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Graham and American “Weakness”

Lindsey Graham made his formal announcement to start his presidential campaign. His speech included a number of typically absurd lines, of which this was probably the most nonsensical:

American weakness anywhere hurts us everywhere.

Not only is this false, but it has been proven false many times. U.S. and allied security isn’t harmed by so-called “weakness” in conflicts where we have little or nothing at stake. The U.S. is not harmed by refraining from involvement in foreign civil wars or by choosing not to attack other countries. On the contrary, when it avoids wasting resources and taking on costly burdens in unnecessary wars the U.S. is in a more secure and stronger position. Graham would have the U.S. increase its already frenetic pace of interference around the world, and he would misrepresent all that costly meddling as “strength.”

The idea that the U.S. has to show “strength” in response to every crisis and conflict is a recipe for exhaustion, distraction, and the dangerous neglect of genuinely vital interests. It might be tempting to dismiss Graham’s slogan as empty rhetoric, but we know from his record and his past statements that he thinks the U.S. needs to be “leading” anywhere and everywhere. That tells us that he can’t or won’t distinguish between what really matters for U.S. security and what is tangential, and because he doesn’t make that distinction he has no idea how to the former a priority. Graham’s candidacy isn’t going anywhere, but it is still important to knock down the absurd foreign policy arguments that he will make during his campaign. He imagines that his record of alarmism and support for disastrous interventions qualifies him to be president, so it is that much more important to make clear that this is exactly why he should never be allowed anywhere near the presidency.

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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