A perfect example from an up and coming U.S. Senator, Marco Rubio, in his first floor speech for the Senate. Daniel Larison rips his hubris to shreds but I will parse some of his lines:
But since her earliest days, America has inspired people from all over the world. Inspired them with the hope that one day their own countries would be one like this one.
And so he begins his smug parade of looking down on the rest of the world.
I know that now some say that times are so tough here at home that we can no longer afford to worry about what happens abroad. That maybe America needs to mind its own business.
Well, whether we like it or not, there is virtually no aspect of our daily lives that is not directly impacted by what happens in the world around us. We can choose to ignore global problems, but global problems will not ignore us.
Almost half a century later, America is still the only watchman on the wall of world freedom. And there is still no one to take our place.
What will the world look like if America declines?
Well, today people all over the world are forced to accept the familiar lie that the price of security is our liberty. If America declines, who will serve as living proof that liberty, security and prosperity can all exist together?
Today, radical Islam abuses and oppresses women. It has no tolerance for other faiths, and it seeks to impose its will on the whole world. If America declines, who will stand up to them and defeat them?
Today, children are used as soldiers and trafficked as slaves. Dissidents are routinely imprisoned without trial. They’re subjected to torture and forced into confessions and labor. If America declines, what nation on the earth will take these causes as their own?
And if America declines, who will do all these things and ask for nothing in return? Motivated solely by the desire to make the world a better place?
The answer is no one will. There is still no nation or institution on this planet that is willing or able to do what America has done.
Is this a call to an ongoing interventionalist streak in the world? Can we afford interventionalist wars? Can we fight these threats on our own soil? Where is the line? Larison puts this part of Rubio’s speech into perspective:
Whenever Rubio refers to American decline, we need to remember that what he means by this is that the U.S. will not attack other countries, intervene in their internal conflicts, or attempt to dictate the pace and content of political developments abroad as much as the U.S. does right now. In other words, what Rubio calls decline is what many of us would call a return to normal, or at least a reduction in the number and frequency of foreign conflicts and entanglements. What Rubio calls American decline is what many other nations around the world would refer to as being left alone.
In fact, the decline Rubio describes won’t prevent the U.S. from being that “living proof” of the co-existence of liberty, security, and prosperity. It is quite conceivable that both American liberty and security would be enhanced when our government concentrates its “defense” policies on nothing but the defense of the U.S. and those allies that America will have for limited periods of time. There are many states that already combat jihadist militants on their own soil at great cost, and because most of them are fighting largely in self-defense they are going to continue doing so no matter what the U.S. does or does not do. Something that believers in Rubio’s particular version of American exceptionalism seem to take for granted is that the rest of the world is largely hopeless without constant, direct American involvement in their affairs. If that was ever true, it isn’t any longer.
Finally, you gotta love this line from the tail end of Rubio’s speech:
You see, these nations, these new emerging nations, these new shining cities, we hope they will join us, but they can never replace us. Because their light is but a reflection of our own.
Larison claims that “it is flattering to us to believe that other successful nations have become successful only by basking in the reflected glory of American light.” Indeed.