There have been many dominant super-powers in history. And while they had the power to dominate, these powers oppressed and took advantage of their superior position. They humiliated their nieghbors for profit and power.
Is America different from all the other global super powers that have occured in history? Does America have its neighbors best interests at heart? Does America represent a break from the past and a offer truly unique social proposition?
Is America special? Are we better than all the previous rulers of the world?
I agree that we are unique in that we are truly a nation formed of immigrants. I also think that we are unique in our caring about other countries when disaster strikes. We generally the leader in these types of endeavors.
Those are some pretty deep questions, but my gut reaction is that no, we aren't that unique. If you take a historical look at the conflicts we've participated in and the reasons behind those conflicts, I'm afraid that we look very similar to many of the "superpowers" that have historically reigned. We're primarily interested in US. And the current focus on the "me generation" probably doesn't make things any better. Good question.
Looking at America from a purely geographic point of view, I would say that there are few places with the variety that the United States displays. Few countries border on the two largest oceans in the world, and the immense size allows for many different features not found in most countries. No other countries can offer such diverse landscapes as the Mojave, the Everglades, Alaskan tundra, Louisiana bayous, the Great Salt Lake and the Rocky Mountains in one nation.
The foundational basis of democracy established by our founding fathers, made America a unique nation. While other countries might now be moving toward more democratic societies, America was the prototype and is to some extent the role model for these governments.
I think we are unique in that we're the only modern superpower. In times past, we were just like other superpowers. We took half of Mexico for our own, for example, and we used Third World countries for our own advantage during the Cold War.
But now, there are different attitudes about what is okay for a country to do to others. We are the only superpower around for this new morality and so we are unique. If another superpower rises (China, perhaps) we'll see if they act differently.
The lack of any history of having a monarchy makes us unique. The fact that the right to bear arms is enshrined in our governing document the Constitution is relatively unique. The fact our taxes are so low compared to other industrialized countries is unique. Our universal access to public education is somewhat unique. The fact that we are almost exclusively a nation of immigrants and immigrant descendants is unique too.
Maybe we have been better, but we have been far from perfect, and we are getting worse than we have been.
Every country in the world is unique in in its own way, and USA is no exception. But there are no undisputed arguments to support the some of the qualities of USA implied in the question. For example:
Does America have its neighbors best interests at heart?
Does America represent a break from the past and a offer truly unique social proposition?
Is America special?
Are we better than all the previous rulers of the world?
These are all rather sweeping generalizations, and though there may be some truth in them, it cannot be said that USA is clearly better than other countries in all these respects.