Aaron David Miller argues that America’s unique geography “explain[s] the way Americans see the world”:
The United States is the only great power in the history of the world that has had the luxury of having nonpredatory neighbors to its north and south, and fish to its east and west. … Canadians, Mexicans, and fish. That trio of neighbors has given the United States an unprecedented degree of security, a huge margin for error in international affairs, and the luxury of largely unfettered development.
He views these circumstances as a major factor in determining US foreign policy:
U.S. nationalism was defined politically, not ethnically. Anyone can be an American, regardless of color, creed, or religion. America’s public square has become an inclusive one — and is becoming more so, not less. That’s all good news, but too often, it leads Americans to see the world on their terms and not the way it really is.
Just look at America’s recent foreign-policy misadventures. Americans’ mistaken belief that post-invasion Iraq would be a place where Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds would somehow look to the future to build a new nation reflected this tendency. It’s the same story with the Arab Spring: From the beginning, America seemed determined to impose its own upbeat Hollywood ending on a movie that was only just getting started and would become much darker than imagined. The notion that what was happening in Egypt was a transformative event that would turn the country over to the secular liberals powered by Facebook and Twitter was truly an American conceit.
Larison disagrees, placing more of the blame on political elites.