The Blog

Lieberman Advocates Responsible Foreign Policy

1:55 PM, Jun 21, 2011 • By DANIEL HALPER
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

This is not the first time this has happened and it won’t be the last, but it always ends up hurting our country and our people. In the 1930s, it was the isolationism of the “America Firsters” on the political right that denied the threat posed by Nazi Germany, insisted that Hitler was Europe’s problem, and thereby helped bring about a world war.

In the 1970s, it was the American left that shouted, “Come Home, America”— insisting that the threat to freedom and peace was not from Soviet communism but from our own “irrational fear” of communism, and thereby inviting Soviet aggression

More recently, these isolationist tendencies have, like much else in Washington, taken a partisan turn. During the 1990s, Republicans in Congress too often defined their national security priorities by instinctive opposition to what the Democratic commander-in-chief was doing in the world—in this case in the Balkans.  During the last decade, Democrats in Congress too often defined their national security priorities by instinctive opposition to what the Republican Commander in Chief was doing in the world and grew emotionally invested in a narrative of retreat and defeat in Iraq.

The truth is, a platform of retreat from the world has no place in either the Democratic or Republican Party. Such a platform is not only bad governance; it is bad politics because ultimately most Americans will not support a party of retreat and defeat.

We do not live in a “post-American world.” We live in a world in which American leadership and American power are more important than ever. The American people intuitively understand that. The fact is we live in a world in which our own security, freedom, and prosperity at home are inseparable from the security, freedom, and prosperity of people in distant lands.

These truths are falling out of fashion in some quarters of Washington. In Congress, we see the stirrings of what my friend Lindsey Graham has called a “unholy alliance” between the isolationist right and the anti-war left, between Democrats and Republicans who want America to retreat from the wars we are in, pull back from our allies, and slash the spending that sustains American power in the world.  

But we must not and cannot balance our budget by retreating from the world. We will not grow our economy by embracing protectionism. We will not close the deficit by gutting the defense budget. The path to restoring fiscal responsibility and economic growth at home is not through strategic irresponsibility abroad. It is through disciplined and bipartisan leadership at home and abroad.

Our real fiscal challenge and foremost responsibility lies in tackling the runaway cost of our entitlement programs. Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, together with and interest on the debt, will by 2020 consume 89 cents of every federal tax dollar, and in the absence of reform, will eventually require virtually all of our country’s tax revenue to sustain them.

The best interests of our country require not only the policies of American internationalism and the strength of America’s moral example, but also the exercise of American power—including, when necessary, the determined use of America’s military might against our enemies.

This is the muscular internationalist view that links Democratic Presidents like John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton with Republican Presidents like Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush.  

This shared view grows out of a shared non-partisan commitment to America’s founding cause—which has animated our national purpose since America began. One of our nation’s great poets, Walt Whitman, wrote that in America, “Past and present and future are not disjoined but joined” and for this reason, as Whitman put it, “The United States themselves are essentially the greatest poem.”

They are a poem that remains etched for eternity in the words of our country’s founding documents; a poem that expresses a cause greater than the interest of individuals or political parties; a poem that has given us our national destiny, which is the universal, timeless cause of human freedom and economic opportunity.

That great cause will not be advanced nor our destiny achieved if our leaders today yield to the short-term political appeal of a neo-isolationism. That will only weaken our security, limit our freedom, and diminish our prosperity.

As you know, I announced earlier this year that I have decided to turn the page to a new chapter in my career and leave the Senate when my term expires in January 2013.

Recent Blog Posts

The Weekly Standard Archives

Browse 20 Years of the Weekly Standard

Old covers