Since the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the United States has held countless aspirations, including the idea that America needs to be the perfect example of what a democratic state should be. With that goal in mind, the United States has evolved into the most powerful state in the world, surpassing nations in every demographic at one time or another. America’s values are so influential, a term known as “American Exceptionalism” has sprung up to describe the nation’s power and strength over other countries. American exceptionalism refers to the theory that the United States occupies a special niche among the nations of the world in terms of its national credo, historical evolution, political and religious institutions and unique origins.(1) Though America is currently dealing with major issues involving the economy, education, health care, and military entanglements overseas, the United States remains truly exceptional when compared to other countries because of how its leaders decided to handle major world events. This paper will discuss what factors led America to its position of power and whether or not being an exceptional nation is beneficial or detrimental to Americans and the world as a whole.
Before World Wars I & II, inhabitants of the world could read the signs that America was growing into the most influential country on the map. Realists believe that, prior to the World Wars, America chose to remain completely isolated from the rest of the world due to the sentiment left by the British monarchy. However, as Daniel Deudney and Jeffrey Meiser stated in chapter two of U.S. Foreign Policy, realists believe that America stayed isolated for too long due to the isolation stance that liberalists took as a necessity during a time of global chaos. In turn, according to a realist point-of-view, if the country remained neutral any longer, the ramifications on America’s power and influence in Europe could have been devastating. (2) Nevertheless, Deudney and Meiser point out that because America was “dragged” into the wars and forced to become an internationalist nation, opportunities arose that, if refused, would have been extremely foolish of its leaders to not take advantage of. In addition, although some have claimed that America’s involvement in World War I was inevitable, it is more beneficial to believe that these world-changing events (Lusitania, Zimmerman Telegram) were blessings in disguise since they formed the groundwork for the international superpower that America has become. The choice that President Franklin D. Roosevelt took to again remain neutral during World War II only benefitted the internationalist approach that America was taking because again, America was forced to deal with the chaos going on around them. Although conspiracies have been created that claim Roosevelt had prior knowledge of the attacks on Pearl Harbor and chose to turn the other cheek so as to boost the American economy by going to war, the “guise of neutrality” that he took only portrayed America further as the “world police” and contributed to the exceptionalist idea. Now that the beginning of America’s stance as internationalists has been established, this paper will turn its focus on the divisions of American society and how they have contributed/benefitted from its foreign policy.
The question remains: what makes America an exceptional nation in the grand scheme of countries of the world? The American economy has been viewed as the prime reason for its exceptionalism. The economy of the United States is the world’s largest national economy. Compared with other countries’ gross domestic product, the G.D.P. of the United States was estimated to be nearly $14.7 trillion in 2010, which is approximately a quarter of the nominal global G.D.P. (3) The United States is home to the world’s largest stock exchange, the New York Stock Exchange. It also houses 139 of the world’s five-hundred largest...
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