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tv   [untitled]    August 1, 2011 7:31am-8:01am EDT

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a goal to change the balance of the bill to rise to nationalism in xenophobia and spirit. ok coming up next all fiery debate here crosstalk. in this edition the guest debate whether american exceptionalism is a self-serving myth. it used to be an ideal place for a holiday but it won't change in a moment. the wounds of war are still visible. the republic is not only relieved but also shaping the future.
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and you can. follow in welcome to cross talk i'm peter lavelle just how exceptional american exceptionalism goes to the very foundation of how most americans see their country's history and place in the world is there any truth to this world view or is it just a myth. that you can. discuss the meaning of american exceptionalism i'm joined by david merkel in copenhagen he is a former deputy assistant secretary of state in the administration of george w. bush in oxford we go to godfrey hodson from oxford university and author of the myth of american exceptionalism and in new york we cross to peter shock he is a professor at yale law school and coeditor of understanding america the anatomy of
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an exceptional nation and another member of our cross talk team yell on the hunger all right gentlemen crosstalk rules in effect that means you can jump in anytime you want since you wrote a book on it i'd like to go to godfrey first in oxford you are quite open out there it's a myth why is that a myth well first of. myth does not mean that everything about it is untrue it is an idea or a story which is partially true and one of the things i say in terms in the book is that it's not a good thing to believe things which are not wholly true now that basically two parts to my thesis one is that historically. people in the united states exaggerated how different they are and how side how exceptional to history and that in fact the history of the united states and many many important ways has been part of larger movements larger ideas the protestant reformation the
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enlightenment there are all kinds of political and legal ideas which came from europe but also such great historical movements as the competition between the british and french and powers in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries industrialisation the industrial revolution all of these things said present the united states is somehow created by only american events and ideas such as you know massachusetts puritanism or french or jackson turns the front here seems to me to be distorting history that's the one idea the second idea which is probably more controversial is the idea that somehow since the end of the cold war american exceptionalism become more nationalistic more aggressive and more of a problem for the rest of the world if i go to you peter i mean a lot of people say american exceptionalism is a problem from americans also i mean how do you reflect about what godfrey just said because he basically did deflates it or diminishes they did is that america is
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just an extension of a european experience in many different ways though you could say that republican ideas came to the fore there but in in other ways are americans exaggerating who they are and what they are. well i don't know you know it's very much a matter of degree no sensible person would imagine that the american culture began in seven hundred seventy six and didn't have important roots and in europe of course it did. the question really is whether the united states has developed a culture and a political system an economic system that is sufficiently different from european countries in particular and from other countries as well. that we could think of it as very distinctive characteristics of a society and i think that's undoubtedly true there are a number of respects in which we differ very decidedly from from europe to use the
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most obvious comparison first is that we are a very. as societies go we are very. attractive to immigrants and we generally receive immigrants in a very in a very dynamic way and then very large numbers and that has shaped almost everything else about our society ok well savingly demographically we're very different than europe we have a growing population part of that is because of immigration but a part of it's also because americans tend to be much more optimistic than europeans are and believe in the future in ways that europeans don't thirdly there's a very strong as a religious kind of character and says we just to kind of exaggerate it to true is about me that how do you know how optimistic europeans it's ridiculous they say. well we have servant we have survey evidence we have survey evidence that suggests that people's attitudes toward the future towards their ability to control their
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destinies are very different in europe and the united states and the institutions tend to reflect that now again these are matters of degree i'm not suggesting that everybody gets a. characteristic that the society in general tends to be much more future oriented and what's more confident about what will happen in the future here than you did you do your research before the great recession because i see a lot of depression among europeans and americans if i go to you david and i'm going to pick on you here i mean a lot of people say american foreign policy and it doesn't matter if it's a democrat or republican if it's bush or it's obama it's exceptionalism and it's a very negative mean exceptionalism that even goes as far as what people say is imperialism americans think they're better than everyone else and they know the future better than everyone else and they know what's better for everyone else i mean that that's in and it was mentioned by godfrey earlier that a lot of people say this exceptionalism really got magnified out even out of
