definition of exceptional in the Oxford Dictionary is “unusually good,” “outstanding.” The definition of excellence in the same dictionary is “extremely good,” “outstanding.” Are you going also to re-write the Oxford Dictionary as you are attempting to re-write history? I repeat, was Greece in its Golden Age, under the great statesmanship of Pericles, expressing its exceptionalism that was rooted in its brilliant philosophy and in its democratic culture-among despotisms and satrapies-a form of superstition?

    Reply

  47. nadine says:

    Paul and Wigway, neither of you know what American exceptionalism means (neither does President Obama, for that matter). It does not mean that we in America thinks we’re special.
    Certainly we do think that we’re special but so does everybody, especially when their own civilization is doing well. If you don’t think you’ve got something special going, history tells us that you will pretty quickly be taken over by somebody else who thinks he does. But that is just ethnocentrism. Everybody does that to some degree.
    American exceptionalism means that America is different from all other countries in being founded as a contract, not just a people and a territory. This contract is designed to protect individual life, liberty and property and is defined in the form of a Constitutional republic. People can come from all around the world and sign up to the contract and become Americans, in a way they cannot just sign up to any other country and become Norweigian and Japanese or whatever. That’s why America does a better job assimilating immigrants than other places.
    If you’re going to trash American exceptionalism, at least get the definition right first.

    Reply

  48. nadine says:

    “While increased popular support in Europe is nice, it won’t mean anything for America’s strategic interests if the Obama administration cannot restore our credibility.”
    I read this paraqraph and thought, Hats off! finally there’s a liberal who understands that popularity and credibility and not the same thing. Then I read this:
    “The Bush administration squandered two kinds of American credibility. The first relates to other governments’ perceptions of whether the United States can achieve the goals that it sets out for itself. As Steve Clemons has noted on this blog, the Iraq war demonstrated America’s limits in dramatic, devastating fashion.”
    Then I thought, Hats back on, back to liberal self-inflicted blindness. Liberals are so determined to prove themselves right about opposing the Iraq War that they refuse to see anything but a disaster from beginning to end. Unless Obama manages to pull defeat out of the jaws of victory, from 2006 to 2009 the US turned a losing war into a victory and handed Al Qaeda a huge defeat in what THEY had declared the central front for jihad on the planet.
    Now, it seems elementary that showing that you have the will to stick out a long fight and win does not show “devastating limits” on American power but rather the reverse. After all, what Al Qaeda had always doubted about America, not without reason, was not the strength of America’s weapons but its will to take casualties and stick out a fight. Just bloody them and they will run, said Osama bin Laden. Had we pulled out of Iraq in 2006 – which Clemons recommended if I remember – THEN we would have shown the “devastating limits of American power.”
    Meanwhile, what does Obama’s European popularity amount to? Has one European leader done ANYTHING Obama asked for? Is anybody sending more troops to Afghanistan, for example? No.

    Reply

  49. JohnH says:

    Forgot the link. Too bad the video isn’t in English. I’m sure it’s priceless.
    http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1113474.html

    Reply

  50. JohnH says:

    OA-they probably won’t recognize that you’re married, either, because your wife married outside the tribe. No racism there!

    Reply

  51. Outraged American says:

    OK: just found out that my trip to Israel and Palestine might
    require TWO passports because Israel will not allow people
    who’ve traveled in the West Bank or the Gaza Strip to enter
    Israel.
    http://tinyurl.com/ndvdlz
    The US State Department is OUTRAGED, I tell you — OUTRAGED
    — that Israel would put these travel restrictions on US
    citizens!!!!
    The US deeply “regrets” that Israel will now not allow foreigners,
    to travel freely.
    We are all Palestinians now.
    What was Carroll saying about that midget, Nazi country…I’m
    seriously pissed off: I wanted to see The Holy Land if only to hurl
    rotten tomatoes at both the Dome of the Rock and the Wailing
    Wall.
    Here’s some good news on Happy War on Terror Birthday:
    U.S. survey: More know about Islam, fewer think it’s violent
    http://tinyurl.com/lxtn68

