American nationalism

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See also: American exceptionalism

American nationalism involves the application of the general political principle of nationalism in a specifically American context. It differs from the nationalism of many older countries, in that theirs is based on shared history while the American model is based on shared beliefs, admittedly with different interpretations of those beliefs.

Anatol Lieven, speaking of contemporary American nationalism, describes the U.S. as a variant on a
European state that has avoided the catastrophes nationalism brought upon Europe in the twentieth century, and whose nationalism therefore retains some of the power, intensity, bellicosity, and self-absorption that European nationalisms have had kicked out of them by history. Insofar as American nationalism has become mixed up with a chauvinist version of Israeli nationalism, it also plays an absolutely disastrous role in US relations with the Muslim world, and in fueling terrorism. [1]

Not all analysts believe the U.S. voluntarily acts internationally. Mackubin Thomas Owens proposes that the international political system "is more hierarchical than anarchic, and that peace and prosperity are preserved, not by a balance of power (i.e., Henry Kissinger's core argument]] but a "hegemonic power", or state willing to provide economic and military security. "The United States, as Great Britain before it, took up the role of hegemon not out of altruism but because it was in its national interest to do so." [2]

Ahmad Faruqui suggests that Americans dislike having their "patriotism" called "nationalism", the latter being a European concept. "Just because we fail to recognize their own nationalism does not mean it does not exist. American nationalism is based on values rather than ethnicity or race." [3] He mentions the observation of Paul McCartney of Rutgers University that it is made from two often contradictory values: [4]

  • "universalism, which says that Americans share the same moral ideals as the rest of humanity, including freedom, liberty and democracy.
  • exceptionalism, which says that Americans have a right to pursue policies to preserve their national sovereignty, but other countries do not have a similar right.

Faruqui observes "The dichotomy between these values is as evident to those outside of the U.S. as it is invisible to those living within the U.S.", but then goes on to point out that some American politicians do look to multilateralism, just as others criticize them as unpatriotic.

There are a number of current variants:

Wilsonian American nationalism

Wilsonian American nationalism looks upon American exceptional values as those that will be desired by other nations as soon as they are understood.

Neoconservatism

In the neoconservative model, American values are indeed believed to be superior and beneficial, but they may need to be imposed, in the interest of both the U.S. and the countries involved, through regime change.

Jacksonian American nationalism

In the Jacksonian view, the American nation should largely go its own way, interacting with others only when it is in American interest to do so, or when other nations present a threat.

References

  1. Anatol Lieven (March 2004), "In the Mirror of Europe: The Perils of American Nationalism", Current History, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  2. Mackubin Thomas Owens (20 December 2006), Realism, Iraq, and the Bush Doctrine: Some clarification is desperately needed.
  3. Ahmad Fariqui (19 May 2003), A Game of Capture the Flag: Whither American Nationalism?
  4. Paul McCartney, "The Bush Doctrine and American Nationalism," Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, August 28-September 1, 2002