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control but after the end of the cold war because of the only being the only superpower in the world. well i think that i think the united states has been a positive force for mankind i think that the world with the united states in a leadership role is a world that's moving in the direction of greater prosperity and greater freedom for people now that does not mean that the united states hasn't made mistakes mistakes and it does not mean that the united states should should go it alone but clearly there are countries that exhibit leadership there are countries that exhibit a desire to join consensus in their countries and leaders who seem to want to frustrate consensus so i think that u.s. foreign policy while not perfect has really been a very positive force and has been quite distinct from other you know leadership leading leading countries in the twentieth century ok twenty first century you know
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what i mean peter a lot of people would say is that you know the united states will join in organisations that it's. its purpose is protocol is one of them not joining the international criminal court i mean this is a exceptionalism in a negative way in the eyes of many people in the world where the united states if it can't control the game it won't play. i say that's true the united states does calculate its national self interest in deciding what to do and what not to do i think every state does that and it's probably it's probably a universal characteristic of political systems and in terms of kioto in the international criminal court you have to assess each of those positions on their merits there are very strong reasons why the united states resisted the kyoto protocol and there are strong reasons why the u.s. has declined to join the criminal court you want to disagree with those and that
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you know that's a legitimate argument but that we're guided by in white in self-interest i think is . is in do but it will be ok but i mean this is what's here this is what's so interesting is all right david go ahead go ahead jump in i started a fight you can continue and go ahead and go to godfrey go and see if it says what so this is i i agree with what peter said this is what's so interesting is that when the united states gets behind something or or builds consensus for a common good that common good is also in our national interests so when we oppose something out of national interest reasons it kind of makes people think that all were about is our national interest i think that what's different is that is that there is a a mix of idealism and reality paula take on our foreign policy that in many ways but not exclusively in many ways is uniquely american and has as set us up in a perfect situation since since world war one to really build consensus around
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greater freedom and greater prosperity ok and that means invading countries without a u.n. resolution also i godfrey go ahead ahead go. well i'm i'm not in the business of saying that the united states has not done many positive things i think the united states for example is a great role in the defeat of nazi germany and we can all be very sad but i'll give you a very good example i was on a radio discussion as it happened a while ago when i made the point that while the united states played a very important part in defeating nazi germany to the british empire which most americans value valiantly disapproved of to the soviet union of which even more americans disagreed with the american academic told him this simply thought i was talking nonsense it was a completely new idea that the britain or the played any role in
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fighting nazi germany that's what i mean by except i think you should tax the united states for every stupid thing that an academic says we say well stupid thing well i mean i think it's. a very good point exactly. being a very good point. and how policy is formed i mean godfrey brings up an excellent point here i mean the number how many people actually know the role in the united states the role of the soviet union in the second world war and if they did they would understand how russia is feels about its neighborhood in nato expansion it would explain a lot of things russia's act behavior would seem so much more irrational if americans actually knew history that's very important here i'm sorry david you were going to jump in there just on the do you think. american are as much about history as possible i don't think that's. and. let me just say one thing about american foreign policy which is that it is it is infused with david
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said with a kind of idealism and more out of the which certainly is. alone it's that is to say that it's self-interest is is dominant but it does define a self-interest in moralistic ways and that can lead to great tragedies and mistakes as well was great ventures and triumphs ok david quick word before we go to the break here another example all right i got three go ahead and then we're going to david go ahead real quick question are you going to brag yeah i'm talking about woodrow wilson in one thousand nine hundred ninety nine hundred two of us and could not open his mouth without saying that the united states alone had no selfish interests in the all inferior should be ok and because the united states had the greatest interest of all which is that of the emerging from the wall as the richest and most powerful nation in the world all right gentlemen i'm going to jump in here after a short break we'll continue our discussion on american exceptionalism stay with
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r.t. . if you. want to. please. please. please please. sluiced sleep. sleep. sleep. sleep.
