�Shock and awe� diplomacy confronts American Exceptionalism
By Ben Tanosborn
Journal Contributing Writer
Sep 26, 2006, 00:49
media to give front page coverage to what Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hugo Chavez
had to say this week from the podium at the United Nations -- a very
appropriate political closing to the summer -- could be described as �shock and
awe.� Truth was dispensed via a large syringe instead of an eyedropper and to
many people that represents shock and awe.
If not the measured
remarks on the unfairness of the UN by Iran�s president, what Hugo Chavez had
to say certainly had a �shock and awe� effect domestically. Americans are
raised in the belief that they are the possessors of unquestionable moral
authority for the entire world because of their �original virtue� -- American
exceptionalism -- in total contrast to the rest of the world's people who are
born with the �original sin� . . . out of grace simply for not being Americans.
Yes, it all started back in 1831 with Alexis de Tocqueville.
exceptionalism� has been debunked as nothing more than a 21st century attempt
to globalize the 19th century Manifest Destiny -- a pseudo moral authority to
annex much of Western Continental US, which resulted in kicking Indians and
Mexicans out of both their cultures and their lands. Unfortunately, such
Manifest Destiny, even with its Monroe Doctrine addendum, only covered �our
rights� to the Americas, a puny hemisphere for a nation with an apparent
galactic appetite to govern or influence.
Down to the
nitty-gritty, American exceptionalism, whether a few generations ago or today,
is not an iota different from what European imperialism was centuries past. And
the idea that America sets the norm for human rights behavior, or even adheres
to it, has proved to be presently, if not always, wrong. America�s behavior
since the end of World War II has shrunk the idea of American exceptionalism to
that of a self-centered, chauvinistic justification for Americans to portray
themselves as a people they are not. Yes, Americans are different, powerful in
many ways, but definitely not superior.
The bottom line as
to what Messrs. Ahmadinejad and Chavez brought to the table is simple and to
the point: peace and tranquility in the world are unlikely to be achieved with
present international structures, such as the UN, which are unfair to a
majority of nations and peoples on this planet. A product of the WWII conflict,
the United Nations has only catered to the desires of the victors in that
conflict -- those already powerful -- and not to the needs of emerging peoples
-- those who lack any power -- and who are most in needs of institutions that
can give them a fair hearing in their political, social and economic struggles.
To these two gentlemen, whose thinking probably parallels that of most nations,
the US brings forth a behavior counter to peace and tranquility . . . or even
social justice. And driving that behavior is President Bush.
The preppy squatter
living in the White House may not be the devil, as portrayed by Chavez, but
indeed the trail he leaves behind, in both domestic and international deeds,
stinks of sulfur and hydrogen sulfide. Infinitely more important than the odor,
however, is the pain, death and destruction caused by his myopic decisions.
One surmises that
Hugo Chavez spoke in jest to get our attention, and his point across. The
reality is that George W. Bush does justice to a common definition of the
Prince of Darkness, and the association we have made with some horrendous
historical people. Even a benign idiot crowned with an office of tremendous
power, such as the US presidency, can cause insurmountable damage to mankind . .
. become a he-devil. (I am convinced that if a devil does exist, it is not a
she-devil, nor gender-neutral.)
members of the media, politicians of both fraternities, government officials or
the public at large, have for the most part become irate to what they consider
the impudence of these two people, branding them with demeaning and highly
insulting names. (American exceptionalism is alive and well, and bipartisan in
Whether or not the
truth made a dent in Americans, Ahmadinejad and Chavez gave a moment of glory
to the disenfranchised many, whether nations or peoples, who aren�t offered a
podium from which they can voice the iniquities they suffer. Mahmoud and Hugo,
if for a moment, became their voice to the world . . . whether anyone listens
Did these speeches
bring diplomatic �shock and awe�? Not really; not when those who have the reins
of power are heartless and shock-proof. But hope springs eternal.
� 2006 Ben Tanosborn
Ben Tanosborn, columnist, poet and writer,
resides in Vancouver, Washington (USA), where he is principal of a business
consulting firm. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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