    Reply

  52. ... says:

    carroll – good general overview.. toss in deceptive and disruptive CIA actions for a fine accent to it all…
    glad we ‘almost’ all share an admiration for dan kervicks writing abilities and personally same for his astute commentary… obviously he was being humourous in that sept 10 11:39pm post.. it escaped kotz who appears to only be able of labeling someone a fool and a genius at the same time, while ignoring what any of it says about him…

    Reply

  53. Carroll says:

    There was never any “mystique” about America.
    What we had going for us in the past was “some dab of ethics backed up by financial might and resources that made us admired and regarded as a “can do” nation.
    That is no longer the case. You can thank the increasing slezzyness of our trashy, treasonous, politicans for the condition we are in today.
    Put garbage in DC, you get garbage out.
    Point out one thing..ONE THING..that congress has done for America(ns), …not elites, not special interest, not the zionist and Israel, not the oil companies, not the Cuban exiles, not WS, not illegals,not multi national vulture corps,…in the last 40 years…just one f****** legitimate thing to strenghten this country and level the domestic playing field..
    Vietnam?
    Free Trade?
    Cuban blockade
    Enron accounting?
    Off shore Tax shelters?
    Illegal immigration?
    Deregulating the S&L’s?
    Dipping into Medicare to fund their personal pork projects?
    Deregulating WS?
    Creating media monopilies?
    Foreign lobbies running our foreign policy?
    The failure of every single US agency, on the same day, Sept 11, at the same time?
    Expecting us to fall for their 911 investigation?
    Iraq?
    TARP?
    Cash for Clunkers?
    Hokey tax rebates as economic stimulas?
    I could go on…
    BWTTGASO

    Reply

  54. Outraged American says:

    Indians calling the shots? *SHUDDER* Most irrational bunch of
    loons on Earth. Don’t worry your pretty little head: it will never
    happen.
    The Chinese are too lazy to have an empire. Although they are
    good at mindless brutality, but we’re better. Team USA.
    I love reading Wig’s posts for the sheer entertainment value —
    you make me laugh Wig. Here’s another Wig quote that’s
    golden:
    ” For those who support the creation of a Palestinian State, is
    there any nation in the world other than the United States
    capable of delivering a Palestinian nation? If the United States
    ceased to exist tomorrow, who else would care about the
    creation of a nation for the Palestinians? Of course the
    Europeans would BUT THEIR LEVERAGE AND PERSUASIVE ABILITY
    WITH ISRAEL IS HARDLY IMPRESSIVE”
    (emphasis mine)
    Yet again Wig accidentally makes it clear that she thinks that
    Israel’s tail wags the US dog, and she’s right! This is like
    Olmert’s slip that Israel has nukes — Wig has admitted that we
    are the supplicants and Israel is the monarch.
    What’s the Arabic word for “hasbara”, because that’s what Wig’s
    engaged in — she’s not working for Israel, she’s working for
    Nasrallah.

    Reply

  55. JohnH says:

    CheapTiffany and Jewelry have added welcome comments to this thread. They illustrate the allure of mystique, whether it’s fraudulent or real. And the world’s richest nation certainly has the funds (borrowed from China) to hire lots of public diplomats, talking heads, and hired pens to promote the aura of its exceptionalism and of its role as the “indispensable nation.” And they go forth to trumpet the noble, generous nature of American foreign policy, which acts solely to represent freedom and democracy, human rights and women’s rights (the two are not the same!), and to stand firmly against terrorism and foreign nuclear proliferation.
    As for the actual reality, (fraudulent elections and hospital bombings in Afghanistan), the aura of a morally exceptional America continues to take its hits. As a result, business for master spinners, scam artists all, has never been better. Think tanks have become true safe havens in turbulent economic times.
    As for the 911 story, it’s just one of a series of “official versions,” each designed to protect the powerful, demonize the foe, and enhance the “position” and credibility of people and nations with dubious moral credentials. None of these “official versions” are open to discussion by anyone with inside connections to official Washington. That only happens in cases, like the one in Afghanistan, where the official version totally unravels. Then people begin to whine about the exposure to America’s mystique!

