by Norman Podhoretz, Editor-at-Large for Commentary Magazine
Reviewed by Francis P. Sempa, Contributing Editor
Norman Podhoretz has been one of America's most influential intellectuals for more than a half-century. As Editor of Commentary and the author of a dozen books, Podhoretz has contributed to national debates over both domestic and foreign policy issues. In a recent speech at Hillsdale College's Constitution Day Dinner, Podhoretz explored the idea of American exceptionalism both at home and abroad.
In the speech, he posed the question: Has America been a force for good in the world? There was a time, he noted, when the consensus answer to that question was a resounding "Yes." That consensus, especially among American intellectuals, vanished in the 1960s. To be sure, even before the 1960s, intellectuals criticized American culture and capitalism, but the notion that America was a force for evil in the world gained increased acceptance during the Vietnam War.
Podhoretz sides with those intellectuals who believe that America has always been a force for good in the world. The American political system, he noted, has enabled "more freedom and more prosperity to be enjoyed by more of its citizens than in any other society in human history." Abroad, America has spilled blood and treasure to protect and liberate millions of people from the totalitarian nightmares of Naziism and communism, and more recently from the horrors of Islamofascism.
Podhoretz expressed concern that today many intellectuals and liberal political figures (including, he said, President Obama) promote the idea that America is not and should not be "exceptional," and look to transform the U.S. into what he called "a facsimile of the social-democratic regimes of western Europe."
Podhoretz concluded his remarks with an expression of hope that America will reject such a transformation and return to the founding principles that made the country exceptional--both at home and abroad.