Home/Daniel Larison/Evidently, Lieberman Blacked Out For Forty Years

Evidently, Lieberman Blacked Out For Forty Years

They are inclined to see international problems as a result of America’s engagement with the world and are viscerally opposed to the use of force – the polar opposite to the self-confident and idealistic nationalism of the party I grew up in. ~Joe Lieberman

Take away some of the polemical edge, and what you have here is someone who seems to have missed out on the internal political evolution of his party for the last four decades, only discovering it recently thanks to Ned Lamont and the gang.  You’d think that he had been in a coma during the ’70s and ’80s.  If you qualify his statements a little so that they resemble a view that actual human beings in America hold, many people are viscerally opposed to unjustly using force and think that repeated unjust or unwise uses of force have contributed significantly to many problems.  Are there some people who simplistically attribute everything that’s going awry in the world to the U.S. government?  Maybe, but no one of consequence holds this view. 

Yglesias makes some good points, and I see what he means when he says that Bush and Lieberman aren’t internationalists.  If you defined internationalism by a very weak standard of whether someone supports projecting power overseas, they would be, but this is really what interventionism or hegemonism is.  Lieberman’s move is to collapse them all together into one.  Internationalism and hegemonism are, however, connected in that the former provided all of the tools and assumptions that the hegemonists have used to pursue their agenda, and there is a more or less straight line from Truman’s universalised containment doctrine to Kennedy’s hawkish anticommunist New Frontier to the Vietnam hawks who eventually became disillusioned with the Democratic Party over Vietnam and other matters and broke off to become neoconservatives.  More old-fashioned liberal internationalists, such as Michael Lind, recoil at what is being done and said in the name of liberal internationalism in the Democratic Party today (by plenty of people other than Joe Lieberman, I hasten to add), but the seeds of the current madness were always there within liberal internationalism.  They can be found in Wilson and Kennedy.  Where the modern jingoes have gotten even worse is in their embrace of the latter-day equivalent of rollback and their denigration of the idea of containment.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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