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Exceptionalism with a Twist

Author: James Bratt, Professor of History
Books & Culture
Posted on: Jun 12, 2009

Americans have always struck outside observers as being a bundle of contradictions. Europeans from Tocqueville on have noted how, in the strange world across the Atlantic, forthright materialists are consumed with spiritual ardors while the mantra of liberty sounds forth from compulsive conformists. From Latin American angle, such beguiling paradoxes shade into dangerous duplicity. Smiling agents of free trade wind up demanding dictatorial governments; the proud pioneers of national liberation forbid “old Europe” from meddling in the hemisphere, the better to turn it into a Yankee domain run on the economics of colonialism.

So too, George Herring’s massive survey of American diplomatic history runs along a double track, supplying enough evidence along the way to allow the reader to decide whether the whole amounts to contrapuntal music or clinical bipolar disorder.

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