    Reply

  56. PissedOffAmerican says:

    BTW, Tony, thanks for the link.
    It is heartening to see Asia Times, and Pepe Escobar, airing dissent against the official 9/11 narrative.
    But you are in for a major dissappointment if you think Steve Clemons will get within 1000 miles of a debate about 9/11.

    Reply

  57. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Kotz, I gotta wonder, what made you such a rabid jackass?

    Reply

  58. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “I triple dare you Steve. Touch on this article”
    You gotta be kidding. He won’t even touch events occuring between Israel and the Obama Administration now. If he won’t comnment on the Reid/Hoyer mutiny, what makes you think he’ll touch 9/11?
    You know, its bad enough that the American people are so disengaged, mis-informed, ill-informed, ignorant and naive that they are so easily conned. But that such an unbelievable, untenable, and fantastic compilation of bullshit such as the fairy tale surrounding 9/11 can actually be bandied as the “truth” for over eight years is a condemning statement on our collective sanity.
    By the way, Tony, I had Obama figured right, didn’t I? I wish your version would have been correct.

    Reply

  59. Paul Norheim says:

    Kotz,
    I`m glad, and a bit surprised, seeing that you share my admiration for Dan Kervicks
    prose. I think you are confusing excellence with exceptionalism – the latter being an
    ideology with irrational, superstitious sources.
    Frank Gaffney expressed exceptionalism in his discussion with Steve, linked to above:
    “Those of us who believe that there is something unique, something special, something
    extraordinary… I dare say exceptional about America, recognise that that it is so in
    at least substantial measure because of our constitution. (…)and to impute into that
    organization (the UN) some higher moral stature and authority than we have as a result
    of our… I think God given constitution…is… I think a serious mistake.”
    ———————————-
    “our… I think God given constitution…” Now, this goes beyond “excellence”, this is
    superstition, this is exceptionalism as an ideology, expressed in it`s purest form. As I
    commented then:
    Gaffney`s statements imply that America is not only on a historic, but also moral, even
    metaphysical mission, initiated when God gave the constitution to America and the world
    through the founding fathers. On a fundamental level, the constitution was not the act
    of the founding fathers, created through their judgement, their analytical and political
    skills, their experience, and their studies of different states, laws, and governments
    through history. The constitution was an act of God.”
    I regard this as an example of 21. century atavism. However, if Frank Gaffney actually
    didn`t believe what he said, then perhaps it was just some neocon junk intended for
    domestic consume, among the superstitious masses.

    Reply

  60. kotzabasis says:

    Oops, correction in the second sentence, REINVENTING human nature.

    Reply

  61. kotzabasis says:

    Paul Norheim
    Was it “atavism” when Periclean Athens in its exceptionalism was calling all other people other than Greeks barbarians? You are creating, if not inventing human nature, fictitious ‘rational’ historical concepts whose only existence is in your wet dreams. Is it “irrational” for anyone who excels in some human attribute, e.g., beauty, intellect, to consider oneself as being exceptional among the mass and to exhibit and display this “exceptionalism” in those areas where one is primus domo? And doesn’t this reaction also apply to human groups and nations?
    A miniature illustration of the above is Dan Kervick. Anyone who is not biased against, or envious of, the man, would admit that he excels in constructing beautiful, and grammatically perfect sentences in a beautifully written prose. And one also notices that he is always imbued with the predilection to exhibit this excellence by writing serial comments on the same subject and thus also displaying the nuanced ‘multiversality’ of his thought, although, often, by pushing himself too hard in the realms of cognition and imagination he moves from the ‘sublime’ to the absurd in his arguments and turns himself into a fool. Do you think Paul, that Kervick does all this out of some “kind of superstition” or “lunatic tendency?”
    Paul, it’s obvious from your posts that you are a treasury chest of literary knowledge. But no amount of literary knowledge will save you from the bankruptcy of your political thought.

