Where have we heard Mr. Putin’s principles before? They are in fact basic articles of faith among American liberals who have been saying for decades that the U.S. should not use military force without United Nations authorization, we should not intervene in civil wars abroad, and the idea of American exceptionalism is a myth used to cover up crimes against women and minorities at home and the poor and oppressed abroad.
Barack Obama at one time or another has expressed support for all three of Mr. Putin’s principles. During the 2008 presidential campaign, he said that the intervention in Iraq was illegal because it was not authorized by the United Nations. In 2009, when asked about American exceptionalism, President Obama said, “I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.” In other words, we are all exceptional alike, just as Mr. Putin said.
Today, as the debate goes on, every major college and university in the nation is offering courses in multiculturalism and American studies that attack the concept of American exceptionalism as an exercise in national hubris. The idea that America is an exceptional nation developed soon after the Revolution when members of the founding generation pointed out that the United States was the first nation to be created anew on the basis of the universal principles of liberty and equality. It was “the first new nation,” and a model for others to follow and to emulate. Yet on American campuses today this idea is denounced as a fraud because, despite the rhetoric, the nation’s governing classes have condoned slavery, racial bigotry, and ethnic prejudice. The academic field of American studies devoted to a systematic attack on the ideal of American exceptionalism as a justification for white privilege and American power abroad. They prefer the ideal of diversity to that of a culture of “exceptionalism.” Liberals and leftists attacked the Iraq war because they denied that the United States had the right or the capacity to export its institutions abroad. This has been an article of faith among liberals and leftists since the era of the Vietnam war.
It would be a good thing if American liberals, in their zeal to defend a liberal president, would in fact shelve for good their doctrines about diversity, multiculturalism, and American imperialism. But their attacks on Mr. Putin will undoubtedly prove to be but a momentary lapse in their ideological campaign to re-make the United States into a multi-cultural utopia. At some point in the future, probably when a Republican next occupies the White House, they will dust off Mr. Putin’s principles and put them into play once more.