Why America Needs to Embrace Pluralism Instead of Exceptionalism

Secretary Pompeo Delivers Remarks to the Media
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Addresses the Media

By Natylie Baldwin, OpEd News, July 30, 2020

“We, the freedom-loving nations of the world, must induce China to change, just as President Nixon wanted. We must induce China to change in more creative and assertive ways, because Beijing’s actions threaten our people and our prosperity.

We must start by changing how our people and our partners perceive the Chinese Communist Party. We have to tell the truth. We can’t treat this incarnation of China as a normal country, just like any other.”

– Secretary of State Mike Pompeo

As Secretary of State Mike Pompeo continues to bloviate on a litany of sins that the Chinese government is guilty of, and various politicians and media outlets continue their nonstop propaganda about how evil Russia is, it is clear that the goals is to keep Americans perpetually indoctrinated with the idea that these two nations are incorrigible enemies.

This is consistent with the National Defense Strategy (NDS) of 2018, which states that the main threats facing the United States in the foreseeable future are Russia and China. And while the terminology of “great power competition” is thrown around, there is emphasis placed on the implicit clash of values with the U.S.-led west, with several references to the “free and open international order” that these two nations are putatively in violation of.

This shares some continuity with the Neoconservative-inspired Wolfowitz Doctrine of the early 1990’s, which granted Washington the right to forcibly determine what values and political framework the rest of the world should adhere to while maintaining hegemony over the world. The Democratic Party has embraced similar foreign policy ideas. Even the “progressive” wing, represented by Bernie Sanders, touted a need to take on the world’s “authoritarians” who were threatening the enlightened west.

All societies throughout modern history have had to prioritize various issues that impact national survival and their populations: the balance between the individual and the collective good, or the impact of change vs group instability, democracy versus economic development, etc. Different societies have resolved these issues in different ways, with varying results.

But the United States, with its triumphalist attitude at the close of the Cold War, decided that its way of life had been judged to be inevitable for everyone in the world. This was summed up in Francis Fukiyama’s The End of History. Western, especially American, political values and norms have been assumed to be the only correct way to resolve the most basic questions of organized life, regardless of whether a country has had any meaningful experience with western values. If a country disagrees or chooses to prioritize differently, they have been deemed backward or illegitimate.

This leaves no space for pluralism, negotiation or peaceful co-existence. Instead, it leads to a world in which conflict is inevitable and differences are irreconcilable. Constant war and the threat of war, especially with the three most powerful players on the world stage – the U.S., China and Russia – having nuclear weapons arsenals at their disposal, makes this an immoral and unsustainable framework.

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6 thoughts on “Why America Needs to Embrace Pluralism Instead of Exceptionalism”

  1. The US foreign policy has been wrong in many situations since the end of WWII. However, it is not wrong this time.
    It’s China who has been one of the perpetual aggressor and the ultimate exceptionalist of the world for 70 years. It has been invading Tibet, South Korea, Taiwan, Japan, India, Russia (USSR), Vietnam, and militarizing the South China Sea, etc.. Besides, domestically, there would never be any opposite voice against its endless imperialism against the world.
    So, please support our government doing something right this time.
    Practically, as an American, I like to see our companies starting to ship our jobs back and our technology not being stolen.
    As one of the

    1. The US exported almost its entire manufacturing sector in order to maintain and grow profits, sheer greed, as little of it fed down to the American people who continue to wallow in massive debt trying to maintain a high lifestyle on low wages. You can’t start crying now like a baby because the Chinese uses its wealth well unlike the US. Sadly the US’ time is up, its rape of the world and military adventurism (which has cost a minimum of 18 million lives since the end of WWII) has become just relentless violence for less return. Eurasia is the future not America, or indeed the West. The new silk roads can spread the wealth but only with cooperation and tolerance. Chinas REAL economy dwarfs that of the US’ economy of fiddled statistics and never ending reams of printed money and even repatriating jobs will take decades, in reality the US doesn’t posses the skills or educational establishment structures to do it quickly. The hand of friendship is there but I’m afraid the US is still living in the 20th century with its concomitant ideoligies. Pointless trying to frame it as a battle of civilisations because the US no longer has military hegemony to back that up.
      America needs to stop shooting itself in the foot and then blaming everyone else for it’s stupidity and short sightedness. Until then it will be a bumpy ride to the bottom. You need to understand that most people in the World don’t want to be American, nor do they want its culture. People will take the high end consumer goods (most of which are European anyway) but leave the spiritually empty, violent and often degenerate culture where it belong, in the US.

  2. There has been too many debates about pluralism and exceptionalism. I think I have to make it clearer.
    1. Every country is like every human being. Nobody should consider herself/himself solely exceptional. Nonetheless, any successful person must once a while considers herself/himself unique enough to bear more responsibility than others, especially when an inescapable duty falling on her/his shoulders.
    2. Being plural does not mean being surrendering to other’s exceptionalism unconditionally. US government has been kowtowing to the Chinese counterpart for half a century. Maybe it’s the time to start to say “No” to just some of their mandates.
    3. China has been the number one exceptionalist country on Earth for more than 70 years. Everybody should read more books about its aggression and expansion in the past 70 years.
    4. The Chinese people don’t call themselves “Chinese”. The 1,3 billion people call their exceptional country, “The Central Empire”, in Chinese. A much more exceptional way of self-perception than the “Third Reich” and “The Empire of Sun”.
    5. The American political elite and business men, and to a less degree, the less informed American people, created the Chinese monster in the past 5 five decades. To be a true defender of pluralism, we all share the inescapable responsibility to bring the Chinese exceptionalist on the side of pluralism. Unfortunately, we should not naively assume that it will be an effortless endeavor.

  3. Excellent article! The Multipolar world is here whether the unipolar US likes it or not. They can continue wasting time and money or get with the program. Sadly the dearth of real foreign po!icy expertise and the ever expanding growth of a compromised think tankdom feeding into the MIC and more hawkish elements of the US political scene will make this a long haul. Russia and China will continue to grow, together and in their own respective domestic spheres, circumventing sanctions, extracting themselves from the petro dollar scam and reducing their trade in US bonds. Question is will America wake up and smell the coffee or just wake up one morning and find themselves isolated from the rest of the world? Europe will have some part to play in this via projects like Nordstream II. For all it’s belligerence the US no longer has military superiority, in any sphere of armed confrontation, something it is either unaware of (it’s true extent) or is just struggling to accept. We’re in for a fascinating if frustrating few years and without doubt, very dangerous. Until we get a less hawkish more mature administration in Washington I don’t expect anything to change. China and especially Russia will continue to grow in the mean time.

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