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sleep. sleep sleep. more news today violence is once again flared up if these are the images the world has been seeing from the streets of canada ashtray same operations or the same. welcome back to crossfire you know look i'll remind you we're talking about american exceptionalism today.
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but before let's see what russians think about the u.s. americanism that is an all ideology mournin revolution the being of the u.s. exceptionalism implies that country is qualitatively different from other nations but is this called so why build today with the u.s. dominos on the decline and other countries on the rise as well should americans or think that exceptionalism the russian public opinion research center gave citizens attitude towards the united states fifty nine percent of the respondents said they had positive feelings and another twenty seven sun feel negative and that's for many the question remains whether any country should think of itself as exceptional back to peter ok david i'd like to go to you but and i'd like to everyone keep a thought in mind as david because david said he when he got to three points here i think was mendelian albright said that the united states stands taller so we can
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see farther that is a very arrogant statement and it's not taken very well around the world so go ahead david. especially if someone from her diminutive said i i'd like to i'd like to go to that to godfrey's point about woodrow wilson the united states it was a result of world war two one that the united states came out as a predominant power but it was not wilson campaigned about keeping neutral there was a huge debate united states we weren't prepared and it was a tragic result of the ravages of world war one on europe that the united states did come out as a more dominant power relative to the destruction of europe after world war one but look what happened after world war one look what happened after world war two the united states' role in rebuilding other countries other former enemies was specific and peter i think i think obviously we should all learn more about history but i would say that that policymakers in the united states who thought about the
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importance of protecting the sovereignty of russia's neighbors who thought about the importance of nato enlargement knew well the massive contribution of the citizens of the soviet union during world war two and knew well of the ravages that stalin brought on russia's neighbors afterwards and i think that those two things made the importance of what president bush and clinton and george w. bush talked about as far as a importance of a europe whole free and it peace and the exciting thing the third point the exciting thing about about the united states not having as far of a distance between its leadership in other countries is all these other countries are rising up to have a stronger voice and to take a greater responsibility because i do think united states is exceptional it has a big role to play in the united states and with that comes a great responsibility ok godfrey i mean i guess i'd like to jump in here we're going to go ahead and then well in addition. ok in addition to the
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examples of world war one and world war two in the post-war. recoveries facilitated by the united states you also have nato was mentioned and the e.u. is also a project that benefited a lot i think from from american policy and then finally there's the world trading regime which is a very important institution for knitting together disparate. societies and economies in the u.s. played a leading role in all of those except obviously for the e.u. which you. played a facilitator of but certainly certainly did won't. so that's one thing the second thing is that the fact that a statement is arrogant. that it causes negative reactions around the world does not mean that it's false. it may mean that has been said in a different way in the west and the west. you know assertive or aggressive way but
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it doesn't mean that it's false. the third thing to say is that let me jump in here a bit if i can just say something about woodrow wilson i mean would your wilson said in a speech in philadelphia there is such a thing as being to try to fight it was not too proud to attack mexico twice and in fact he did get involved in the one but what he did do was to suggest that the rest of the world must adopt the ideas in detail even when they were country to the interests of other people that is a cold war those ideas that they were lower those ideas they were personal freedom they were they were well you know david here we go you know we have to invade countries to make them free oh my goodness you know i mean. you know the people of iraq you know they don't all agree with that statement i wouldn't trust a public opinion poll coming from their afghanistan is well ok so i mean i don't i
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mean how can we still say these kind of you know a statement like that is because of the end of the cold war and the arrogance of exceptionalism david have american for. policies blinded by this exceptionalism and gives rise to a many people around the world to this day i mean here we are you know it's still nothing's off the table let's go to war against iran i mean this constant thunder of you know go to war go to war it's all because we're such an exceptional people that we know the truth of the world it's ridiculous it's dishonest i know that's not true. and i was how he's not even when he was it was like. well you know i think my hope position is that i think it's important not to believe things and not to be true it is not the case that woodrow wilson offered to bring personal freedom to the world there were two principles two principles if you ideological principles and the fourteen points one was the one purely and ancient issue. of american self interest which was so-called freedom of the seas which was
