A couple of days ago, America was slapped in the face by Russian President Vladimir Putin. He gave his opinion on President Obama’s speech about his plans to take action in Syria over dictator Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons against its own people, and it wasn’t in our favor.
In his speech, Obama spoke of America’s tendency to react at such atrocities with steady haste and determination, concluding, “That’s what makes America different. That’s what makes us exceptional. With humility, but with resolve, let us never lose sight of that essential truth.”
The next day, The New York Times published an editorial made by Putin stating, “I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States’ policy is ‘what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.’ It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation.”
These two comments alone have caused an uproar of feedback from all across the United States. Differing opinions on the matter are being pushed back and forth, yet few seem to be interested in the underlying meaning of President Obama’s speech. Is it the so-called “American exceptionalism” that we are meant to be focusing on, or the horrific acts of cruelty committed in Syria that we should rather be discussing?
While Putin has made a plausible point in his post, bringing to light the risk in involvement with the conflicts of Syria, it seems that a great deal of his speech seemed to center around his critique on America’s actions rather than the long-term effect getting involved might have on America or Syria. If Putin had perhaps chosen to confront the American people and politicians with his concern of safety and success in such a conflict, rather than focusing more on a single comment made by Obama in his speech, the American people might have reacted more positively to his editorial.
Considering what Putin was most likely trying to get across by stating, “It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional,” he may have had a reasonable point. Do we, as Americans, assume we are meant to solve all the world’s problems as some sort of superpower-run country? The United States has always prided itself in its ability to fight for peace and democracy across the nations, but there may come a point where we cross the line.
America has problems of its own. It does not have the ability to swoop down and save every single country that is facing turmoil. After already facing over 10 years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq, it seems unsurprising that opposition toward taking action in Syria is quite strong throughout our country. Yet where does Russia have a place in telling our government how it should be run?
While Putin went on to state that interacting with Syrian forces would be an offense against international law, he is absolutely contradicting the acts of his own country. Recently, Russia has passed a law that prohibits the passing of propaganda relating to homosexual or transsexual relations to minors. This specific law has been attacked by several different international organizations, including the United Nations, as it violates the international human rights law. Therefore, where does Putin find himself in a place where he can criticize America and its government on its behavior when it comes to obeying international laws, when Putin seems to make light of such laws when it comes to the rights of his own Russian citizens?
Also, in reference to his accusations made against the American government and its apparent plan to take action without permission from the Security Council, Obama made it quite clear throughout his speech that he had no intentions of taking action without receiving consent from Congress beforehand.
The entire situation involving Syria and its use of chemical weapons is an unfortunate dilemma in itself, but it is unnecessary to bring an entirely different argument into play based on one comment made at the closing of a speech. While America may not exactly be in the right place to enter such hazardous circumstances after its long battle on the war over terrorism, bringing up how Americans consider themselves and how the American government is run only brings more conflict into an already complicated scenario.
It was not in Putin’s place to judge the actions of the United States and I believe America will make the right decision in the end when it comes to not only its own citizens and nation, but also that of Syria’s.