Humanitarian Imperialism

Aversion to military intervention has been the default position of the left for at least half a century—certainly since the huge protests against the Vietnam War. Washington planners lamented the development of the so-called “Vietnam Syndrome”—a widespread progressive hostility towards US interventions (invasions, bombings, coups or economic warfare) around the world. A 2018 survey found the public still infected, with over two-thirds in support of limiting military action overseas, including 78% of Democratic voters.

President Joe Biden’s record of support for foreign intervention spurns that progressive tradition. As chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Biden played a key role in selling the Iraq invasion to both Democratic colleagues and a skeptical public. He was also vice president in an administration that was bombing seven countries simultaneously by its end in 2016, and was a strong voice within the administration in favor of intervention (Foreign Policy, 2/25/11).