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Greenwald writes: "Depending on how you count, there are 179 countries on the planet. The probability that you will happen to be born into The Objectively Greatest One, to the extent there is such a thing, is less than 1%."

(illustration: AlterNet)
(illustration: AlterNet)

America Is the Greatest Country on Earth?

By Glenn Greenwald, Guardian UK

19 February 13


How the nationalistic mantra of "the greatest country in the world" hurts America.

ast week, North Korea tested a nuclear weapon, and the US - the country with the world's largest stockpile of that weapon and the only one in history to use it - led the condemnation (US allies with large nuclear stockpiles, such as Britain and Israel, vocally joined in). Responding to unnamed commentators who apparently noted this contradiction, National Review's Charles Cooke voiced these two assertions:

Nobody can reasonably dispute that North Korea is governed by a monstrous regime and that it would be better if they lacked a nuclear weapons capability. That isn't what interests me about this. What interests me here is that highlighted claim: that the US "is the greatest country in world history", and therefore is entitled to do that which other countries are not.

This declaration always genuinely fascinates me. Note how it's insufficient to claim the mere mantle of Greatest Country on the Planet. It's way beyond that: the Greatest Country Ever to Exist in All of Human History (why not The Greatest Ever in All of the Solar Systems?). The very notion that this distinction could be objectively or even meaningfully measured is absurd. But the desire to believe it is so strong, the need to proclaim one's own unprecedented superiority so compelling, that it's hardly controversial to say it despite how nonsensical it is. The opposite is true: it has been vested with the status of orthodoxy.

What I'm always so curious about is the thought process behind this formulation. Depending on how you count, there are 179 countries on the planet. The probability that you will happen to be born into The Objectively Greatest One, to the extent there is such a thing, is less than 1%. As the US accounts for roughly 5% of the world's population, the probability that you will be born into it is 1/20. Those are fairly long odds for the happenstance of being born into the Greatest Country on Earth.

But if you extend the claim to the Greatest Country that Has Ever Existed in All of Human History, then the probability is minute: that you will happen to be born not only into the greatest country on earth, but will be born at the precise historical time when the greatest of all the countries ever to exist is thriving. It's similar to winning the lottery: something so mathematically improbable that while our intense desire to believe it may lead us on an emotional level wildly to overestimate its likelihood, our rational faculties should tell us that it is unlikely in the extreme and therefore to doubt seriously that it will happen.

Do people who wave the Greatest Country in All of Human History flag engage that thought process at all? I'm asking this genuinely. Given the sheer improbability that it is true, do they search for more likely explanations for why they believe this?

In particular, given that human beings' perceptions are shaped by the assumptions of their culture and thus have a natural inclination to view their own culture as superior, isn't it infinitely more likely that people view their society as objectively superior because they're inculcated from birth in all sorts of overt and subtle ways to believe this rather than because it's objectively true? It's akin to those who believe in their own great luck that they just happened to be born into the single religion that is the One True One rather than suspecting that they believe this because they were taught to from birth.

At the very least, the tendency of the human brain to view the world from a self-centered perspective should render suspect any beliefs that affirm the objective superiority of oneself and one's own group, tribe, nation, etc. The "truths" we're taught to believe from birth - whether nationalistic, religious, or cultural - should be the ones treated with the greatest skepticism if we continue to embrace them in adulthood, precisely because the probability is so great that we've embraced them because we were trained to, or because our subjective influences led us to them, and not because we've rationally assessed them to be true (or, as in the case of the British Cooke, what we were taught to believe about western nations closely aligned to our own).

That doesn't mean that what we're taught to believe from childhood is wrong or should be presumed erroneous. We may get lucky and be trained from the start to believe what is actually true. That's possible. But we should at least regard those precepts with great suspicion, to subject them to particularly rigorous scrutiny, especially when it comes to those that teach us to believe in our own objective superiority or that of the group to which we belong. So potent is the subjective prism, especially when it's implanted in childhood, that I'm always astounded at some people's certainty of their own objective superiority ("the greatest country in world history").

It's certainly true that Americans are justifiably proud of certain nationalistic attributes: class mobility, ethnic diversity, religious freedom, large immigrant populations, life-improving technological discoveries, a commitment to some basic liberties such as free speech and press, historical progress in correcting some of its worst crimes. But all of those virtues are found in equal if not, at this point, greater quantity in numerous other countries. Add to that mix America's shameful attributes - its historic crimes of land theft, genocide, slavery and racism, its sprawling penal state, the company it keeps on certain human rights abuses, the aggressive attack on Iraq, the creation of a worldwide torture regime, its pervasive support for the world's worst tyrannies - and it becomes not just untenable, but laughable, to lavish it with that title.

This is more than just an intellectual exercise. This belief in America's unparalleled greatness has immense impact. It is not hyperbole to say that the sentiment expressed by Cooke is the overarching belief system of the US political and media class, the primary premise shaping political discourse. Politicians of all types routinely recite the same claim, and Cooke's tweet was quickly re-tweeted by a variety of commentators and self-proclaimed foreign policy experts from across the spectrum.

