THE AIR WE BREATHE….A commenter at WhirledView put John McCain’s nonproliferation policy into context the other day, but his point applies far beyond that.

The doctrine of “American Exceptionalism” is not especially radical in the US. The assertion that the US is uniquely selfless and fair-minded is a mainstream idea in American politics.

The United States is a big, wealthy, highly-defended country with friendly and weak neighbors. We are insulated by media that give us health and beauty tips in preference to the gritty realities that other countries face.

And most of us, most of the time, try to be selfless and fair-minded in evaluating what news we get and selecting our elected representatives. The problem is that blind self-righteousness is only a little way off.

I’ve been collecting examples. Every day’s news provides something, but David Brooks gives us a bonanza today: Iran has to get their internal politics straight before we can talk to them. And that’s in addition to shutting down their uranium enrichment plant. And, and, and, besides that, it’s all the fault of the international community! They’re feckless! They won’t do it our way!

While claiming that the United States can’t negotiate with Iran because we don’t understand their internal politics, Brooks demonstrates enough understanding to indicate that possible strategies might include various ways of increasing divisions among their internal factions and molding paths for them. Our “feckless” allies have been pretty much on board with that sort of thing. They just don’t see endless sanctions as being particularly effective. And, it’s not an Iranian internal problem, so Brooks doesn’t include it, but there’s always the option of trying to assure the Iranians that they’re not the target of US-imposed regime change.

One of the distinguishing marks of the Bush administration’s foreign policy has been American exceptionalism. We’ve got to move on and get in touch with how others think.

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