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Push to flex ‘American muscle’ abroad is disconnected from reality

Jeff Jacoby’s Dec. 30 Op-ed column (“Kerry’s ‘realist’ approach slips into callousness”) criticizes Senator John F. Kerry for his reluctance to flex “American muscle . . . in order to promote liberal democracy” as an instrument of foreign policy.

Is it possible that Jacoby’s ardent support for a bellicose foreign policy is fueled by the simple fact that, unlike Kerry, he has never served in the military in time of war?

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How can an “idealist” approach to American foreign policy promote liberal democracy abroad given the slaughter of more than 1 million Americans by guns since 1965? Precisely which cherished American values are projected when more than 50 million of our citizens lack basic medical insurance or access to primary care physicians? Or when 12 million Americans are unemployed and another 12 million are either unemployed or have ceased, in frustration, to look for work, according to a December report from the Department of Labor? Or when, according to Forbes Magazine, as of November, the 400 richest Americans increased their average net worth by $400 million to a record $4.2 billion?

In the 1960s, during the Vietnam War, Lieutenant General James Gavin stood almost alone among former military leaders as one who warned against the expansion of that war. Gavin wondered how favorable American values could be projected abroad when pervasive poverty, racial discrimination, and decaying cities at home were accepted as the norm.

Jacoby’s worldview might become a bit broader were he to ponder some of Gavin’s doubts.

Paul L. Nevins

Boston

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