Note that Cooke did not merely declare America's superiority, but rather used it to affirm a principle: as a result of its objective superiority, the US has the right to do things that other nations do not. This self-affirming belief - I can do X because I'm Good and you are barred from X because you are Bad - is the universally invoked justification for all aggression. It's the crux of hypocrisy. And most significantly of all, it is the violent enemy of law: the idea that everyone is bound by the same set of rules and restraints.

This eagerness to declare oneself exempt from the rules to which others are bound, on the grounds of one's own objective superiority, is always the animating sentiment behind nationalistic criminality. Here's what Orwell said about that in Notes on Nationalism:

"All nationalists have the power of not seeing resemblances between similar sets of facts. A British Tory will defend self-determination in Europe and oppose it in India with no feeling of inconsistency. Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them, and there is almost no kind of outrage - torture, the use of hostages, forced labour, mass deportations, imprisonment without trial, forgery, assassination, the bombing of civilians - which does not change its moral colour when it is committed by 'our' side . . . The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them."

Preserving this warped morality, this nationalistic prerogative, is, far and away, the primary objective of America's foreign policy community, composed of its political offices, media outlets, and (especially) think tanks. What Cooke expressed here - that the US, due to its objective superiority, is not bound by the same rules as others - is the most cherished and aggressively guarded principle in that circle. Conversely, the notion that the US should be bound by the same rules as everyone else is the most scorned and marginalized.

Last week, the Princeton professor Cornel West denounced Presidents Nixon, Bush and Obama as "war criminals", saying that "they have killed innocent people in the name of the struggle for freedom, but they're suspending the law, very much like Wall Street criminals". West specifically cited Obama's covert drone wars and killing of innocent people, including children. What West was doing there was rather straightforward: applying the same legal and moral rules to US aggression that he has applied to other countries and which the US applies to non-friendly, disobedient regimes.

In other words, West did exactly that which is most scorned and taboo in DC policy circles. And thus he had to be attacked, belittled and dismissed as irrelevant. Andrew Exum, the Afghanistan War advocate and Senior Fellow at the Center for New American Security, eagerly volunteered for the task:

Note that there's no effort to engage Professor West's arguments. It's pure ad hominem (in the classic sense of the logical fallacy): "who is "Cornell [sic] West" to think that anything he says should be even listened to by "national security professionals"? It's a declaration of exclusion: West is not a member in good standing of DC's Foreign Policy Community, and therefore his views can and should be ignored as Unserious and inconsequential.

Leave aside the inane honorific of "national security professional" (is there a licensing agency for that?). Leave aside the noxious and pompous view that the views of non-national-security-professionals - whatever that means - should be ignored when it comes to militarism, US foreign policy and war crimes. And also leave aside the fact that the vast majority of so-called "national security professionals" have been disastrously wrong about virtually everything of significance over the last decade at least, including when most of them used their platforms and influence not only to persuade others to support the greatest crime of our generation - the aggressive attack on Iraq - but also to scorn war opponents as too Unserious to merit attention. As Samantha Power put it in 2007:

"It was Washington's conventional wisdom that led us into the worst strategic blunder in the history of US foreign policy. The rush to invade Iraq was a position advocated by not only the Bush Administration, but also by editorial pages, the foreign policy establishment of both parties, and majorities in both houses of Congress."

Given that history, if one wants to employ ad hominems: one should be listened to more, not less, if one is denied the title of "national security professional".

The key point is what constitutes West's transgression. His real crime is that he tacitly assumed that the US should be subjected to the same rules and constraints as all other nations in the world, that he rejected the notion that America has the right to do what others nations may not. And this is the premise - that there are any legal or moral constraints on the US's right to use force in the world - that is the prime taboo thought in the circles of DC Seriousness. That's why West, the Princeton professor, got mocked as someone too silly to pay attention to: because he rejected that most cherished American license that is grounded in the self-loving exceptionalism so purely distilled by Cooke.

West made a moral and legal argument, and US "national security professionals" simply do not recognize morality or legality when it comes to US aggression. That's why our foreign policy discourse so rarely includes any discussion of those considerations. A US president can be a "war criminal" only if legal and moral rules apply to his actions on equal terms as all other world leaders, and that is precisely the idea that is completely anathema to everything "national security professionals" believe (it also happens to be the central principle the Nuremberg Tribunal sought to affirm: "while this law is first applied against German aggressors, the law includes, and if it is to serve a useful purpose it must condemn aggression by any other nations, including those which sit here now in judgment").

US foreign policy analysts are permitted to question the tactics of the US government and military (will bombing these places succeed in the goals?). They are permitted to argue that certain policies will not advance American interests (drones may be ineffective in stopping Terrorism). But what they are absolutely barred from doing - upon pain of being expelled from the circles of Seriousness - is to argue that there are any legal or moral rules that restrict US aggression, and especially to argue that the US is bound by the same set of rules which it seeks to impose on others (recall the intense attacks on Howard Dean, led by John Kerry, when Dean suggested in 2003 that the US should support a system of universally applied rules because "we won't always have the strongest military": the very idea that the US should think of itself as subject to the same rules as the rest of the world is pure heresy).

