10/09/2013 02:44 pm ET

Noam Chomsky: Obama-Putin Tiff Reignites Debate Over President's Doctrine


Antiwar activist and author Noam Chomsky said the recent tiff between U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin has reignited a debate over the Obama Doctrine and American exceptionalism.

In an op-ed for In These Times, Chomsky says the debate between isolationism and exceptionalism "is narrower than it may seem."

Chomsky cites a speech Obama gave on Sept. 10, where he explains what makes America "exceptional."

"Terrible things happen across the globe, and it is beyond our means to right every wrong. But when, with modest effort and risk, we can stop children from being gassed to death, and thereby make our own children safer over the long run, I believe we should act. That’s what makes America different," Obama said. "That’s what makes us exceptional. With humility, but with resolve, let us never lose sight of that essential truth."

The competing doctrine, isolationism, holds that we can no longer afford to carry out the noble mission of racing to put out the fires lit by others. It takes seriously a cautionary note sounded 20 years ago by the New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman that “granting idealism a near exclusive hold on our foreign policy” may lead us to neglect our own interests in our devotion to the needs of others.

Between these extremes, the debate over foreign policy rages.

Read the full op-ed from Chomsky here.


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