Obama and The U.S.A self image
par kawther tradi
institut superieur des etudes appliques en humanites de Gafsa-Tunisie - maitrise en langue et literature englaise 2009
The United States of America has always fascinated the world, a perfect city, a
Utopian world where every body dreams to live, we have always heard about the American dream which is not only American, it is every body's dream. And what made it so is the American pledge for morality, a pledge that makes America a force for good in the world, in fact, a supreme force which tries to implement its values and principales world wide, taking advantage of the fact that people are influenced by it in one hand and its military and economic supremacy on the other hand. These are the tools that America has been using to achieve its ends and this is what determined its relations with the wider world right after the Cold War especially that the collapse of the Soviets enabled the United States to emerge as a supreme power and take the initiative to lead the world
The U.S.A embraced values of democracy, liberty and human rights, these values became its universal slogan and it strived tooth and nail to spread it, using whatever it takes to do so.
What pushed me to talk about U.S.A self-image is the fact that the legacy that the U.S.A policy makers spent years to build is now fading away, unless someone, a super hero who has got enough power, influence, audacity and courage intervene in the right moment to save this moral authority which distinguishes America from the rest of the world. All what I'am going to ask you to do is to take the remote control, turn on the T.V and take a sit. Now, go through the News Chanels and tell me what do you see, what do you notice, what is the common things that that all T.V screens are broadcasting? The answer is so obvious that it does not need all this time to muse about!! It's war! War every where, dead people, casualties, bombing, massive destruction, deep feelings of antipathy among people world wide, angry demonstrations and protests...
But the awkward part in all this is that- what used to be the perfect, most lovable nation- the nation who is -according to Robet Kagan: «Ready to support free people who are resisting attempted subjugation by forces of oppression, to pay any price, bear any burden to defend freedom, to seek democratic enlargement in the world» on behalf of democracy and moral authority- is blamed for all this damage; it is the United States of America!! Yes I know, it seems to be hard to believe but this is the shocking truth, the U.S.A is blamed for all this chaos.
This how the U.S.A is loosing its reputation; what used to be a peace-loving nation with an image that took centuries to be chaped is sinking. This very fact was strenghthened especially right after the 9/11 terror. The U.S moral authority is turning into a moral arrogance shown mostly in terms of foreign affairs. In an attempt to revenge, America embarked on a perilous course of power projection and intimidation, treating both allies and enemies with the same way, thus, mutilating its bright image.
What hooked me in this subject is how a policy making can determin a nation's whole status. No one can deny the fact that U.S.A self-image has deteriorated, this was not my focus. I tried to put the focus on the reasons behind this deterioration, examine them and try to grasp the lessons behind all the mistakes done by the previous American Adminstration.
Yet, one can still be hopeful and optimistic for the American future. With the election of Barack Obama, the first black to be elected for the American presidency, there may be a change. The first thing to suppose is that Barack Obama is fully aware of the deterioration of U.S self-image. If he is really so, what are the measures that he is going to take to beautify this mutilated image? The only thing to be said here is that the whole world has got his eyes on Barack Obama, waiting for the big change to happen, waiting for the U.S self-image to be restored.
1-Origins of U.S.A Self-Image:
If one speaks about U.S.A self image, he is not speaking about a newly made-image. He is speaking about an image that started to be shaped right from the beginning of the early settlement of the America -and has its influence on Americans till now.
It was the Pilgrim Fathers who were the first to give U.S.A self-image a general frame work that all Americans still believe. In order to escape religious persecution in England, the Pilgrim Fathers crossed the Atlantic in the board of the Mayflower and settled in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1620. They wanted to build a city-upon a hill, an ideal community.
Since that time, Americans perceived their nation as a great experiment, a worthy example for other nations to follow. The American Revolution brought about the drafting of the Declaration of Independence by Thomas Jefferson which was adopted by the congress on july4, 1776. The declaration presented a public defense of the American Revolution. It explained the philosophy behind the revolution:
The Declaration presented a public defense of the American Revolution, including a lengthy list of grievances against the British King, George III. Most importantly, it explained the philosophy behind the revolution- that men have a natural right to «Life, Liberty and th puirsuit of happiness.» (Jonathan Rose).