In 2009, Les Gelb - the former Pentagon and State Department official and Chairman Emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations: the ultimate "national security professional" - wrote an extraordinary essay in the journal Democracy explaining why he and so many others in his circle supported the attack on Iraq. This is what he blamed it on:

...unfortunate tendencies within the foreign policy community, namely the disposition and incentives to support wars to retain political and professional credibility."

That someone like Les Gelb says that "national security professionals" have career incentives to support US wars "to retain political and professional credibility" is amazing, yet clearly true. When I interviewed Gelb in 2010 regarding that quote, he elaborated that DC foreign policy experts - "national security professionals" - know that they can retain relevance in and access to key government circles only if they affirm the unfettered right of the US to use force whenever and however it wants. They can question tactics, but never the supreme prerogative of the US, the unchallengeable truth of American exceptionalism.

In sum, think tank "scholars" don't get invited to important meetings by "national security professionals" in DC if they point out that the US is committing war crimes and that the US president is a war criminal. They don't get invited to those meetings if they argue that the US should be bound by the same rules and laws it imposes on others when it comes to the use of force. They don't get invited if they ask US political officials to imagine how they would react if some other country were routinely bombing US soil with drones and cruise missiles and assassinating whatever Americans they wanted to in secret and without trial. As the reaction to Cornel West shows, making those arguments triggers nothing but ridicule and exclusion.

One gets invited to those meetings only if one blindly affirms the right of the US to do whatever it wants, and then devotes oneself to the pragmatic question of how that unfettered license can best be exploited to promote national interests. The culture of DC think tanks, "international relations" professionals, and foreign policy commenters breeds allegiance to these American prerogatives and US power centers - incentivizes reflexive defenses of US government actions - because, as Gelb says, that is the only way to advance one's careerist goals as a "national security professional". If you see a 20-something aspiring "foreign policy expert" or "international relations professional" in DC, what you'll view, with some rare exceptions, is a mindlessly loyal defender of US force and prerogatives. It's what that culture, by design, breeds and demands.

In that crowd, Cooke's tweets aren't the slightest bit controversial. They're axioms, from which all valid conclusions flow.

This belief in the unfettered legal and moral right of the US to use force anywhere in the world for any reason it wants is sustained only by this belief in objective US superiority, this myth of American exceptionalism. And the results are exactly what one would expect from an approach grounded in a belief system so patently irrational. your social media marketing partner


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We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

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+87 # wantrealdemocracy 2013-02-19 13:03
Our nation is acting without morals when we mount aggressive acts of military action on other sovereign nations. Such actions are against international law. We have no right to kill people, torture them, imprison them or to 'disappear' them. As our nation falls further behind the standard of living of rest of the world and our dollar collapses, we will suffer the results of this behavior. Our days are numbered. We must do all we can to change the policies of the government of the United States.
+16 # propsguy 2013-02-19 17:02
maybe the only thing we can do is drop out and leave, make sure our tax dollars can't be used to pay for these horrors
-14 # Depressionborn 2013-02-20 11:43
wantreal wrote:
"We must do all we can to change the policies of the government of the United States."

Yes, everyone I know agrees with you. So why are we still doing the war thing?

Maybe because we have been asking for more government? It has always led to war in the past.
+81 # tm7devils 2013-02-19 13:28
As a person born in America (73 years ago), I also have felt an angst for the idea "American Exceptional-ism " - for the major part of my adult life.
It's been a long time since I have felt a need to recite the "Pledge of Allegiance" or sing "God Bless America"(as if he shouldn't bless the rest of the World).
It is true that we have done a lot of "good" in the World...but it is equally true that we have done a lot of "bad",also - and probably on an equal basis.
The much ballyhooed cry of "Patriotism" is made only by the uninformed, non-critically thinking citizen...of any country.
In fact, I believe the zeal for patriotism will be America's downfall.

Glenn, I believe you have, with this piece, joined the ranks of the "Journalistic Professionals"( cum laude).
(P.S. Actually, you have been in those ranks for some time.)
+36 # Regina 2013-02-19 14:08
tm7: Obsessive zeal in patriotism turns it into jingoism. We have developed a bad case of it. I share your concern about looming downfall. And I go back a lot further than 73 years.
+14 # tm7devils 2013-02-19 17:45
I bow to my elders...
+11 # moodymack 2013-02-19 14:45
Don't curse money because of greed and don't curse patriotism because of mindless masses brain-washed by a rotten government that hates its Constitution.
It is the US Constitution that makes this country great,And when it is ignored, nay,even hated by its "public servents" that wear cute little flags on their swastekas arm bands...yet despize the Bill of Rights,patrioti sm becomes a fairy-tell.
-62 # Joeconserve 2013-02-19 16:47
I will be 75 in April. I, too, was born in America. I've traveled thru about 28 countries and worked in 8 of them. I've worked with the people in this countries to help rebuild them either from communist domination or the ravages of war. I spent my time in the military and worked in this country in all four corners. Your comments tell me you haven't a clue what America has done for the world. Your comments tell me you haven't a clue what America has done for its people.