    Reply

  62. TonyForesta says:

    Forgive me for going offtopic in this thread, but this http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/KI11Ak02.html is a must read. I am challenging, begging if necessary our humble host, Mr Clemons to look into this article and have the courage to hot shine lights on the reality and TRUTH surrounding 9/11. Until and unless America undertakes a REAL investigation into the event of 9/11, – there can be no HOPE for our nation to ever go forward in good conscience into ANY future. 9/11 was an inside job, and I realize the ramifications of a real investigation would be devastating, and tumultuous, – but there can be NO future for America if it is found that the fascists in the bushgov were in anyway implicit or complicit involved in 9/11, which by the way all the available evidence, including these 50 questions, and Sibel Edmonds incendiary allegations prove have merit. We’ll never know until and unless a real investigation (not a whitewash protecting the fascists in the bushgov) is commissioned and undertaken. I will go to my grave KNOWING the bushgov was directly involve in 9/11. Clearing this toxic air will be painfull, and many a head will role, – but in the end, America will be a better and a stronger nation and people if we truly investigate what happened on that dark day, who was responsible, why it happened, and who benefitted.
    I triple dare you Steve. Touch on this article. For the good of the nation. Join the chorus of people demanding a real investigation, (not a whitewash shielding the fascists in the bushgov) into the events of 9/11.

    Reply

  63. Paul Norheim says:

    Funny,
    we were discussing mystique and exceptionalism, and suddenly two spammers,
    “cheaptiffany” and “Jewelry”, showed up on the thread – two genuine
    representatives of the trade in mystique and exceptionalism in the 21. century.
    I hope that Steve won`t remove their spam, as they actually provide a nice
    insight into the mystique business:
    “These replicas can surprise even the more knowledgeable among jewelry
    enthusiasts in the way the items mimic an original”……
    Just like “the mystique of US power” is a replica of former replicas of the same
    eternal crap.
    Now WigWag, who would you think are still tempted to buy their gems?

    Reply

  64. Dan Kervick says:

    I don’t think it’s only the United States that has lost its mystique. Mystique itself just doesn’t seem to be the force that it once was in world affairs. Mystique is based on secrecy, and a confused perception of obscure, irresistible and inexplicable power. But the world is now too small and transparent to allow for much mystique. All the pores and warts on every face are visible. The greasepaint is apparent. There are no Pharoahs or Sultans or Celestial Highnesses. All the old magic shows have been shown up as cheesy carny acts. The men behind the curtains have been exposed. And the whole array of entertainments is just not that impressive.
    If Greta Garbo were around today, she wouldn’t be a dark, reclusive and mysterious beauty. We would be downloading her boyfriends’ sex tapes off the internet. What famous figures possess mystique these days?
    And which parts of the world still possess mystique? The “exotic east”? That’s now just a bundle of cliches for a Tarantino send-up. The Forbidden City is just a tourist trap.
    I think countries might have to figure out how to manage their relations going forward without counting on a lot of help from mystique, and will need to base them more on straight shooting and square dealing. Instead of trying to dazzle and awe the rubes with smoke-filled displays and aloof pretensions, lets just tell people what we want, what we can live with an what we can’t.

