In this thread (“Ask the Neo-Con” – http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=268701) – Captain Amazing and some others have been arguing for the neoconservative position: That the United States should be spreading our liberal republican form of government around the world by force of arms.
Sound familiar? The Soviet Communists thought it was their duty to spread and/or support Marxist proletarian revolution throughout the world, even in countries like Ethiopia and Angola where the USSR had no obvious material or strategic interests. We all know how that worked out.
What really disturbs me about the neocon way of thinking is that it is bound up with the fundamentally misconceived tradition of “American exceptionalism,” the idea that the U.S. is not like other countries, that we are a “City on a Hill,” that we have some special messianic role to play in the world, in spreading the “American creed,” whether that creed or role is chiefly defined by republican government or free-market capitalism or Protestant Christianity.
No matter how we define it, it’s all bullshit, and we need to throw it over the side, once and for all. We need to accept that the United States has a lot more in common with France or Britain than with the USSR. We are an ordinary nation-state, not an idea-state defined by a political creed.
Since 1789, France has been through five distinct periods of monarchy and five different republics and a period when it was divided between Nazi occupation and a native fascist puppet regime. Yet through all that time, France has remained France – the same country, the same national culture. China has been through many imperial dynasties, periods of division, periods of foreign rule, republican rule, Communist rule – but it is still the same nation it was in the time of Confucius. The USSR, on the other hand, existed only as a revolutionary-ideological political system and does not exist, any more, in any sense.
An America ruled by a king or a fascist dictatorship or a communist dictatorship or an established church or any other system would still be America. And an America divided into 50 independent republics would still be a single nation, just as Classical Greece was a nation although it was never politically unified until the Romans conquered it. Nations are not immortal, but they do last much longer than, and have an identity apart from, their constitutions and regimes and political systems.
We stick with liberal republican government because it is, in fact, the best of all political systems humanity has yet tried, and it works for us; but that doesn’t mean it’s what defines us as a nation, nor that it can’t be improved upon. (In my view, a non-Marxist democratic-socialist America would be even better than a free-market capitalist America, and a unitary America would be even better than a federal America, and a small-d democratic America would be even better than a small-r republican America, and an America as a province of a global multinational republic would be even better than an independent America; but those are all different discussions.) And it certainly doesn’t mean we have some kind of obligation to spread liberal republican government to the whole world. We are, indeed, the greatest, richest, and most powerful country on earth – at the moment. But we ain’t so damned special!
Does anyone care to argue the contrary?