I am proud to be an American. I tear up when I pledge allegiance to the flag or sing "God Bless America." You haven't a clue!
+42 # engelbach 2013-02-19 18:33
Do you tear up at the thought of the latest Pakistani child to be killed by a drone bomb?

That's the real symbol of present-day America.
-20 # Joeconserve 2013-02-20 13:55
If you believe that I suggest you send your message to the Whitehouse Occupier. He'll file it in his circular file just like he's been doing to the principles upon which this country stands.
+2 # hd70642 2013-02-21 11:36
Unfortunately when the congress first allowed large scale undeclared offensive military operations is when this went wrong! It is shame when the lives of those willing to go through hell without hesitation are squandered on corporate errands !! I always though patriotism was suppose to be an appreciation for what the country actually stands for not blind obedience or mindless conformity nor making wild accusations towards those that disagree with you !
+4 # hd70642 2013-02-21 10:08
How come the folks that boast about this nation's freedoms are first to spout off that those disagree with them are trautors that should leave asp !! Pep rally patriots of any nation is what causes their problems .A power elite that endangers the general public can arrive from government and various corporation as well or any religion ever established . The reason communism failed was simply no monoply whether corporate or government is ever a good idea . Communism was an idealistic theocracy !! Idealism whether libertarism or communism will reak hovac . Stating other nations have a higher standard of living should never be considred treason .Well I guess those bussiness that left this nation in search of less accounity and cheaper labor probally never cared for it the first place !
+3 # bigkahuna671 2013-02-23 19:21
I love it when I think about our nation's version of the Taliban, the Far Right. I'm sure the Taliban and Al Qaeda tear up when they bow to Mecca or when they think about the dead Osama. They are sure great Muslim patriots, aren't they? If you have to thump your chest and tell everyone you're a patriot and stand with "Amurrica," then I figure you're one of those American Taliban folks, so sure of your Christianity (Think about it, if the apostles had only had guns, they could have kicked the Romans' butts and Jesus wouldn't have died, huh?) and your patriotism, so sure of the ascendancy of the 2nd Amendment above all the other Amendments in the Bill of Rights that you challenge anyone who questions your right to own automatic weapons and hand grenades. I'm a Marine Vietnam combat vet and have to wonder what war a 75-year-old would have fought in? Too young for Korea and a little too old for Vietnam (unless you were a lifer like me), just serving doesn't necessarily make you better than some civilian pogue who was too old or too young for either conflict. What gives you the right to say someone's comments say they haven't a clue what America has done? From what you've written and what you've said, I'd say you're a little lacking in that area to trash someone else's patriotism. We're all proud Americans, but being American doesn't make you any better than anyone else...look at Boehner, Cantor, McConnell, Rove, Limbaugh, et al.
+29 # Gnome de Pluehm 2013-02-19 13:35
How long ago did all this start? At least as far back as Noriega. Don't we realize that we set ourselves up for the same kinds of treatments? Would we tolerate a foreign force entering the country and capturing our president?

Was it Dick Cheney who said, "Principles are o.k, as far as they go..." Tis comment indicates that principles for him were nothing more than strategy. Apparently, our only strategy is to put "America First" whatever the method. We have become fools.
+25 # Todd Williams 2013-02-19 16:58
It started long before Noriega. How about the Spanish-America n War started by the explosion and sinking of the Maine? It's been proven the Spainards did not do it. How about Vietnam? Great big example of American imperialism.
+22 # Glen 2013-02-19 17:17
It all started long before Noriega. The U.S. began attacking sovereign countries about the turn of the 20th century, that is a marking point. Remember the Spanish American War? Then move forward with every war and attack since then with a couple of exceptions. The U.S. has trained terrorists and sent them out to do their dirty work (School of the Americas), brought in anthropologists and psychologists to dissect social systems in such as Africa, to better split those groups and take over territory, and to refine torture. Go back to WWII and prior, in the effort to destabilize the Middle East, and the numbers of leaders world wide deposed if they did not go with the U.S. agenda.

None of that has ended. Check into Yale and the program going proceeding on that campus to refine torture, targeting local minorities.

Also there are numerous research books that lay it all out there, such as Ghost Wars, Little Brown Brother, etc.

P.S. Forget Dick Cheney
+23 # David Starr 2013-02-19 13:39
Quoting Greenwald: "...the US 'is the greatest country in world history', and therefore is entitled to do that which other countries are not."

Past empires have also propped up thier own illusions of granduer as being so superior that they think they're excempt from any accountability. But this kind of rise to imperial/coloni al power has inevitably, gradually contributed to the decline and fall of these very empires.

I really don't see the United States as THE exception. But there's still a chance for it to implement change that could go beyond the myths of empire and become a nation equal among others. But time is running out.
+3 # alan17b0 2013-02-19 13:49
Mr G is a fine fellow, but his
probability theory needs a
little work. If the greatest
country in the world is China,
then the probability of being
born there is about 1/5. If
however, the greatest country
is the Seychelles, the probability
is much smaller.