    Reply

  65. Paul Norheim says:

    WIGWAG: “As for Paul’s comment about American exceptionalism, I have a sneaking suspicion
    that American exceptionalism is actually rather unexceptional. Haven’t all empires or
    superpowers thought they were exceptional during the period of their ascendancy?”
    PAUL: Yes. And some of us have been astonished, reading about, say the Russians under the
    Tzar in the 18`th and 19`th century, arguing that Moscow was the “Third Rome”
    (Konstantinopolis being the second) etc, and seeing America expressing similar concepts
    in the “enlightened” 20`th and 21`th century. These are irrational historical concepts,
    just like those surrounding the byzantine emperors and the mystical source of their power
    (they represented God): or like the common perception of the power of the Ethiopian
    Emperor, the Lion of Judah, descendant of King Solomo etc. – Haile Selassie – while I
    grew up in Africa.
    I`ve always wondered why this kind of superstition still has such strong influence on the
    minds of the elites in the most technologically advanced society with the best
    universities. It`s an atavism that the progressive commenter WigWag has no problem
    accepting. I find it astonishing.
    WIGWAG: “While their power doesn’t suggest moral superiority (which they always think it
    does) doesn’t their ability to influence world affairs well beyond the ability of most
    other nations actually make them by definition rather exceptional?”
    PAUL: Exceptional in the sense of being among the handful of superpowers in the history
    of mankind, yes, that`s a fact. But the concept of exceptionalism is at it`s core a moral
    concept, related to a divine/historic mission that goes far beyond simply being powerful.
    To illustrate the irrationality, the lunatic tendency of this perception, an analogy
    would be if WigWag, Kervick, POA, Kotzabasis or Paul Norheim suddenly realized that they
    had been appointed to fulfill a very special historical mission on this planet by God.
    In the 21. century I regard this as a lunatic concept.

    Reply

  66. ... says:

    lets settle for a lesser form of darkness.. that is logic that wigwag uses to evaluate and frame the options.. nothing inspirational or idealistic, just a dark view of a dark future without the lighter shade of pale that the usa has come to represent if the usa is not guiding the world with its inspired, or insipid leadership – take yer pick… screw international institutions, and shit on any type of rule of law, especially international… raw power, whether abusive, torturous or delirious, is all that wigwag seems to respect.. this suggests he was quite at home with gwbush’s admin and would be comfortable with any gov’t willing to trample on the many to look after a few…
    paul thanks for re-posting the link with your conversation with steve and on the debate between gaffney and clemons.. i hadn’t read that link but it is very connected to this thread.. the word ‘exceptional-ism’ stands out… indeed when a country, nation, people, race or person adopt this attitude the arrogance that goes with it is a given… this seems to be the guiding principle of at least a few nations that i immediately think of = the usa and israel being on the top of the list… i suppose it makes sense that they have banded together in so many ways, as it breeds an alternative reality that will continue to be challenged as we move forward on the planet.. arrogance is the enemy of human beings and the planet.. observing who is cultivating it is instructive…

    Reply

  67. WigWag says:

    Well, if you have that “magic state building stick,” Dan, I suggest you use it because your version of a Dubai-like Afghanistan is certainly better than the Taliban version where girls can’t go to school or even learn to read.
    As for Paul’s comment about American exceptionalism, I have a sneaking suspicion that American exceptionalism is actually rather unexceptional. Haven’t all empires or superpowers thought they were exceptional during the period of their ascendancy? While their power doesn’t suggest moral superiority (which they always think it does) doesn’t their ability to influence world affairs well beyond the ability of most other nations actually make them by definition rather exceptional?
    And while the superpower status of the United States is frequently viewed with skepticism at best (and outright hostility at worst) in these climes, shouldn’t that status actually be welcomed. Do Europeans, South Americans, Australians or Africans really expect a more progressive, peaceful or equitable world when the Chinese and/or Indians are calling the shots?
    For those who support the creation of a Palestinian State, is there any nation in the world other than the United States capable of delivering a Palestinian nation? If the United States ceased to exist tomorrow, who else would care about the creation of a nation for the Palestinians? Of course the Europeans would but their leverage and persuasive ability with Israel is hardly impressive. Would the Chinese, Indians or Russians push for the nation of Palestine to be created? It’s doubtful at best.
    Do critics of American exceptionalism and those who object to its superpower status really think that but for American power the world would be a better place?
    What exactly do they think is going to replace the American hegemon? Do they really think it’s going to be the rule of law enforced by powerful and fair international institutions?
    Is that what the Chinese and Indians have in mind for the next century?
    Oscar Wilde said it best; “there are but to tragedies in a man’s life, one is not getting what he wants; the other is getting it.”
    I think critics of American hegemony should be careful what they wish for.

    Reply

  68. Dan Kervick says:

    Yes, POA, you had better be careful about who you associate with.

    Reply

  69. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Dan, you’re embarrasing me.

