After two two-term presidents with diametrically opposed ideologies on foreign policy and domestic affairs, America is facing an existential challenge. Is it to be just another country, one more nation-state that just happens to be much richer and stronger than any other? Or is there still a case and a cause for American exceptionalism that says that the only nation founded on the idea of freedom has the obligation to use its immense wealth and power to promote that freedom elsewhere?
My personal answer isn’t much of a surprise since it’s one that I share with nearly everyone who has lived in an unfree state or who has had their freedom mortally threatened. I grew up in the Soviet Union in a mixed family—and I don’t mean my Armenian-Jewish heritage. My Baku relatives included die-hard Communists who would excuse nearly every catastrophe and shortage as the fault of flawed individuals, not the state or the system. They lived in a fragile truce with my father and his brother and cousins, natural skeptics who wanted me to grow up without illusions.