A more serious comment: is it
worth while wasting time on this
discussion. Barack said it best,
when he opined: "Everybody thinks
their own is best".

Alan McConnell, in Silver Spring
+9 # engelbach 2013-02-19 18:35
Obama holds a brief himself for American superiority.

He's the one whose administration is murdering children.
+25 # PatriotPaul 2013-02-19 13:54
Two more beliefs woven in to our consciousness are that in America we believe in "equal justice for all" and that "no man is above the law". The ludicrousness of these beliefs is apparent when we consider the following hypothetical scenario:

I know my neighbor hates me. I also know that he owns lots of guns. I am scared that he might use them on me or my family so I go and attack him and his home killing him and a couple of his family members. This is exactly what Bush did when he invaded another country based on fear and/or false information, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent people. He proved there is not equal justice for all and certainly he was above the law in America.

Paul Harris
Author, "Diary From the Dome, Reflections on Fear and Privilege During Katrina"
+15 # Glen 2013-02-19 17:03
More accurately, PatriotPaul, is that you would have attacked the neighbor, killed his family, burned the house down and that of his extended family, then moved on to do the same to others with your neighbor's reputation.

And you lied to your own family about why you did it. Also the cops.
+15 # Todd Williams 2013-02-19 14:11
...unfortunate tendencies within the foreign policy community, namely the disposition and incentives to support wars to retain political and professional credibility."

To me, this sounds like the Mafia. "I'm gonna breaka youse knees so dat everybody know not to fuck wid me."

This US penchant for street cred has led us to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity for which we are not being held accountable.
+24 # pfagereng 2013-02-19 14:39
Turn that concept around: We are the greatest failure in history. We had all the advantages, the most wealth, and what have we done with it? We are now destroying the planet all of us live on.
+11 # rlhollow 2013-02-19 15:13
"The zeal for patriotism", as one contributor puts it, is actually evidence the US downfall is well underway.
+23 # MainStreetMentor 2013-02-19 15:59
As was true of the last 50 years of the Roman Empire, America’s best years may already be behind Her. And, as within the last 50 years of the Roman Empire, there are those who believe their nation can STILL be saved. There is always that hope … but as long as the people of our nation continue to allow the greed mongers to maintain their strangle-hold for the greedy, we, like Ancient Rome, help assure the steady march towards our own oblivion.
0 # tomtom 2013-02-20 09:29
Rome never fell! It's policies, followers, morality engineers, fund raisers are infiltrated and practicing, successfully in every nation on the planet, ruled by his most holy one, the Pope!
+5 # Depressionborn 2013-02-20 18:00
Not really tomtom.

Try some cicero:

Antonius heartily agreed with him [sc. Cicero] that the budget should be balanced, that the Treasury should be refilled, that the public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of the generals should be tempered and controlled, that assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed lest Rome become bankrupt, that the mobs should be forced to work and not depend on government for subsistence, and that prudence and frugality should be put into practice as soon as possible.

I think the pope may have come later
+7 # Michael Lee Bugg 2013-02-19 16:20
This is one of the most profound pieces ever posted by RSN! Good for you, RSN! Bush had the excuse of being an arrogant, self-righteous, moron to explain his actions taken as, "the Decider"! Obama has no such excuse. He just operates out of the extreme fear of the backlash he would receive if he allowed an attack such as 9-11 to happen on his watch. Hence the over-kill to protect his personal status as one not weak on terrorists, especially Islamic ones! That makes Obama a coward in the worst way!
-28 # MidwestTom 2013-02-19 16:24
We are a nation that was originally blessed with some vary intelligent founders and leaders who structured a system of government that worked very well for 150 years. At the previous turn of the century both Mexico and Brazil were developing at the pace as the United States. The Mexican revolution stopped them in their tracks as they turned to Socialism. We were a notion where individual initiative and hard work brought financial success.

America was lucky, because almost everyone who came here from colonial days until 1930, with the exception of the blacks, had the ambition and intelligence to leave their native land to seek a better life. Thus we were by default quite arbitrary in our immigration. We also had the advantage of being a Christian nation during the first 150 years. We were a melting pot of European Christians, which is why Christian symbols are all over Washington DC.

We now are burdened with a giant underclass to support; a stock market turned into a casino, and a government bought and paid for by bankers. We are no longer the land of opportunity/
+18 # engelbach 2013-02-19 18:40
Mexico has never been socialist.

At the turn of the previous century workers were struggling to get out from under the wage slavery of the robber barons. It was united action in labor unions that rescued them and their children from immiseration and early death, not individual initiative.

Christianity had nothing to do with the rise of capitalism in America. It was about greed.

But I agree with your last sentence.
-12 # Depressionborn 2013-02-20 17:04
good for you, MidwestTom

Mexico and Brazil are beginning to turn away from socialism and prosper. We are falling into the pit they dig out of.

rsn redFcheckers seem quite behind the times. Please write more. They need a chance to learn.
+4 # reiverpacific 2013-02-22 14:16
Quoting Depressionborn:
good for you, MidwestTom

Mexico and Brazil are beginning to turn away from socialism and prosper. We are falling into the pit they dig out of.

rsn redFcheckers seem quite behind the times. Please write more. They need a chance to learn.

