Wednesday, November 30, 2016

One last comment about Obama's "apology tour."

Rebecca Heinrichs writes that President Trump is poised to up-end Obama's "apology tour."

While certainly more a realist than idealist, more than anything, President-elect Trump has shown a desire to return prudence to the forefront of American national security and foreign policy, with an unapologetic commitment to American sovereignty and a recognition of American exceptionalism. He ran a campaign promoting the idea that America is unlike other nations. It is better. Unlike his predecessor, he will not highlight or apologize for her imperfections, because her imperfections still pale in comparison to what she is and the standards she holds herself to.
This is a standard for acceptable behavior that applies in almost no other realm of living that I'm aware of. "He has high ideals, so his failure to live up to those ideals means he shouldn't apologize for that failure." It's a standard that eliminates entirely the consequences of actual actions.

It's not a tenable standard. It's not one that Rebecca (who I think I can call a friend) would apply otherwise.

A nation isn't a person, though, so maybe there's an excuse in international relations for unremitting pride, but I can't think of it. Yes, the country has largely been a force for good in the world. Whole portions of the globe are free in large part due to America's actions. But the country has done ugly, wrong, nasty things along the way — both domestically and internationally. There's nothing wrong with pride as long as it's tempered with realism and, yes, the occasional apology.

Maybe you have to be, as President Obama has been, a black man in America to have a mature sense of both pride in one's country and a visceral understanding of its sins — and an understanding of why "we're awesome" isn't really the right response to those sins being acknowledged. Obama's about to leave the presidency, so maybe we won't have to have this argument for awhile. In any case, Rebecca's right: President Trump is unlikely to apologize, ever, for any American action taken on his watch. I wonder what the payoff to that attitude will be.

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