Michael Signer makes a lucid case for “exemplarism,” a model of American foreign policy that embraces our country’s impressive (and, in
many respects, unique) power but also recognizes the growing role that
global public opinion plays in constraining it [“City on a Hill,” Issue #1]. I would volunteer two criticisms, which, while tangential to his
thesis, are, independently, important points of discussion.
First, although he does so only in a passing reference to Josef
Joffe’s recent book, Signer internalizes the supposition that
“anti-Americanism” and opposition to American foreign policy are
synonymous. Yet they are not. The former phenomenon, literally
interpreted, denotes a resentment of American values, culture, people,
and achievements: in short, the very essence of our nation. Thankfully,
as innumerable polls reveal, it is quite confined. However, these same
surveys reveal the latter phenomenon to be pervasive. Our conduct
abroad is an important manifestation of our national character, but,
given its vagaries over the past two centuries, it is an inappropriate
gauge of Americanism–hence the fallacy of interchanging the two
Second, while Signer criticizes contemporary progressives’
insufficient embrace of “U.S. primacy and power,” he agrees with the
rationales that have led it to render such a judgment. In particular,
deepening networks of interdependence decrease the utility of armed
force because global civil society can increasingly counter military
action via economic and political means. The aftermath of the United
States’ invasion of Iraq amply affirms this assertion. Furthermore,
mainstream progressives, with some exceptions, assent to the United
States’ deployment of hard power in response to an unprovoked attack or
as part of humanitarian efforts.
Globalization is not a zero-sum game. The United States stands
to accrue great dividends from other countries’ progress, provided that
it does not become complacent. Exemplarism or, for that matter,
any prudent foreign policy paradigm will firmly root itself in this
Ali WyneWashington, D.C.
Punching Bag No More
As a conservative, I very much welcome your magazine. I agree with
you that all of the good ideas are coming out of the conservatives. And
that is bad. Our nation can only stay great if good opposing ideas are
battling against each other to change and become great ideas. The right needs a sparring partner. In the last couple of decades it seems we have only had a punching bag.
San Francisco, Calif.
Democratic Representative William Smith was from Virginia, not North Carolina [“The Fall of the House of Representatives,” Issue #1]. We regret the error.