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  70. Dan Kervick says:

    To regain American credibility, I propose that we wave our magic state-building stick and rebuild Afghanistan on the model of the Fabulous Quasi-Islamic Paradise of Dubai!
    Imagine the New Kabul:
    * The Kabul Towers, the region’s only 17-star hotel, with the world’s first totally self-sustaining indoor rainforest, and functioning on-site volcano, spewing molten rock and ash to the delight of our guests, and powered by an onsite energy plant with an average hourly output equivalent to the total annual energy use of Bangladesh and Kenya combined!
    *Genetically engineered prostitutes complimentary with every business suite, each chained to the bedpost and outfitted with solid-gold vaginas and ivory breasts, practicing their ancient craft burkha-free in total liberated sexual freedom!
    *An imported slave army of oompa-loompas from ooompa-loompaland that do all the work, so you don’t have to!
    *Globally diversified banks offering 15% annual yields on collateralized debt obligations that you can purchase for NO MONEY WHATSOEVER. Our banks are backed by the US Federal Reserve System, and are guaranteed NOT to fail – or your deposits back.
    *Handy coin-operated money laundering machines on every floor. Turn your embezzled euros, extorted yen and inconvenient narco-dollars into the currency of your choice. And one complimentary offshore business registration with every pomegranate-n-poppy martini in our Gentleman’s Lounge.
    *No pesky laws, taxes, legislators or voters. Just a single All-Powerful, Omnipotent Khan – and the US undersecretary he works for. The Khan is an egalitarian friend to all billionaires, great and small – but especially great!
    *All of that legendary Muslim charm that the cosmopolitan connoisseur has come to love – but with none of those those annoying Muslim hassles. Camels … sexy veils … elegant mosques … evocative muezzins! But NO alms, NO pilgrimages, NO actual praying and NO fasting. Especially no fasting. You absolutely must try our sumptuous all-you-can-eat Ramadan buffet – unique in the region. Shari-NOT!
    * State of the art anti-terrorist drone range. Terrorists imported fresh from Pakistan. YOU control the drones; YOU press the launch buttons. Just yell “pull” and then let’em have it! Yee-hah!
    *And did we say 18-hole Robert Trent Jones II golf course? 18-hole Robert Trent Jones II golf course!

    Reply

  71. Paul Norheim says:

    Wigwag said in the thread below this one: “I think an important part of Steve’s point has
    been lost in the discussion. I think Steve is trying to make the point that first the
    Iraq War and now the Afghan War have exposed the limits of American power and that this
    is very disadvantageous to the position of the United States in the world.”
    Now this issue has got a separate thread, thanks to Ben Katcher`s post about US
    credibility problem. Let me add another link, in an attempt to further clarify Steve
    Clemons` position on this, as well as a couple of quotes – from a short discussion with
    me five months ago. This is also related to the issue of international institutions and
    laws, discussed recently (with Wigwag, Kervick, …, myself and others participating), as
    well as the current economical crisis.
    If you`re interested in my critique of Steve`s position (and hey, you should be!), it`s
    easily found in the link provided below. But if you only want to read Steve`s
    articulation of his position, here is a quote providing the most important points:
    STEVE CLEMONS: “But on the “mystique of power” issue. You are probably right that this is
    rooted in an irrational belief in some degree of American exceptionalism run amok (not
    amok in my case — but how America is thought of by others).
    I do believe that as the primary architect of the post-WWII period, the US has always
    been able to organize affairs to its own advantage and that this contributed to a reality
    of power. For some time, I believe that America has undermined its global leverage, its
    global real power — particularly by undermining the health of its economic balance
    sheet, but by other means as well.
    Mystique is nothing more than mystique — an aura of power that helps generate leverage
    in certain matters when real, or applied, power are not exerted — but there exists a
    possibility (real or imagined) that power could be.
    That mystique is gone for the US today, or quickly dissipating. And you can’t reacquire
    global leverage by asserting it, or by bombing others, or through other forms of bravado.
    I guess I do see some possibility of the US getting back on track by helping to reinvent
    a global institutional framework that helps other nations as well as ourselves to get on
    a more globally collaborative course than the quite destructive one we seem to be on now.
    Since the 1980s, I feel that American mystique, as I call it, has been dissipating. The
    Plaza Accord was an early foreshock of this in my mind. But I have also not generally
    been a fan of the idea that mystique can be deployed in conflict situations — too many
    tests undermine a sense of a nation’s limitlessness by
    showing limits. And that is what we have done…shown a lot of limits.”
    You can read the rest of the discussion here:
    http://www.thewashingtonnote.com/archives/2009/04/clemons_vs_gaff_1/
    And I can`t resist quoting a small part of my own arguments from that discussion, that is
    actually relevant to what Ben Katcher said in his post here:
    “As I see it, this “mystique of the superpower” is an essential part of the problem. It
    may (and have often) induced fear in America`s enemies. But also America itself has often
    been a victim of this mystique. It generates arrogance. It generates hubris. It generates
    unrealistic expectations, and a dangerous sense of exceptionalism among the American
    people and its leaders. And it tends to create the same unrealistic expectations among
    US` allies and friends: That America can save us, save the world, and fix all problems.
    Bush, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Cheney were spectacular victims of this irrational belief,
    and by unintentionally exposing some of the limits of the most powerful country on the
    planet, they did us all a favor.”