As respectfully as I can manage, you are full of it!
Mexico is close to being a failed state and where the Hell did you get the idea that it was socialist? It's one of the few Latin countries, with Honduras and Colombia, verging on anarchy with death squads and drug cartels ruling, that continues to stick with the US Capitalist "Winner take All" model and is as corrupt as any backward country with rigged elections run AGAINST a left of center opposition twice in a row now a la Dimwits here.
Brazil has been somewhat Socialist since Lula's ascension and Rousseff's succession (popularly elected in valid and high-turnout elections BTW), becoming one of the truly significant progressive emerging economies, huge, diverse and hard to govern 6th largest in the world now by GDP by its ADOPTION and adherence to a more left-leaning structure and since it spurned US intervention and like so many other of it's neighbors, have kicked the US military and their bases out beyond their borders.
I really don't know where some of you get your information but your post is patently ridiculous and utterly false.
You can't get away with this kind of thing on RSN!
+1 # hd70642 2013-02-22 16:50
It is true the Founding were not in any shape or form Christian fundies but a religious group known as deist! Also they did believe in separation of church and state but not because they were atheist .Also believers in god are no more at odds with evolution then they are with gravity or thermal dynamics! Which unlike economist who think you can create wealth out of nothing which to be seems to be at odds with the concept of thermal dynamics !

Religious skepticism:
+4 # Small Family Farmer 2013-02-22 19:48
Yes Midwest Tom ,it's them poor people that are holding us down. Certainly couldn't be that the richest 10% of Americans control 75% of the country's wealth while leaving a whooping 25% to be distributed among the remaining 90% of us.

Now Tom, I don't know you but I'm betting you aren't part of that upper 10% so why in the world are you carrying the water for them? I would look forward to your explanation because I'd hate to think you're just a garden variety toadie or lickspittle for those you deem superior to you.
+10 # Dhimmi 2013-02-19 16:26
Dhimmi suggests that Mr. Greenwald invoke the Border Guard Criterion to judge the USA. Are the guards trying to keep aliens out or Americans in? Since it is the former, the USA is not all bad.

Is it all good? obviously not. Many of its cities have far more flaking lead paint than gleaming alabaster. Human tears are all too common here. And its shortcomings are sufficiently notable to make many a dreaming patriot cringe.

But you'll have to admit that when a country with the engineering and science prowess of the United States seems unable to man up to the challenges of rampant energy depletion and suspected climate change, you do have to admit that that's pretty EXCEPTIONAL.
+3 # Kenwood 2013-02-19 16:33
Greenwald writes in the Guardian which was published, as the Manchester Guardian, in the greatest country in the world 150 years ago.
Perhaps if the English had not thought and acted like that then, the USA would not do it now, nor the next one (China?) in another 150 years.
I grew up in England and had no doubts at all that England was the greatest.
+12 # nancyw 2013-02-19 16:36
I can't stand it when i hear someone say America is the best country in the world. Such arrogance; such ignorance. I can't even stand the song 'This land is my land, this land is your land..." I sing it "This land was your land, and now it's my land..." We began as a country this way, and we continue thinking we can bully the world and take what we want, do what we want, hurt what we want, destroy what we want... etc. THanks for this article!!
+19 # engelbach 2013-02-19 18:41
Woody Guthrie meant that the land belongs to the people, regardless of what the government does. It's a song of defiance. Don't turn it into a song of defeatism.
+1 # nancyw 2013-02-21 14:53
And is that how people sing it? And can a land belong to anyone, really? And the way it's being treated because we think "it's mine"... He may have written it as a song of defiance, but even Woody can have a wrong take on how to express it. And now? Now it's sung like an anthem of claim. "This land was meant for you and me."
-7 # 2013-02-19 16:46
If you seriously expect anyone to read this production the least you could do is refer to Wikipedia to establish how many countries are on the Planet you said above intro 179 and I well know that is a stupoid statement. rULKE OF THUMB i CONSIDER un ABOUT 200 NATIONS AND ADD A FEW FOR NON-MEMBERS.

Just as members of UN Wikipedia says :_
Jump to: navigation, search

There are 193 United Nations (UN) member states, and each of them is a member of the United Nations General Assembly.[2]

The criteria for admission of new members are set out in the United Nations Charter, Chapter II, Article 4:[3]

1.Membership in the United Nations is open to all other peace-loving states which accept the obligations contained in the present Charter and, in the judgment of the Organization, are able and willing to carry out these obligations.
2.The admission of any such state to membership in the United Nations will be effected by a decision of the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council.
+1 # reiverpacific 2013-02-22 16:24
If you seriously expect anyone to read this production the least you could do is refer to Wikipedia to establish how many countries are on the Planet you said above intro 179 and I well know that is a stupoid statement. rULKE OF THUMB i CONSIDER un ABOUT 200 NATIONS AND ADD A FEW FOR NON-MEMBERS.

