US Secretary of State John Kerry decried what he called a “new isolationism” in the United States on Wednesday and suggested that the country was beginning to behave like a poor nation.
Kerry inveighed against what he sees as a tendency within the United States to retreat from the world even as he defended the Obama administration’s diplomatic efforts from Syria to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In comments tied to the budget that US President Barack Obama is expected to present on Tuesday, Kerry suggested that tighter spending, in part at the behest of congressional Republicans, may limit US clout around the world.
“There’s a new isolationism,” Kerry said during a nearly one-hour discussion with a small group of reporters.
“We are beginning to behave like a poor nation,” he added, saying some Americans do not perceive the connection between US engagement abroad and the US economy, their own jobs and wider US interests.
Kerry made the case as Obama prepares to release a budget that will adhere to spending levels agreed to in a two-year bipartisan budget deal struck late last year, entailing some spending cuts the administration would have preferred to avoid.
The US State Department budget will decline slightly in the president’s budget submission, Kerry said, saying this was a direct result of the bipartisan budget deal that cut funding further than Obama wanted.
“This is not a budget we want. It’s not a budget that does what we need,” he said, saying the budget deal entailed cuts demanded by the Republican-led House of Representatives. “It was the best the president could get. It’s not what he wanted.”
In speaking of what he called the “new isolationism,” Kerry cited the limited support in the U.S. Congress to back Obama’s plan to launch an air strike against Syria last year because of its suspected use of chemical weapons against civilians.