    Reply

  72. JohnH says:

    Credibility and “position” are both associated with image and appearance. The content of the policies be damned. Such is the state of public relations and its sister in foreign relations, public diplomacy.
    As anyone familiar with marketing knows, “positioning” probably started with the need to best “position” products in the store. All things equal, the product that was more visible or easiest to grab was the one to get selected. In a commodity market where all products were virtually the same, “positioning” made the difference. Appearances were key.
    Advertising moved the battle to “intellectual shelf space,” so that different varieties of Coca Cola–virtually identical drinks–would each appeal to a different target demographic.
    Politics followed suit. Politicians, with virtually no distinctions among them and wanting to bury any real distinctions (funders, for example), pounced on “positioning” as a way to win without actually being for anything. Again, it was all about appearances.
    The world of foreign relations, linked to the world of politics, was not to be left out. And so, the foreign policy mob cares not a whit about what Dan Kervick calls ” crazy, deluded, counterproductive, criminal or outlandish schemes.”
    No, the only thing that matters is how to “position” these schemes so that they can best be sold to a gullible public. To do this, they constantly invoke advertising themes that resonate with the gullible, including terrorism!, nuclear weapons!, freedom and democracy, women’s rights, along with a good dose of how badly people are faring under the awful regime, even if it’s not true. In fact, truth is one of the early victims of positioning.
    It would be an astonishing and unforgettable moment to hear someone in the foreign policy mob actually outline America’s strategic interests, the stakes at hand, the alternative actions, and then recommend a course of action. (It’s called making a case for what you want to do, and most any functional human being know how to do it.) Instead, we get this constant stream of fact free BS that relies totally on deception and manipulation for its persuasive power.
    And this is what is supposed to pass for informed commentary and intelligent debate in Washington!

    Reply

  73. Kathleen Grasso Andersen says:

    Credibilty??? I forgot we ever had any…the best and only way to achierve credibiliy is to be truthful and forthright in our dealing with others…and to live up to our own ideals…if torture is aginst the law, then prosecute the goddmaned torturers…if the intelligence we used to foment war on Iraq was false, and it was, then come clean on who was involved in the Niger Forgery and who leaked Plame’s name, etc.
    When Barry O and every other elected/appionted offical actually live up to their oath of office and defend our Constitution and uphold our own rule of law, there might be some reason for others to “believe” us. Don’t hold your breath folks. Barry O thinks if you look the other way, it’ll go away. He wants to focus on that fierce urgency of four years from now.

