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31 2 War and American Democracy Building on the general theories of international relations, this chapter is oriented on the American system. The system is complex and the approach taken here is to view the system through multiple facets, none complete, but each contributing useful insight. The presentation begins with American traditions and political tendencies with respect to war and the use of force. Specifically, we discuss exceptionalism, exemplarism, vindicationism, and exemptionalism and then turn to the traditions of Alexander Hamilton, John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, and Woodrow Wilson. Considerable effort is devoted to deconstructing American conservative and liberal thought followed by identification of several influential political factions that divide the electorate and coalesce under the political parties. The chapter concludes with issues for further consideration. Exceptionalism, Exemplarism, Vindicationism, and Exemptionalism Three ideas run through classic American thinking—exceptionalism, exemplarism, and vindicationism—and they are as apparent today as they were in the nation’s early history.1 A fourth ism has been added recently—exemptionalism.2 Exemplarism is the principle that the United States could best serve the spread of liberal democracy by being an enviable example to the world— the shining light on the hill, the beacon.3 Being a good example requires strengthening the institutions that assure individual liberties, the rule of law, and the prosperity born of industry and commerce. Exemplarists 32 Foundational Concepts find themselves in agreement with Kant’s principle of noninterference into the affairs of other nations. An opposing principle, vindicationism, asserts that America can best serve the world by spreading democracy, not merely by example, but by forceful action. Adherents believe that liberal democracy provides a universal set of rules. Vindicationists, then, reject territorial sovereignty and the principle of self-determination. More accurately, they believe that if the shackles of old world governments were removed, everyone would adopt liberal democracy. America’s crusading spirit springs from vindicationism . Jonathan Monten speculates that the Bush administration firmly believed that once Saddam Hussein was overthrown, democracy would quickly blossom in Iraq because democracy is universal and that Iraqis would rush to embrace it.4 Exemplarism and vindicationism are principles, not strategies or policies . They help guide and explain U.S. behavior on the world scene. No period of history is driven purely by one or the other. People of principle strongly tend toward one or the other. As a nation, exemplarism dominated until the 1890s, and vindicationism has been on the rise since, reaching a peak with the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Thucydides observed that states unchecked by external forces expand, and realist thinking includes the belief that a state’s interests expand in proportion to its relative power. Realist thinking—because there is no universal set of rules that all nations will accept—tells us that attempts to impose universal monarchy will be opposed. States will resist individually and form alliances to balance against the imposing power. How, then, can the United States practice vindicationism and honestly not expect strong opposition? The answer, exceptionalism, is the third thread that runs through American thinking. Alexis de Tocqueville identified this belief in his 1835 observations.5 America believed that it was the exception to the rule. Its heart is pure and its intentions benign because it does not seek empire through territorial acquisition. Accordingly, American interventions abroad would be accepted, even welcomed. The United States intervened abroad with positive results in both world wars. The reconstruction efforts after World War II were extraordinary, and the United States left Germany and Japan without claim on territory. As major powers competed for colonial empire in the Middle East, the United States War and American Democracy 33 was seen as a force for fairness. Interventions for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief today are well received abroad and supported at home. The invasion of Iraq is seen in stark contrast, as were the frequent earlier interventions in Latin America. America is bounded east and west by protective oceans, and north and south by non-threatening neighbors. Because of these facts, the United States did not need to maintain a standing army to defend itself, and that fact made America exceptional and made exemplarism a realistic option. Vindicationism, on the other hand, requires the ability to project power beyond the homeland. And there lies the dilemma. The institutions to project power abroad have a strong tendency to concentrate power in central government and they threaten liberal institutions. Their costs tax the public and divert resources from domestic prosperity. And it is...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781612347547
MARC Record
OCLC
911054977
Launched on MUSE
2015-06-19
Language
English
Open Access
No
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