The United States is the most powerful nation on earth. There is no nation nor even a group of nations that can match the combined political, economic, and military power of the United States. Nevertheless, the United States faces an international arena that has become increasingly resistant and opposed to U.S. initiatives. The blundering of Donald Trump and his mediocre national security team is largely responsible for the setbacks over the past two years. But U.S. exceptionalism and even political bipartisanship carry a heavy responsibility as well.
The problem of U.S. exceptionalism is conventional wisdom in many circles. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is well known for her arrogant description of an exceptional United States that “stands taller and sees further than other nations. If we have to use force, it is because we are America; we are the indispensable nation.” In his State of the Union address in January 2012, President Barack Obama echoed Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush in labeling the United States the only “indispensable” nation. The misuse of American force over the past five decades in Vietnam, Iraq, Libya, and Afghanistan speaks to the tragedy of our self-proclaimed status of exceptionalism.