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American Exceptionalism and the Fort Leavenworth International Officer Program

By Richard Head
Opinion | December 16, 2009

BASEHOR, Kan. - It's 23:00 hours. Do you know where your American officers are?

We had our farewell dinner with our Indian officer and his family last night. Wednesday morning they're off on their way, back to India. One of the main topics of our dinner was the similarity among people everywhere in the world. The same problems, concerns, annoyances, and daily trials that unite us all as human beings. But a troubling issue we discussed in our meal was this, according to the officer we sponsored: out of the 47 foreign officers in a cohort of 61 for this rotation, all 47 foreign officers joined in to create a Facebook page to commemorate their joint experience. Of the 14 American officers in the cohort, only two joined in the effort. Two.

On the surface, you might think, "So what? It's Facebook, after all." But to the Indian officer and the rest of his foreign-officer cohort, it's another example of American "independence." Which, unfortunately, is a euphemism for, "The Americans really don't care much about joining in."

It's a sad factoid in an otherwise excellent program. Unfortunately, it's the final remembrance of an excellent officer and his family. He was gracious enough to try and grant the American officers some leeway--it was their home country, they were busy, etc.--but it was obvious that it reinforced an unfortunate (but somewhat accurate) stereotype.

It's 23:00, and I'm a bit disenchanted. And I can't stop thinking about an excellent officer who left the United States with a slight bitter taste in his mouth. And a question in his heart about our vaunted American "independence."


1 Comment

I'm long-retired (over 31 years retired) from the US Army. I found, during my career, that many US military personnel and a high percentage of the public, subscribed to a modified Christian theology of “American exceptionalism” – America as heir to the mantle of “chosen people – America’s will as God’s will, and vice versa. (My thought was that they should have examined what being chosen meant for the Jews.) I can’t argue, however, with the relief from uncertainty that such a position provides to Americans. I should note that I consider excessive certainty a "red flag," inasmuch as we live in a very complex and rapidly-changing world. This position of confident American exceptionalism militates against cooperation with others in the community of nations, and against viewing others as peers or equals. It is my impression that the attitude of American exceptionalism has become more prevalent in recent years.


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