Obama on the Middle East: Let’s Pretend

post to UNC Press Blog, 20 May 2011

Listening to President Obama’s address on the Middle East and North Africa made me think of a primitive Lego set. Its limited number of pieces can be arranged in a variety of ways to produce something that always looks fundamentally the same. What was billed as a major speech was carefully tailored to fit the current circumstances, but it won’t significantly alter U.S. policy. Read More »

The Bin Laden Killing and American Exceptionalism

post to UNC Press Blog, 12 May 2011

The president’s dramatic announcement over a week ago that U.S. commandos had killed Osama Bin Laden at once raised questions. What were the precise circumstances of the killing? What are the likely consequences for al Qaeda and its regional affiliates? What are the implications for the U.S. stake in Afghanistan and Pakistan? We are not going to get clear answers any time soon on these matters. What does seem clear is how a sense of national exceptionalism has informed much of the U.S. reaction to the announcement. The notion of the United States as a special country and Americans as a special people with a unique historical destiny has long been an essential element in U.S. nationalism. The current commentary provides a reminder of how much exceptionalism is still with us. Read More »