Indispensable nation: Coined by Madeleine Albright in the 1990s, the phrase soon thereafter became an emblem of American hubris. Now, in the midst of a stalemated war in Ukraine, a second brutal conflict unfolding in the Middle East, and paralyzing political dysfunction at home, President Biden has chosen to revive Albright’s swaggering claim. “We are,” he announced, quoting Albright approvingly in his recent address to the nation, “the indispensable nation.” It was a daring rhetorical flourish.
This assertion of indispensability is an artifact of the post-Cold War era — that brief interval when it seemed that the United States enjoyed a unique status as sole global superpower and history’s chosen agent. Not long after Albright unveiled the term, the United States — stung by the events of Sept. 11 — embarked upon a global war intended to affirm that status.
The ensuing military campaigns, chiefly in Afghanistan and Iraq, did not fulfill the expectations of their architects. Intended to be brief and to end decisively, they turned out to be very long and very costly. In the eyes of many, both traditional allies and nations of the developing world, the United States appeared not indispensable but reckless and misguided.
The American people responded by installing in the White House someone whose worldview was the very inverse of Madeleine Albright’s. If elected president, Donald Trump vowed that he would put America First. To members of the establishment of which Biden is a member, the mere thought was heretical.
Read the full piece in The Boston Globe.