America, Right Or Wrong - An Anatomy of American Nationalism, Fallujah & The Faces of The Fallen
November 14, 2004 3:18 PM   Subscribe

A Conversation with Anatol Lieven, Senior Fellow, Carnegie Endowment for Peace and author of America, Right Or Wrong - An Anatomy of American Nationalism, of which The nationalism thing is a review. In related March Of Folly news, Letter From Iraq: Out On The Street by Jon Lee Anderson with accompanying interview How Iraq Came Undone. At one bottom line: The Faces of The Fallen.
posted by y2karl (4 comments total)
With regards to the nationalism, it seems as though many US-Americans feel a need to be associated with a "team" that perhaps gives them some sense of identity, as if they do not know who thay are. Isn't it enough to be human beings?

I am reminded of Slapstick by Kurt Vonnegut. Oh, and I'll be looking for that Tuchman book. Thanks, y2karl.
posted by jaronson at 4:38 PM on November 14, 2004

That's true of all people, jaronson, no? I think we've all been taught that (in school and out), living in nation-states as we do. It was true before then too. We're tribal/social beings.

This seemed right on target to me: Americans are not "nationalist", they are "patriotic". It is a patriotism which too often leaves no room for the patriotism of others, combining a theoretical care for all humanity with, in practice, an "indifference verging on contempt" for the interests and hopes of non-Americans. Nothing could be more distant from "the decent respect to the opinions of mankind" recommended to Americans in the early years of their independent existence.

Lieven first paints a picture of an in some ways admirable American "civic nationalism", based on respect for the rule of law, constitutionality, democracy, and social (but not economic) equality, and a desire to spread these values in the world. But because this nationalism unrealistically holds that such "American" values can be exported at will, it blinds Americans to the different nature of other societies, sustaining the mistaken idea that if only particular rulers or classes can be displaced, "democracy" will prevail - a "decapitation" theory which contributed to the decision to attack Saddam.

posted by amberglow at 6:13 PM on November 14, 2004

I , as an American, don't respect this extreme exporting of our system. As if we are some giant "server" pushing the updates on to unwilling machines, soon to be confounded by the errors and conflict.
posted by RubberHen at 8:05 PM on November 14, 2004

They abolished part of the Decalogue and kept the rest. And when one of our successful men had what he needed or wanted, he reassumed his virtue as easily as changing his shirt, and for all one could see, he took no hurt from his derelictions, always assuming that he didn't get caught. Did any of them think about this? I don't know. And if small crimes could be condoned by self, why not a quick, harsh, brave one....Suppose for a limited time I abolished all the rules, not just some of them. Once the objective was reached, could they not all be reassumed?

All this wondering was the weather vane on top of the building of unrest and of discontent. It could be done because it had been done. But if I opened that door, could I ever get it closed again?

John Steinbeck
The Winter of Our Discontent

posted by fold_and_mutilate at 8:38 PM on November 14, 2004

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