Obama Tells World: US Is 'Exceptional' But (Don't Worry) Not 'Imperial'

In a display of what critics were quick to interpret as the rhetorical equivalent of U.S. military imperialism and its hubris in foreign policy matters, President Obama defended the idea of “American exceptionalism” and its outsized role in international affairs during his address at the UN General Assembly in New York on Tuesday.

Dismissing the notion of “an American empire” as mere “propaganda” by some, Obama defended the dominance of U.S. military power as a necessary good in the world. He argued that despite more than a decade of war, which included the illegal invasion and subsequent occupation and destruction of Iraq, the U.S. should continue to use its military strength to defend its interests around the globe.

In his speech, Obama said:

Obama’s comments were a clear reference to a broadly conciliatory yet strongly worded op-ed by Russian President Vladimir Putin that appeared in the New York Times recently and which criticized the U.S. approach to international relations. Amid the ongoing efforts to find a negotiatied settlement in Syria, Putin called the habit of U.S. leaders—and specifically Obama—of invoking the idea of “exceptionalism” as insulting and dangerous to the world community.

Following Obama’s U.N. address on Tuesday morning, commentors on Twitter were blasting Obama for his repeated promotion of the idea of “American exceptionalism” and the pointing out the pitfalls of continued U.S. arrogance. Some, citing the fact that Obama—who like other world leaders addressing the assembly was given 15 minutes to speak—delivered a 43-minute speech, said the length of the president’s speech itself provided ample proof of how the U.S. thinks it should stand above all other nations.

As Yousef Munayyer, executive director of the Palestine Center in Washington, tweeted:

And independent journalist Jeremy Scahill applied his dry wit to the speech by paraphrasing the message underlying Obama’s defense of U.S. military imperialism:

He then added:

And a sampling of those fed up with the conceit of U.S. claims to superiority:

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