Joe Lieberman and Jon Kyl have written an awful op-ed warning about “repeating the cycle of American isolationism.” This passage stands out for sheer dishonesty:
When the Soviet Union fell in 1991, some argued that the United States had fulfilled its obligation to lead the world and had defeated all plausible opponents; defense funding was slashed. Ten years later, the attacks of Sept. 11 reminded us of the risks of assuming that peace will always prevail [bold mine-DL].
Some people did argue that the U.S. should scale back its responsibilities around the world at the end of the Cold War. Those people were completely ignored, and the U.S. spent the next ten years interfering as intensively around the world as it ever had during the Cold War. The military budget was reduced from the levels it had reached under Reagan when the USSR still existed, but the U.S. continued to have a hyper-activist foreign policy marked by continued NATO expansion, no-fly zones in Iraq, “dual containment” of Iran and Iraq, interventions in Somalia, the Balkans, and Haiti, Operation Desert Fox, and military strikes in Afghanistan and Sudan. This was the period when Madeleine Albright declared that the U.S. was the “indispensable nation.” Whatever else one wants to say about U.S. foreign policy in the ’90s, it wasn’t in “retreat.” On the contrary, the U.S. seemed to be on the offensive for much of the decade. The U.S. obviously was not too passive and “isolationist” in its dealings with the rest of the world during that decade, but instead meddled far too often in too many places. Peace wasn’t prevailing in the ’90s. The U.S. used force against other countries in almost every year of that decade. Lieberman and Kyl evidently think they can get away with such an obvious falsehood, but this is such a warped view of what U.S. foreign policy was in the ’90s that it can serve only to undermine and discredit the brand of internationalism that Lieberman and Kyl want to promote.
When Lieberman and Kyl were named as the co-chairs of AEI’s American Internationalism Project, I thought they were very strange choices. If one wants to make their particular sort of aggressive internationalism more appealing, Lieberman and Kyl are terrible spokesmen. This op-ed is confirmation of what I said at the time:
All that this new project is likely to do is to identify “American internationalism” with some of its worst and least credible supporters, which in turn should make things much easier for critics and opponents of “American diplomatic, economic, and military leadership in the world.”
So far, Lieberman and Kyl are doing solid work giving “American internationalism” a bad name.