I am reading Samuel P. Huntington's "Who Are We?". He casually makes the observation:
If American identity is defined by a set of universal principles of liberty and democracy, then presumably the promotion of those principles in other countries should be the primary goal of American foreign policy. If, however, the United States is "exceptional", the rationale for promoting human rights and democracy elsewhere disappears.
I am a believer in "American Exceptionalism", that the United States is a unique and special country with a special destiny. Or, put another way by Jonathan Winthrop, America is a "City on the Hill".
Huntington's words are challenging to me, for if he is right that each idea is mutually exclusive, then we cannot have both democracy in the Middle East by the hand of America and believe that America is a unique country because of its democracy. However, I firmly believe, as stated here in this blog, that democracy throughout the world is fundamental to preserving American democracy in the long term. I also firmly believe in American exceptionalism. How else to describe the continued desire for millions to come to our land, for other nations to look to our lead, and the Providence that seems to have been shown upon our land?
Cannot we have a world where liberty is the desire of all people and that the United States is blessed with the virtue and calling of promoting it? American exceptionalism runs beyond our democratic institutions but includes the core of our history and national identity. The United States stands for liberty, opportunity, equality, prosperity, religious freedom and the right to dissent. Based on our country's Protestant roots, there is an evangelical quality to our desire to spread democracy.
While I believe the United States to be exceptional, I do not believe that this will always necessarily be the case. As long as our nation is true to its core values and the ideas rooted in the wisdom of its founding, America will continue to be exceptional. A secular America will lose its evangelical passion to promote democracy and would slip into the abyss of relativism, and that would, frankly, leave America a second version of Europe.