September 13, 2015

Challenging Cheney's "Exceptionalism" Op-ed

An August 28, 2015 Wall Street Journal commentary by former Vice President Cheney popped up in my Facebook feed today, titled “Restoring American Exceptionalism.” 

Citing select truths, while plucking patriotic heartstrings, the Vice President argues forcefully against the recent multilateral (U.S., UK, Germany, France, Russia, China) accord with Iran that will end decades of economic sanctions against that country in exchange for restrictions on its nuclear program. 

Cheney criticizes and labels President Obama as a latter-day Neville Chamberlain, utterly ignoring that the unstable environment in which the President is compelled to operate is the direct result of the duplicitous and failed policies in large part architected by himself.

But first, in fairness, let’s acknowledge the select truths from the Cheney op-ed:

·         “America has guaranteed freedom, security and peace for a larger share of humanity than any other nation in all of history.”

·         “In the 1940s American leadership was essential to victory in World War II, and the liberation of millions from the grip of fascism. In the Cold War American leadership guaranteed the survival of freedom, the liberation of Eastern Europe and the defeat of Soviet totalitarianism.”

·         “For the better part of a century, security and freedom for millions of people around the globe have depended on America’s military, economic, political and diplomatic might.”

·         “As citizens, we have another obligation. We have a duty to protect our ideals and our freedoms by safeguarding our history. We must ensure that our children know the truth about who we are, what we’ve done…”

The Vice President is disingenuous in his promotion of that final truth.  He ignores the truths of what his Administration did to our country: Waging meaningless wars, sacrificing thousands of young people to false causes, leaving hundreds of thousands more maimed, our economy weakened, our surplus drained, our national reputation and credibility badly tarnished.

For instance, in proclaiming that the President “has abandoned Iraq, leaving a vacuum that is being tragically and ominously filled by our enemies,” he declines to acknowledge that the devastation and lawlessness that defines Iraq today is the direct result of a groundless – senseless - war that he himself engineered. 

Cheney’s war fundamentally demolished whatever shaky stability existed in the region at the time, facilitating the rising threats of Iran and Isis, and, we should not forget, obscenely bolstering his own personal wealth.

The Cheney op-ed goes on to make repeated references to the American “supremacy” that defined the bi-polar world that existed before the fall of the Soviet Union, steadfastly ignoring the multi-polar world that emerged in its wake, driven, in part, by the years of American-won (relative) peace and prosperity during the succeeding decade defined by the U.S.-led global Internet boom.

Instead, clinging desperately to yesterday’s concept of American exceptionalism, Cheney rejects the fundamental geopolitical realities inherent in a multi-polar world, demanding that America somehow re-birth Cold War preeminence, cramming yesterday’s two-dimensional square peg exceptionalism into today’s far more complex multi-dimensional round hole.

In this context, he blasts Obama:

“…despite the explosive spread of terrorist ideology and organizations, the establishment of an Islamic State caliphate in the heart of the Middle East, the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and increasing threats from Iran, China, North Korea and Russia, President Obama has departed from this 75-year, largely bipartisan tradition of ensuring America’s pre-eminence and strength.”


President Obama, in the context of the severe damage done to America’s reputation and prestige over the eight years of Bush-Cheney rule, has been working to re-establish America as a credible partner – an exceptional nation in a multi-polar world in which exceptionalism is not confined to our fifty States.

Indeed, Cheney is actually spot on when he writes:

“ As America faces a world of rising security threats, we must resolve to take action and shouldn’t lose hope. Just as one president has left a path of destruction in his wake, one president can rescue us. The right person in the Oval Office can restore America’s strength and alliances, defeat our enemies, and keep us safe. It won’t be easy. There is a path forward, but there are difficult decisions to be made and very little time.”

This is what Obama has been charged with for the last seven years.  And, to some limited extent, he has achieved success.  America is indeed an exceptional nation, but, in a multi-polar world, we must accept and work with peers on the global stage.

Like the former Vice President, I hope that whichever candidate prevails in 2016 can pick up and carry this standard further forward.  Borrowing again from Mr. Cheney, this will be best and perhaps only accomplished if, unlike the Vice President, we “ensure that our children know the truth about who we are, what we’ve done…