While I applaud any effort to restore the shine to America's halo after the disastrous run we've had under the Bush administration, in particular, and conservatives, in general, Ms. Slaughter's new book is the sort of really dangerous idea that masks itself as a good one.
Because, really, what she's talking about is American Exceptionalism. And that patina of good will which we used to clad ourselves before venturing out into the turbulent waters of foreign policy. As has been argued, it's also a fancy word for imperialism. If the last few years have proven anything it's that's a word we should be striking out of our vocabularies (Mostly because we're not big enough, ready enough, or, thankfully, amoral enough to pull it off.). Sure, it's comforting to think that, yeah, we're a great country. But it's a dangerous road to walk down.
The value of the American version of exceptionalism is not what it does for the American people. It's really about how we sell ourselves to the world. It's in convincing others that we are, in essence, an honest broker. Motivated by concerns beyond our immediate advantage. It's advertising. Which, of course, can be extremely important. And we should encourage the rest of the world to view us favorably. The danger, though, lies in starting to believe our own copy.
We don't need to convince ourselves that we're not an awful people. We need to keep in mind that we can be. And we need to convince everyone else that we won't be. Unfortunately, that myth's been shot to hell by the last few years and a round of flag waving and singing “Purple Mountains Majesty” isn't going to do much of anything. The international community that's been watching us flail around like a drunk who got flicked in the back of the neck for the past half decade needs more than rhetoric. They need some actual physical proof that we're what we claim to be.