The United States of America: Geography Matters

Not a clear case of geographic determinism from Aaron David Miller, rather a nicely argued explanation that American pragmatism, idealism, arrogance, and ambivalence can be understood in a geographic frame.  (Of course many other factors play equally–and in some cases, more important roles.) But as they say in real estate, location matters.

On Pragmatism: Americans belief in solutions is both endearing and naive. I think that as the United States gets older as a nation, Americans are coming to accept theologian Reinhold Niebuhrs notion that the best we can do is come up with proximate solutions to insoluble problems. …

Idealism: The luxury of America’s circumstances — particularly its physical security and detachment from the world’s ethnic and tribal quarrels — has given Americans an optimistic view of their future. And it has produced a strain in U.S. foreign policy that seeks to do good across the globe. …

Arrogance/Ambivalence: Being powerful and relatively free from the threat of attack means Americans don’t have to care much about what the rest of the world thinks. And like all big powers prior, America has taken full advantage of this privilege: It has championed human rights while supporting dictators and has mouthed support for the United Nations and international law while undermining both when U.S. interests demanded it. America’s recent behavior in the Middle East serves as a case study: The United States encouraged reform in Egypt and largely ignored political unrest in Bahrain, highlighted women’s rights in Egypt but not in Saudi Arabia, and intervened in Libya but not Syria.

via How Geography Explains the United States – By Aaron David Miller | Foreign Policy.


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