Just as members of UN Wikipedia says :_
Jump to: navigation, search

There are 193 United Nations (UN) member states, and each of them is a member of the United Nations General Assembly.[2]

The criteria for admission of new members are set out in the United Nations Charter, Chapter II, Article 4:[3]

1.Membership in the United Nations is open to all other peace-loving states which accept the obligations contained in the present Charter and, in the judgment of the Organization, are able and willing to carry out these obligations.
2.The admission of any such state to membership in the United Nations will be effected by a decision of the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council.

"Peace loving" should have denied the US admission right there!
However, I was also surprised by the "193" number and glad you challenged it.
0 # Small Family Farmer 2013-02-22 19:52
Could be he just confused the number of countries the US has a military presence in with the total number of countries on the planet. None of us knows for sure how many countries the US has bases in (classified information don't you know) but I heard Thom Hartmann toss out 173 back over the holidays.
+14 # Jim 2013-02-19 16:55
Great article. Good to see a recognition of 'American' presumption and pretention exposed from within. Most of the world laughs while Americans plod doggedly on in their blind arrogance, seemingly unaware that the only reason folks might admire the USA is that they would like some of their money - which of course now is controlled by a select few who aren't providing access to their buldging vaults.

The "World Series"? How many countries play serious baseball?

"Americans"? How many countries are there in the Americas?

Americans are envied for their money; beyond that they are the laughingstock of much of the world. How comfortable it is to live in a bubble of ignorant denial created by a propaganda machine that keeps those inside in blissful unawareness.
+9 # Smokey 2013-02-19 17:02
"Rule, Britannia...." Oops! That imperialist song belongs to the age of Downton Abbey. Back in the 1920s, the British were still convinced that their nation was the greatest.

There are people in every nation, in every moment in history, who are convinced that their nation is the best. I've met Canadian and Indonesian nationalists, during recent months, who can lecture for hours about the glories about their countries.
Well, why not? (Although both countries have minority groups with some bitter memories.)

The age of nations is coming to an end. The big corporations manipulate the global economy. When the big corporations have finished exploiting one country, they move to another.
+12 # futhark 2013-02-19 17:42
The United States of America started out as an independent nation with some great ideas, including the sovereignty of the people and a political system that had built-in methods to adapt policies to new conditions and to inhibit the concentration of political power in one branch of government, in one region of the country, or in the hands of an elite few. All of the laudable actions in American history can be traced to these ideas, including liberating the slaves, prohibiting gender limits on the voting franchise, and assuring equal rights to all citizens regardless of genetic background.

There have always been forces on the other sides of these issues, so the struggle continues. Our "greatness" as a nation is dependent on how true we can be to our original ideas of sovereignty of the people and equal protection under the law. We fail the test when we allow people to be harassed or otherwise discriminated against due to their sexual preferences or allow big money interests to buy influence with our political leaders, or when we confuse technical prowess or superiority in weapons with ethical imperatives.

Let the people be free. End the Citizens United government for sale, close the detention centers, give equal marital rights to gays, redirect military spending toward medical care and education, and stop promoting and perpetuating terrorism with drone attacks.
+8 # engelbach 2013-02-19 18:43

And then the U.S. can start to try to catch up with other, more enlightened nations.
0 # shawnsargent2000 2013-02-21 22:45
Thankyou for offering actual solutions to the lack of a moral compass problem, that our nation is suffering from!
+18 # reiverpacific 2013-02-19 18:49
A simple rebuttal; Universal Health Care, or the lack thereof.
I've traveled and worked all over the world and have had my life threatened by the shills of US corporations which include the CIA and it's black budget for not toeing the line. If you've traveled and are still patriotic you must have been wearing blinkers and be an utter conformist.
I've met Americans who have left a country as ignorant as they arrived having gone overseas for the money, religious conversion of the natives or military occupation, never having tried to enjoy what that country's culture, food, music and morés might have given them, lived in heavily-guarded foreign compounds and socialized only with other Americans or Whites.
I've also met Americans (And Brits) who still talked smugly about "buying the natives with beads" (in their hearing). I replaced an interim American Architect -a raving Christian- in Indonesia more permanently and it took me three months to repair the social isolation and cultural damage he'd done with our Indonesian partners.
There is a difference between being an "Industrialized " and a "Civilized" country. The US hasn't recognized this yet or you'd have Universal Health Care, better Public Education at all levels and a less threatening behemoth of a Military. Others tend to judge the country on how it treats it's own people.
There are worse places for sure but "Best" is a heavy mantle.
My vote for "Best American export": Blues and Jazz!
+21 # Kumari 2013-02-19 19:45
"There is a difference between being an "Industrialized " and a "Civilized" country. The US hasn't recognized this yet or you'd have Universal Health Care, better Public Education at all levels and a less threatening behemoth of a Military."

