Foreign Policy Research Institute A Nation Must Think Before it Acts Liberty and Religion:: The End of U.S. Exceptionalism?

Liberty and Religion:: The End of U.S. Exceptionalism?

Historians reinterpret the past in the light of the present. This result of ever-shifting perspectives is inevitable, as the outcomes of situations or problems throw new light, or new shadow, on their origins. So it is with the American Revolution, interpretations of which have changed over time and continue to develop, albeit slowly. In this ongoing development, the decisive episode of recent years will be the Iraq War of 2003, for that crisis has done more than any other to change the understanding of the ‘‘great experiment’’ of the United States held by substantial sectors of European as well as world opinion. From being in a general sense the Answer, the United States appears to increasing numbers of people to be the Problem; from being the great exception, America often now appears to be a state like other states. The question ‘‘Why has this change of perspective occurred in recent years?’’ is a complex one. The intention here is to propose an answer to an antecedent question, ‘‘How can the reinterpretation of the American Revolution help us to throw light on the long-term characteristics of U.S. culture, reemphasized in the present?’’

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