–Because it always looked more inward than other countries, focused on prosperity and had a relatively easy geostrategic situation, Americans never even considered world conquest and when the country had the opportunity to do so after 1945 acted with incredible modesty and constraint. Today, that sentence would be mocked but it is nonetheless true. Perhaps there is a parallel to antisemitism in which the failure to behave as other nations have done makes everyone all the more suspicious that one is plotting behind the scenes.
Of course, the above points may be too over-thought and the easier explanation is simply a cynical, deliberate indoctrination to turn Americans against their own country and history. But then one still has to explain why this hasn’t happened elsewhere.
It is normal to refuse to endlessly dwell on one’s own guilt and shortcomings. People want to feel good about themselves and their country. Rulers usually—unless they are in the midst of fundamentally transforming the country (ah, there’s a clue)—don’t want to admit the evil-doing of predecessors with whom they feel a strong continuity.
One might say, as noted above, that America conquered the original inhabitants. But if one goes back far enough that can be said of virtually every country. America had slavery but so did other countries, albeit mainly outside their own borders so it was less visible. There are differences but not as large as they might originally appear to be.
The one potential exception is Germany, which is still facing its national socialist past as a factor that does affect its behavior. Yet I don’t think Germans believe that this era reflects a fundamental flaw in their national character or which pervades their history. And, again, the United States never had anything equivalent.
Part of the problem is the misunderstanding—often deliberate—of American history. Yes, there was slavery but it was repugnant from the very start to many Americans, even including slaveholders among the founders. Not just the Civil War but the political history of the United States from 1820 to 1861 revolved largely around battle over this issue. The correct way to view this history is not that America was guilty of the fundamental sin of slavery but that America had a great struggle over the issue and ultimately resolved it properly because of the strength, powerful concepts of democracy and equality, and conscience built into its system.
Perhaps the internal drive to delegitimize America is precisely because patriotism is a strong force in American life that must be overcome by those who would transform the country’s thinking. Certainly, the United States has taken a lead in international affairs in the last sixty years but frankly it did a pretty good job dealing with very tough situations and no-win alternatives.
In William Shakespeare’s play, “Julius Caesar,” Mark Antony gives a brilliant speech which also sums up well how those who slander America misrepresent its history: “The evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interred with their bones.”
And who today seek to be America’s undertakers?
Originally published at Rubin Reports.Barry Rubin
About the Author: Professor Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. See the GLORIA/MERIA site at www.gloria-center.org.
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