January 30, 2003
Some interesting speculation on the origins of the myth that the US is supremely and inherently benevolent, a myth which forms the first premise of much of our foreign policy--in a report from Davos.
The United States has a very different experience of nationalism and therefore a very different view of multilateralism. From the U.S. point of view, World Wars I and II were exercises in European savagery; it fell to the United States to save Europe from itself. However, the United States never saw itself as responsible for Europe's disease, nor did it see itself as susceptible to it. Washington was not afraid of its own nationalist tendencies. Americans believed that the Europeans would not behave as civilized human beings unless they were forced into institutions that limited their sovereignty and behavior. In the American view, the lesson of the 20th century was precisely the opposite: The United States could be trusted to behave responsibly without institutional constraints.