Matters have gone so far off the rails since 9/11 that few seem to recall the madness of the 1980s. The U.S. had a celebrity actor for president, who railed about America's ostensibly existential adversary—the Soviet "evil empire." Back then, Ronald Reagan nearly started a nuclear war during the all-too-real Able Archer war game. He also secretly sold missiles to Iran, and then laundered the windfall to the Contras' Central American hit squads, resulting in some 100,000 dead.
Looking back from 2019, at least as the contemporary media tell it, those were the good old days. Heck, even Barack Obama—faux liberal that he was—proudly and publicly admired Reagan. Oh, and one of Reagan's favorite campaign slogans: "Make America Great Again."
Today, matters seem to be coming farcically full circle, what with Elliott Abrams—convicted in the aforementioned Iran-Contra scandal—being appointed special envoy to Venezuela, and Uncle Sam again bullying a Latin American country. Welcome to America's own grisly '80s foreign affairs theme party! Which all got me thinking, again, about the whole notion of American exceptionalism. Only a country that truly, deeply believes in its own special mission could repeat the hideous policies of the 1980s and hardly notice.
Perhaps one expects this absurd messianism from the likes of The Donald, but the real proof is that America's supposed progressives—like Obama—also obediently pray at the temple of exceptionalism."Orwellian" is the only word for a nation whose leaders and commentariat were absolutely aghast when candidate Obama was seen without (gasp!) an American flag pin on his lapel. Even more disturbing was how quickly he folded and dutifully adorned his mandatory flair. This sort of nonsense is dangerous, folks: It's hypernationalism—the very philosophy that brought us World War I.