ACRU Senior Fellow Ken Blackwell wrote this column appearing on Townhall.com on April 13, 2010.
When asked if he believes in American exceptionalism, President Obama said yes, but he was sure that the British and the Belgians also believed in their countries’ exceptionalism.
President Obama’s version of American exceptionalism is Lake Woebegon’s children: they’re all above average. Or perhaps, he’d be more at home in Alice in Wonderland’s Caucus Race, where everyone runs and everyone gets prizes.
There was a time, not so long ago, when Americans expected their President to be an unapologetic champion of American ideals and American power.
President Kennedy said Americans were “the watchmen on the walls of freedom.” He echoed President Washington, who thought the American people had been given the unique opportunity to tend “the sacred fire of liberty.”
President Lincoln, burdened with the cares of office in the midst of our most terrible civil war, rose to rhetorical heights after proclaiming Emancipation. He told Congress that grim gray December of 1862 that
“in giving freedom to the slave, we preserve freedom for the free, honorable alike in what we give and what we preserve. We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth.”
To modern liberals, such talk is unbearable. Who could be so naïve as to believe the United States of America is the last best hope of earth? That’s jingo talk. That’s chauvinist. It’s ethno-centric. It’s down market.
Instead, liberals have put their faith in “the world community.” They look to “multi-lateralism” and international cooperation to bring hope and change to mankind, oops, sorry, humankind. (But say, isn’t that speciesism?)
This week in Washington, we are going through another exercise in multi-lateralism. President Obama has invited 46 other “heads of state” to join him in a Nuclear Security Summit. He hopes to have all these governing elites noodle on matters nuclear in the expectation that they will, first, agree what the issues are, second, agree on what to do about them, and, third, actually do what they say they will do.
Why am I skeptical? Just look at the record. We think this is the first such great gasbag summit. It isn’t. The first such confab took place in San Francisco in 1946. The United Nations Charter was launched with lots of champagne, lots of canapés, and oceans of rhetoric. That was a nuclear summit, too. The U.S. had just dropped two nuclear weapons on Japan to end the Second World War. Britain would soon become a nuclear power, sharing secrets with the U.S. And, as we now know, British nuclear physicist Klaus Fuchs, a Communist, was happy to share nuclear know-how with the Soviets, as well.
The UN Charter was announced as if it was the Second Coming. (Actually it was a second coming, of sorts, for the UN’s birth also heralded the quiet interment of the first coming of world peace utopianism, the unlamented League of Nations.)
Here’s what it said:
“To maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace, and to bring about by peaceful means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace” [UN Charter, 1946]
Read over those glowing words and consider the history of the world since 1946. Nothing mentioned in there about the Gulag in Russia. Nothing, of course, about the coming horrors of the Chinese, Cuban, and Cambodian Communist revolutions. The UN did nothing there. Nothing about the coming genocide in Rwanda or a dozen other states unborn in 1946. The UN did nothing about any of these.
Then cast your eyes on these glowing encomiums to peace and justice. They are part of the Preamble to the Non-Proliferation Treaty of 1968-70:
“Recalling that, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, States must refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations, and that the establishment and maintenance of international peace and security are to be promoted with the least diversion for armaments of the worlds human and economic resources.” [Preamble to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, signed July 1, 1968 and ratified March 5, 1970.]
Since that treaty was ratified, India and Pakistan have “gone nuclear,” and North Korea and Iran have launched nuclear research programs. Israel is widely believed to have nuclear weapons.
Iran and North Korea are forging ahead. The clock is ticking. Israel may be forced to use tactical nuclear weapons to defend herself from an Iranian regime that seems not to have been as inspired as Western liberals have been by the siren song of “international cooperation.”
Even in the heady days of the UN Conference, Harry Truman was careful to keep America’s nuclear arsenal up-to-date and ready and our rights to self defense uninfringed. Even as he fathered NATO and waged war under the UN banner in Korea, President Truman was also the man who extended diplomatic recognition to a newborn Israel, menaced then as today by militant, aggressive neighbors. We shall see what comes of this week’s conference. Is it too early to say it will probably be a Copenhagen II?