Russian President Vladimir Putin took to the op-ed page of the New York Times to address the American people Wednesday on the situation in Syria and plead his case against military action there.  I must admit, it was one of the most insightful things I have read in the New York Times in years.  At his conclusion, President Putin warns of the danger of American exceptionalism, stating “It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation”.

This is a very revealing statement.  American exceptionalism is dangerous, especially for people like President Putin.  For two hundred years, American exceptionalism has been dangerous to tyrants, terrorists, and totalitarian leaders all over the world.  It was American exceptionalism that defeated fascism and imperialism on the battlefields of the Second World War and helped rebuild Western Europe and the Pacific in the aftermath.  It was American exceptionalism that led the world in economic growth, technological innovation, and medical science in the twentieth century.  It was our exceptionalism that freed Eastern Europe from the scourge of communism and gave Mr. Putin the opportunity to be elected to the position he currently holds.   

Let's be clear, President Putin’s actions surrounding the crisis in Syria have nothing to do with the ideals he lauds in his editorial.  The Russian government is solely interested in enhancing its power and influence in the Middle East, and protecting client governments like the Assad regime in Syria.   While warning the American people against intervening in internal conflicts, Mr. Putin is directly and openly aiding the Assad regime.  He has high praise for the United Nations and international law, while utilizing every tool at his disposal to keep it from working.

That Mr. Putin still finds the United States’ commitment to freedom and human rights so dangerous should put a smile on every American’s face. Mr. Putin may not like it, but American exceptionalism will continue being a positive force in our world. We should all hope that it always will be.