The Washington Post reported recently that according to a Pew Research Center poll, the number of Americans who think the United States "stands above all other countries," has declined from 38 percent three years ago to 28 percent today. And 58 percent say the U.S. is merely, "one of the greatest countries."
The survey also indicated, the Washington Post notes, that the decline in the belief of American exceptionalism has taken hold even among its biggest proponents, staunch Republicans. Just 37 percent view the United States as a singularly great country, down 15 points from 2011.
The image of the United States as a superpower with a dominant position in international relations and the ability to exert influence and project power on a global scale is rapidly eroding even among those who are friends and admirers of our country.
One of them is Edward Lozansky, founder and president of the American University, in Moscow. A nuclear physicist by training, he was an exile in the United States during the Cold War. In 1980, using the Winter Olympics held in Lake Placid as a platform, he appealed to the Soviet government to permit his wife and young daughter to join him in the United States.
Since the collapse of Communism and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, he has earned a high position in the academic world and is recognized as a vital bridge between American and Russian institutions of higher education.
He recently organized the first William & Mary/American University in Moscow Lecture. It was presented by Joel Levine, a research professor at W&M, who for 41 years served as senior researcher at NASA.
Lozansky, in a series of Op-Ed articles published in Moscow Times, the Washington Times, and various online websites, argued forcefully that the United States must change course and cooperate with Russia to the benefit of both countries.
He notes that as the result of America's intervention in Iraq, the country is imploding, the Shia-controlled regions are falling into Iran's orbit, the Sunni inhabited part of the country is under ISIS control, which is determined to establish a fundamentalist caliphate.
America, Lozansky observed, is finding itself in the humiliating position of having to beg Iran for help to contain ISIS, an extreme, radical Islamist organization that pose an immense threat to regional stability as well as the prospect of providing a staging area for attacks against the West.
"Ironically enough, "he wrote, "Russia is one of the prime beneficiaries of America's mistaken policies. Turmoil in Iraq and Syria has driven oil prices higher, making Russia's energy exports more valuable, while America is embroiled in conflicts from which it gains little strategic benefits, and is empowering players such as Iran and ISIS who are fundamentally hostile to the United States."
He quotes President Ronald Reagan's ambassador to Moscow, Jack Matlock, who at a recent US-Russia Forum held in Washington said, "The world is moving on and the U.S. has trouble keeping up."
Lozansky pointed out that as a result of misguided policies of successive American presidents from George H. W. Bush to Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barak Obama, a rare historic opportunity to include Russia into an alliance with the West, was lost. "As a result, relations with Russia have been badly damaged," he wrote. "Moreover, the U.S. socalled global democracy promotion campaign has brought tremendous misery for countries on the receiving end, and to make things worse, it has backfired on the United States again and again."
Today, he concludes, one can see what an illusion it truly was to expect Iraq to transform under American tutelage into a democracy. Instead, hardened fighters from the Islamic State, ISIS, advance on Baghdad, and nation building in Afghanistan, has been another miserable failure. He considers "America's latest project in democracy promotion, Ukraine," also a mistaken enterprise.
"American taxpayers have the right to hold their leaders to account for all the human lives lost and trillions of dollars spent little to show in return," he writes. "It is time for serious reconsideration of U. S. foreign policy, which to date has only caused chaos and harm to America's true national interest."
Frank Shatz lives in Williamsburg, Virginia, and Lake Placid. His column was reprinted with permission from the Virginia Gazette.