    Reply

  74. Dan Kervick says:

    Yes, two kinds of credibility are the two Ben Katcher describes: the perception that the United States can achieve the goals it sets out for itself, and the perception that the United States tells the truth.
    But there is another kind of credibility which is even more important than either of the other two: the perception that the country is not involved in crazy, deluded, counterproductive, criminal or outlandish schemes – no matter how achievable and honestly described they are.
    If the United States announced tomorrow that it will be mounting a new effort to eradicate Antarctic penguins with a new space-based death ray, it is entirely possible that most other countries would believe that (a) we have the wherewithal and determination to accomplish this goal, and (b) are telling the truth about our intentions and aims. But they would likely also perceive that (c) we are off our flipping rockers.
    It is when a country loses this third form of credibility that its relationships go really bad, and it starts to be regarded as a … I believe the technical IR term is “joke”.
    The reason the US lost credibility under Bush is not just that we were perceived as lying, or having set goals that were to difficult or ambitious to accomplish. It was also believed by many that the goals themselves were some combination of clueless, criminal, barbaric and ignorant, and that large segments of the US public that apparently approved these actions and re-elected their architects were themselves clueless, criminal and barbaric ignoramuses.
    So yes, I hope Obama can convince others that we don’t lie excessively, and don’t bite off more than we can chew when conceiving our agendas. I hope even more that he can convince them that we are not all flaming idiots.

    Reply

  75. JohnH says:

    There’s a problem more fundamental than whether the goals the US sets for itself can be met. It’s called phony goals. Bush gave us lots of goals for Iraq, the goal du jour. They changed every time the previous one got exposed as phony. Saddam’s nukes, freedom and democracy, BS, BS, and more BS. But the real goal was never publicly revealed.
    The same is true of Afghanistan. First, the goal was to get Osama. After years of playing the Keystone Cops, the US finally decided the goal is a stable democracy (like Iraq’s!) BS, BS, and more BS. What is the real goal?
    Now the goal in Iran is supposedly to stop Iran’s nuclear weapons program. This is obviously a phony goal, since the US can find no evidence for such a program. In recent years this phony goal has alternated with another phony goal which sought to punish Iran for meddling in Iraq. But that also ran into a problem because the US could never produce any evidence. Before that the US wanted to punish Iran for something else. What a farce!
    http://news.antiwar.com/2009/09/09/us-iran-might-almost-be-able-to-make-a-nuclear-weapon-if-it-wanted-to/
    America’s credibility deserves to be in the toilet as long as it insists on floating phony goals, supported by “fixed” intelligence.
    Sadly, the American taxpayer has yet to catch onto the scam.

    Reply

  76. ... says:

    the usa led the world into the biggest economic calamity in seventy years as well wiggy… i suppose when you are working to maintain your euro-phobic position these truths are better to ignore..
    from the article – “The Europeans thought that the United States under Obama would ask less, while Obama thought the Europeans would give more.”
    since when has the usa ever stopped asking for more and thinking others must give more?? of course all of it is about the military build up as wiggy notes, with the usa always complaining others aren’t carrying their weight… what this translates as is this : spend more money on the military industrial complex like we do… become like us… very typically ethnocentric thinking which wigwag personifies quite well actually..

    Reply

  77. WigWag says:

    Why wouldn’t the Europeans love Obama? After all, under his leadership and with essentially no assistance from the Europeans, the United States led the world out of the biggest economic calamity in seventy years. The United States adopted fiscal policies that provided the aggregate demand to arrest the economic slide not only in this country but in Europe as well. U.S. taxpayers will be paying for the needed stimulus for decades; as usual, the Europeans (especially the French and Germans but excluding the British) were freeloaders. Some might say that the economic crisis had its roots in the lending policies of American banks; while that’s true, many European lenders followed the same policies and at the very least, European governments were co-conspirators in creating the economic crisis.
    Whether it’s the failure to live up to its economic responsibilities, relying on the U.S. military to defend them first against the Soviets and now against Islamic extremism or enjoying the benefits of medical research paid for almost entirely by Americans, the Europeans are like that natty but eccentric uncle who comes for a visit and then never leaves.
    Who cares whether they like the American President or not?
    Beggars can’t be choosers.

    Reply

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