American Exceptionalism; Shining City On A Hill


America perhaps has lost its way.  America used to be a shining city on a hill, an example of freedom done the right way.  Whether by peaceful example or after wars, America would export its most precious commodity; "American Exceptionalism".  American Exceptionalism was the notion America is not merely an extension of European culture, but is uniquely positioned as a truly immigrant developed country.  A country that represents the best of the nations.

When America has had to fight wars, our course of action has always been to leave the conquered opponent with more liberty than they had before.  It is only when America has wavered on this principle has the conquered turned out worse -- think of Berlin Germany when America agreed to allow Russia to apply its ideology to East Berlin.  Think of North Korea.

This brings me to our current wars with Iraq and Afghanistan.  Upon conquering those nations, we have refused to apply American Exceptionalism.  We have been told it won't work in those places because they are such different cultures.  This caused me to think of Japan.  After the U.S. conquered Japan, at the end of World War 2, we didn't shrink from applying American Exceptionalism -- even to "such a different culture".  The Reconstruction of Japan took over 6 years to complete, lasting from Japan's surrender in August 1945 to September 1951.

Perhaps the most overlooked acheivement of General Douglas MacArthur is his 6 year administration of Japan. He almost single-handedly was responsible for the rebuilding of Japan.  A constitution was formed, based mainly on the U.S. Constitution. Police powers were decentralized. Land reforms allowed for more peasant-class ownership of property.  But perhaps the most controversial change is the abolution of Shintoism as the official religion of Japan. This doesn't mean people couldn't practice Shintoism, just that it was no longer to be the official state religion.  Could you imagine what would happen if the U.S. would have outlawed Islam as the state religion in Iraq and Afghanistan? (see also "denazifaction" of Germany)

To be sure, everything America did in the reconstruction of Japan is not to be lauded.  Rape and "comfort women" (prostitutes) were common at least for the first year of occupation.

What I find the most interesting, is that after almost 70 years, the U.S. still maintains almost a 50,000 troop level in Japan.  Yet, we hear calls for all U.S. troops to leave Iraq and Afghanistan.

In conclusion, I believe how we have handled Iraq and Afghanistan has lost sight of how America has rebuilt the nations we have conquered.  What will most likely happen in Iraq and Afghanistan, is that unlike Japan and Germany, Iraq and Afghanistan will quickly resume being our enemies once we withdraw.

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