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a way of undermining specifically british advantages and the other was open covenants arrived which i think most people now are entirely in favor of but it was not about bringing personal freedom to the peoples of the world at all to an extent it was you know i'm sure i got friends you can find a university there in oxford i would suggest that you dig up the fourteen points i would suggest that you try and look at all the woodrow wilson it's not going to help a part of that. here when i think it's important to have i done got the phone and was i right now book about so then child put me down in that. i think really it's not what i was an emotional one hundred year old how dare you suggest how dare you suggest i would talk about the fourteen points without having with them because it's american exceptionalism and smart peter and in new york go ahead. i think it's not very useful to get hung up on speeches that were made by
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a president a hundred years ago the question is the long the long arc of history and in the long arc of history. america has been a very. very important force for good in the world with lots of mistakes along the way lots of tragedies that we have helped to create but on the on balance i think it's impossible to make the case that we have not been a very important force for progressive ideals all right let's change gears here you got of course i'm not saying anything of the kind if you read my book because i've read the forty points if you read my book you'll find i got out of my way again and again and again to list the many many ways in which the united states had a positive effect i'm just saying that many things are believed by americans which is not wholly true all right gentlemen let's kind of change here so if you want to make one more point in foreign policy i'd like to look internally go ahead david go ahead that's the test what i what i think what i think we could we could agree upon
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is there has been there has been points where the united states has built great consensus and move things forward by by example and i think what is the frustration is that there is coming across the idea of too much lecturing of saying the way a country another country should behave without people seeing the united states behave in such such a way i think that's what godfrey is getting too so there's definitely a examples of where the united states has made mistakes mistakes and where the national interest was probably contrary to particular country's interests but i think as as as paul in new york or new york said i think the united states has been a force a positive force in mankind and i think that we can do a lot to enhance our own image as living by that example and trying to build greater consensus where countries that are contrary to that consensus stand out a little bit more than than than we do we're not going to have any consensus on
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this program or gemini to change gears a little bit here. exceptionalism yes united states is. because of its prison inmate population is quite exceptional death penalty not too many countries in the world have that exceptionally bad health care maybe that will change social inequality public education none of these things are particularly proud beacons in american society right now if you compared to other countries if i go to peter on the out there i mean all the things that we used to be so proud of in the united states there are a lot of them are lagging and blocking very badly. i would agree with that. and i would say as. we say in our book that excessive exceptionalism. has two sides of the coin there are some very bad ways in which we are exceptional as well as many good ways so i would not contest that at all what i would say is that the united states is unusually. it's usually strong in its
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self-criticism. for all the arrogance that it may be perceived abroad the united states domestically is a very very self-critical people and so the the the process sees the political processes for remedying these ills are very very robust ok godfrey you want to tell me that i totally agree that i just wanted to mention a very interesting book by a young american historian called peter baldwin in which an enormous strength and enormous detail shows today many many parameters the united states now and she lies not of the top or the bottom but somewhere in the middle between developing countries and that's if you like a concrete way of suggesting my thesis which is not that everything is bad about the united states good god no but it is the united states is a country like others in many ways stronger than many many ways a better place for people to live in than some but it is not exceptional. let me
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give you the last word there i would say in some respects it is exceptional particularly with regard to its religious characteristics its attitudes toward immigration its suspicion of a centralized power those are those are unusual with not unique features in the western in the western political tradition as institutionalized today i'm afraid and as a german here david we've run out of time thank you for a very interesting discussion many thanks to my guest today in copenhagen new york in oxford and thanks to our viewers for watching us here r.t. see you next time and remember cross talk rule.
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