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"Stirring the Pot" and American Exceptionalism

Daniel Larison highlights this passage from Danielle Pletka's overview of the GOP's foreign policy post 2012:

But there’s a deeper difference here as well. Republicans are more willing to upset the global status quo. Not always, to be sure. [bold mine-DL] President Dwight Eisenhower stood by with only murmurs of protest as the people of Hungary were trampled in 1956; President George H.W. Bush did the same decades later after the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. But Reagan stirred the pot and worked with like-minded allies to oust communist dictators. Republicans today, I have little doubt, will be more supportive in the event of an Israeli military strike on Iran, more willing to heed the counsel of military commanders in Afghanistan about the timeline for victory and withdrawal, and less willing to show flexibility in the face of Russia’s slide back to authoritarianism.

In the simplest terms, values are what divide us from them and them from us. There are those who believe that American values form a moral imperative for U.S. power in the world -- that because U.S. democracy is among the world's most durable and just, the United States has an obligation (not merely the occasional inclination) to help others attain the benefits of a free society. That is what Republicans have stood for abroad and the distinction they must now again draw with their Democratic counterparts.

There are plenty, many on the left, who oppose the idea of American moral leadership. This is not because they are unpatriotic, self-hating commies (to coin a phrase). Rather, it is because they believe in neither the uniqueness of the American experience nor the superiority of the American system.

One could, I think, quite easily believe the reverse: that America's experience is unique and therefore trying to replicate it throughout the globe by force and coercion is a fool's errand. Believing that America is an exceptional country is not a mandate for a global revolution, even if the most vocal proponents of the idea believe it is.

Then there's the question of whether America's ostensibly conservative political party should endorse "stirring the pot" as a positive foreign policy objective. This kind of attitude -- a revolutionary self-confidence that Washington can work wonders beyond its shores (while, incidentally, abjectly failing at home) -- seems more reactionary than conservative. What's needed is a political party with the wisdom to discern which pots need to be stirred when.