The notions that the Puritans and the Declaration of Independence brought with them were further implemented in the American society by-what the1(*) lawyer and the journalist John. O'Sullivan coined in an article entitled «Annexation»- the notion of Manifest Destiney; explaining the reasons behind the policy of over spread that the U.S.A followed during the 19th century. In fact, the Manifest Destiny is a continuation of the old Puritans' city-upon a hill. It saw the American nation as the nation chosen by God; a nation whose special destiny is to spread or «to manifest» ideals of liberty and freedom worldwide.
These different notions were pulled together to build an overall view about the U.S foreign policy. In fact, President Monroe in a state of the Union message presented later to congress in 1823 enunciated the principales of American foreign policy, which later in 1852 became known as the Monroe Doctrine and by the end of the 19th century became crucial to the American policy.
President Monroe said:
...the occasion has been judged proper for asserting, as a principale in which the rights and interests of the United States are involved, that the American continents, by the free and independent condition which they have assumed and maintain, are henceforth not to be considered as subjets for future colonization by any European powers...
Of events in that quarter of the globe, with which we have always been anxious and interested spectators. The citizens of the United States cherish sentiments the most friendly in the favor of the liberty and happiness of their fellow men on that side of the Atlantic. In the wars of the Europeans powers in matters relating to themselves we have never taken any part, nor does it comport with our policy so to do. It is only when our rights are invaded or seriously menaced that we resent injuries or make preparation for our defense.... (Monroe)
This what made the American proud of the values they were embracing, along with their historical heritage. This shapes the American self-image, an image that they wanted to cherish and made sure that others perceive it like the way they do.
Being conscious about their Puritan ancestors who had tight relation with God, Americans today see themselves as the most religious people in the world. For instance, according to 2(*)Pew center survey, 87% of the citizens believed in the presence of God and 81% of them consider praying God as a crucial part of their lives. Americans also perceive themselves as the most patriotic citizens. In fact, American patriotism seems to be higher than in any other country. This phenomenon is embodied through hostility to foreigners. This is how 91% of the citizens- 3(*)according to the source mentioned above-see themselves: ethnocentric patriots. This patriotism, along with this religious morality made the Americans see their country totally different from other countries. This is American exceptionalism; this makes the U.S.A a city-upon a hill, a divine city whose destiny is to spread ideals of equality, freedom, liberty and democracy and to make sure that the pursuit of happiness is fulfilled. In few words, this is what makes America a Utopian world, a perfect example for other nations to imitate.
Many countries were inspired by the U.S.A like Latin America, Europe, and Southeast Asia...for them; the U.S.A is the 4(*)«Big Brother» who is willing to do anything in order to secure their rights, even if it takes to abolish a whole system of destructive autocratic governments just for the sake of democracy. The U.S.A was very aware of the cruciality of its role within the world, that is why; it wanted to build a military supremacy in order to be perceived as a superpower by 5(*)spreading the numbers of overseas bases almost all over the world; Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan in central Asia, Bulgaria, Georgia, Hungary, Poland and Romania in Europe, Djibouti, Oman and Qatar. The priority that the U.S.A gives to military forces is shown through the magnificent rise in the military spending, a spending that has surpassed $500billion per year.
* 1 John L. O'Sullivan; a lawyer and journalist, Annexation, 1845, the United States Magazine and Democratic Review 17, July 1845.
* 2 Pew Research Center, March 14, 2007.
* 3 Pew Research Center, March 14, 2007.
* 4 Seong-Ho Lim, `Clashing Perceptions of America in Trans-Pacific Relations; The Case of A;ericanism in South Korea.' The Japaneese Journal of American Studies, No 18 (2007).
* 5 Robert Kagan«.End of Dreams, Return to History». Policy Review, p 17.