That’s a totally legitimate view. As Mead notes, John Quincy Adams, Walter Lippmann, and George Kennan were all, in different ways, Jeffersonians. Andrew Bacevich and Ron Paul are today. And American foreign policy, which is dominated by an interventionist bipartisan elite, can benefit from a Jeffersonian critique. How does it benefit ordinary Americans to continue an endless, almost certainly unwinnable, war in Afghanistan? Why is the United States considering expanding NATO when it means pledging American lives to defend countries that many Americans have never even heard of?
But it’s one thing to oppose defending the American empire. It’s another to oppose defending the American homeland. By intervening in the 2016 election, Russia did not threaten American influence in Afghanistan or Ukraine or Syria. It threatened America itself.
Near the heart of American democracy lies the idea that Americans—not foreign governments—should choose America’s leaders. It appears Russia challenged that by mounting a widespread, largely clandestine, campaign to get a particular candidate elected. And to make matters worse, the candidate it helped elect himself poses a serious threat to the rule of law in the United States.
Already, American liberal democracy is weaker because of what Russia did. If Russia casts doubt on the legitimacy of future American elections—by hacking into voting machines or spreading disinformation to discredit the results—it could do even greater harm. If Blumenthal and Greenwald are indignant about Kris Kobach’s efforts to limit Americans’ ability to choose their leaders, they should be indignant about Vladimir Putin’s too.
In his interview with Carlson, Blumenthal attacked Maryland Democratic Senator Ben Cardin for calling Russia’s meddling “a political Pearl Harbor.” But in some ways, it’s an apt analogy. Until December 7, 1941, America’s conflict with Japan had been waged far from America’s shores. Tokyo wanted a sphere of influence in East Asia, its own Monroe Doctrine. The United States wanted to deny Japan hegemony over China, Indochina, the Dutch East Indies and the Philippines. It was a contest over imperial frontiers. Then, on December 7, Japan unexpectedly crossed the Pacific and attacked the United States itself. Suddenly, even Jeffersonians had to acknowledge that Japan constituted a threat.
Similarly, in recent years the United States has waged proxy battles against Russia in places like Ukraine, Syria, and Afghanistan, which are far from American shores. Jeffersonians can legitimately argue that America’s struggle for influence in those countries does more harm than good.
But last year, Russia unexpectedly attacked the United States itself in ways that genuinely harmed ordinary Americans. Trying to prevent Russia from doing so again doesn’t make you an imperialist or a hawk. No matter how anti-interventionist you are, you need to protect your own country.