The reason I included the last sentence, and mentioned that WW2 was the moment that gave birth to the United States as a superpower, was simply to point out the magnitude of the event insofar as how it has shaped the world around us since that time. I'm making the case that had the United States not gotten involved in the European part of WW2, we would not have been the power we are today, and, ergo, there never would have been a counterbalance against the Soviet Union during the Cold War, there never would have been a counterbalance against communist expansion in Latin America and Asia during the 50's through the 80's, there never would have been a counterbalance against those Middle Eastern nations who want to wipe Israel off the map.... etc.
The world would be a very different place. And that's worth noting as an interesting fact.
As for your fear that American arrogance will lead to blindness and unpredictable action, I think your fear is understandable, however I don't share it. You are looking at it from a chiefly European perspective, through the lens of European history and experience. Europe has a history of Fascism, which is essentially what you're describing to a tee - a people believe they are superior to other groups of people, therefore they commit atrocious acts against other people justified internally by their own sense of superiority.
American patriotism is a rather different animal compared with European fascism, and a much more benign one.
Ours really stems from two things. First, we're a nation of immigrants. The majority of white Americans originally came from some form of oppression in Europe - either religious, economic, political, etc. America, to those people, represented the land of freedom and opportunity which they did not have in Europe at the time they left. This positive attitude has carried over the generations and that's why we still identify ourselves as the "land of opportunity" and with concepts like "freedom" and "liberty" and so forth, even though one could rightly say that other nations have since caught up in those respects.
The other key point is simply cultural. Americans value a positive, confident attitude and a "can-do" attitude to a much greater extent than other countries I've lived in or visited. We're generally more comfortable around someone who is self-aggrandizing than someone who is self-deprecating, and I would say this is quite opposite from what you see in Britain and can indeed be the source of some cultural friction. We can get in to that in more detail if you wish, but suffice it to say for now that it's just the way Americans are, and you shouldn't take much from it.
When we puff our chests out and say "America is the greatest," it's meant as a statement of self-confidence, not in any way an indictment of other countries. Most Americans would fully expect and encourage you to counter "Britain is the greatest" or "Scotland is the greatest" or whatever. We'd be more comfortable with that than the self-deprecating European "no country is the greatest, we all suck, blah blah."
It's just a cultural thing.
On the economic front, America has essentially fed the world by exporting cheap food and has been integral in the global population boom since WW2, has been the champion for free trade and economic prosperity both in the east and west, has furthered the world culturally with everything from inventing Jazz, then Rock and Roll to Hollywood and the Internet, has exported its values of diversity, open competition, and capitalism throughout the world.
We helped end Apartheid in South Africa. We helped bring down the Berlin Wall.
We have not colonized, although we could. We have not conquered, although we could.
Overall, America has been a force for good in the world. I only hope this continues, and that we don't see our power get to our heads and corrupt us in the future.
Last edited by Peter Grimm; 05-05-15 at 11:33 AM.
When Hitler came to power in Germany, or when Mussolini came to power in Italy, etc, the attitude of the fascists in these countries was to blame outsiders for the trials and problems faced by their respective countries.
Hitler blamed the Jews, blamed the French, blamed everyone except the Germans for their failures. This led to a hatred of others, and justified, in their minds, violence against others.
Americans, while cocky as can be, don't blame anyone other than Americans for their woes. It's inconceivable to an American that we wouldn't be the masters of our own destiny. In fact, we're an open book.... dig through this forum and I challenge you to find many instances in which an American of any political persuasion blames a foreign country for what is going wrong in our country.
American liberals blame American conservatives. American conservatives blame Obama. There's a lot of finger pointing, but it's all internal. We believe that we are responsible for our own fate, and that, my friend, is a huge distinction from the fascists of Europe who blamed others and thus used this to justify violence against them.
Brits tend not to blame other countries either for their problems, though more recently concern has risen over the level of immigration. There is also a big section of the population who disagree with membership of the EU, or at least the power of the EU (I am in this group) because of the impact on our home-grown democracy.
Though British Conservatives would think differently, I have to disagree with your assessment of the US's role in preserving world peace. With its dropping of A-bombs in Japan in 1945, amassing of nuclear weapons, invasions of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Vietnam, and Cold War posturing the USA has proved itself to be more of an enemy of world peace than a friend since WW2. I think that the American position on world events is closely aligned with the protection of its commercial interests, which is bolstered by a Messianic belief in its own righteousness. Britain's contribution as a key ally has been no less dismal. I don't have a problem with individual Americans - just American politics, as it affects the rest of the world.
On culture, I like country music (unusually for an Englishman), many US sitcoms, a lot of classic US rock music, and some Hollywood films. However, gratuitous violence in Hollywood films is now really bad and I am careful what I watch. Rap music and heavy metal and their associated cultures are disturbing. And generally, the dominance of US culture across the world is often not good for the healthy development and preservation of local cultures. On the other hand, its widespread nature has given us common cultural references which bridge nations at a certain level. So American culture is a mixed bag for me.
You equate patriotism with nationalism, and nationalism with violence, as that has been your experience on your continent. My point was not to in any way claim that Europeans are still fascists or that Britain has this problem, I only meant to show that your view of American patriotism may be skewed since you're looking at it through the tinted lens of your history, culture, and experiences which do not exactly correlate with ours.
As for the US' role in preserving world peace, let's pursue a thought experiment: Say the United States dropped off the face of the earth following WW2 and the rest of the world were exactly in tact as it was in 1949. We'll continue to assume that the allies won the war, just for fun.
The Soviet Union would surely have been the world's only superpower for at least 40 years following the war. Logically, Germany would never have been divided in to east and west, and all of Germany would have fallen under the Soviet sphere. NATO would never have existed. The only existing military power in Europe would have been Britain, not strong enough by herself to withstand Soviet influence, and certainly not strong enough to encroach on the USSR's influence of continental Europe.
As such, most of Europe, with Britain as the possible exception, would have been communist, with nations like France, Germany, and Italy being much like today's Eastern European nations.
China would never have opened trade with the West, and it's modern capitalist/communist mix would most likely be purely communist. Japan, a mess after WW2, would never have been rebuilt in to the robust economy it has today. A war between Japan and China would have been likely.
Israel would have fallen to its neighbors, and, in addition to the 6 million Jews that died during the holocaust, several million more would have died in Israel in the years following.
Lacking the grain exported by the USA and lacking any robust economic development in Europe (as a result of Soviet communism), many in third world nations would starve.
Man would never have walked on the moon.
A series of important inventions would never have occurred, or would have occurred later, since they were invented in America.
"It's always reassuring to find you've made the right enemies." -- William J. Donovan
Please define to me the difference between patriotism and nationalism.You equate patriotism with nationalism
When you have a history of positive experiences of nationalism to balance against negative European experiences of nationalism, then we can talk further....and nationalism with violence, as that has been your experience on your continent. My point was not to in any way claim that Europeans are still fascists or that Britain has this problem, I only meant to show that your view of American patriotism may be skewed since you're looking at it through the tinted lens of your history, culture, and experiences which do not exactly correlate with ours.
"The crisis will end when fear changes sides" - Pablo Iglesias Turrión
"Austerity is used as a cover to reconfigure society and increase inequality and injustice." - Jeremy Corbyn
Now however I'm not so sure that we have common values anymore. There has been a decline in religious instruction, a decline in civic education, a decline in history, geography, philosophy, and logic in education. These disciplines shape values. On the other hand there has been more social and cultural education, which is fine, but has led to cultural relativism which weakens common values.
"It is only when men contemplate the greatness of God that they can come to realize their own inadequacy." Jean Calvin