You nailed it. Americans only think they live in the greatest country in the world because so few of them ever travel. They are collectively ignorant and thoroughly deluded into thinking this is a great country - when it is uncivilized, unhealthy and completely undemocratic. The labor laws are a disgrace, the lack of socio supports barbaric and the genuflection before the (ha!) "free market" just form of slavery. As the guy on Newsroom said - America leads the world in only three things - the number of incarcerated citizens, the number of people who believe angels are real, and military spending. Sure there are worse places, but not too many of them are in the OECD.
0 # hd70642 2013-02-21 09:29
I have few reccomend web pages
+6 # Glen 2013-02-20 17:07
That "heavy mantle" you mention is carried by Americans who do travel and who are polite and eager to learn when in various countries. Personally, I have felt that weight and have come under fire for being an American, regardless of behavior or respect. I have witnessed breathtaking disrespect while in the company of Americans and after a time cut them no slack for their condescension or downright Ugly American attitude.

Hell, Americans are rude to each other due to stupid regionalism and racism. Why would we assume those same Americans would, after the major brainwashing by their government, et al., to be respectful of other citizens of the planet.

"There are worse places" - but there are some damned decent places to live, without that stigma.
+5 # hd70642 2013-02-20 16:46
It is rather sad when a nation ignores problems but blows it's potential enemies out of proportion.It is also sad when it feels when no other country is better than itself especially when those other countries actually address those problems it actively ignores !Unfortunately this country seems to be both mean sprit ed and fantasy prone .Paranoia is caused by feelings of inadequacy a guilty conscious delusions and not being able to let get over past traumas . It is sad when being short sided narrow minded passionately unimaginative and not being to think for your self is defined as being a stark realist and conformity is confused with sanity !!!
+3 # flippancy 2013-02-21 05:29
It's cruel irony that the United States is now the hardest free world country in which to achieve "The American Dream."
0 # hd70642 2013-02-21 07:06
It's way beyond that: the Greatest Country Ever to Exist in All of Human History (why not The Greatest Ever in All of the Solar Systems?). It is amazing how fantasy prone arch conservatives are . In fact they will deeply believe the discovery of this continent was some greater eureka moment by completely denying the Ancient Greeks realized the Earth was round while assigning undue credit to Columbus . Of course some creationist believes since they are so damned special that the Earth is only adobe where life can evolve and flourish.Well I guess they have some problems with the evolving part !
+4 # lark3650 2013-02-21 07:51
Thomas Paine said: "When planning for posterity, we ought to remember that virtue is not hereditary."

He also said: "When it shall be said in any country in the world, 'My poor are happy; neither ignorance nor distress is to be found among them; my jails are empty of prisoners, my streets of beggars; the aged are not in want, the taxes are not oppressive' - when these things can be said then may that country boast of its constitution and its government.'
+1 # hammermann 2013-02-21 22:34
This is audio of TV anchor Jeff Daniels rant in the pilot of HBO TV series Newsroom, when he is forced to answer a question on
a college panel debate: "Why is America the greatest country in the world". He gives a facile comic answer, pressed, prodded,
and pushed, and seeing an old lover in the audience holding a sign "WE'RE NOT, BUT WE COULD BE", he launches into the best rant I've heard in years.
Note some of his numbers are completely wrong (says US 178th in infant mortality; US is 34th UN, or 49th CIA Factbook- which lists "countries" like Guernsey... but US is behind Cuba, Croatia, Slovakia, almost Belarus!). Can't believe Aaron Sorkin would make such a big mistake, so I'm thinking Daniels blew it, but that was the best take. This file (3-4 min) may only live for 3 more days (forget rules of this site)
+1 # RMDC 2013-02-22 05:51
Americans are the most brianwashed people on earth and in all human history. The mantra "American is the greatest country in the world" is just part of the propaganda system. It stops people from thinking critically about the US and its place in the world.

In fact, the US ranks pretty low in world standings for things like income, hours worked per week, healthcare, food sucurity, and most of the other standards of living. On the "Happiness index" the US ranks pretty low.

Incessant repeating of the mantra prevents americans form taking any of the international standards of living indexes seriously. The paradox between living in the greatest country and the fact that the US ranks lowest among fully developed nation in healthcare is not comprehensible to most americans.

Americans are the most brainwashed people on the planet.
0 # Small Family Farmer 2013-02-22 11:58
I think I've finally figured out what American "exceptionalism " really means.

Every country in the world has to follow the rules the US has created EXCEPT for the US and any governments willing to be lickspittles and toadies for the US.

I think that pretty much explains US attitude since the end of WWII.
0 # Corvette-Bob 2013-02-28 10:01
Anyone making that declaration shows they are not a thoughful person. First, it is a subjective evaluation and is not subject to verification. It is an assertion of a small mind.

A few additional thoughts.

Why do conservatives constantly make this assertion, but when they lose an election, they say, everything is going down the tube? They say they are going to leave the country or succession from the Union, or nullification or whatever.

Why does everyone say they belong to the true religion and everyone else is praying to a false god?

Why was a list of the greatest cities in the world did not include a single city in America?

Why a the happiest people in the world living in Denmark?

Most nationalistic people seem so unhappy in this country? They complain and cry they do not want to pay taxes, or compromise for the common good, they berate their fellow citizens and call them moochers and takers and etc.

Just thinking.

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