This is the new buzz word, and you’ll be hearing it much more often. And for good reason.
Isolationism, the idea that, in foreign policy, we should retrench, “mind our own business” and otherwise follow George Washington’s admonition to “avoid foreign entanglements” is becoming popular in some American ranks again. Polls show the public is tired of our military intervention in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, although I’d love to see how the questions in those polls are phrased. Some Republican candidates are taking a “bring the boys home” approach, although with some caution. Mitt Romney seemed to be taking that line during last week’s debate, but later clarified his stand to add some caution against premature or rash withdrawals.
Okay, what’s the bottom line here? Well, George Washington was a bright guy, but he lived before the age of ICBM’s, flying machines, automatic weapons and even electricity. Sorry, George, but your world isn’t ours.
Isolationism failed miserably in the 1930s, and led directly to the Second World War, as Axis powers saw a clear field ahead of them for their aggression and barbarity.
We flirted with isolationism after Vietnam, as George McGovern shouted “Come home America.” So-called “anti-war” elements took charge of the Democratic Party, gutted defense, gutted our intelligence services, with no gain for the United States. It took Ronald Reagan to correct the course. Reagan was not always steady in his internationalist outlook – our commitment of troops to Lebanon and then their quick withdrawal after the Marine Corps barracks in Beirut were blown up in 1983 – were not brilliant strokes. But Reagan’s overall approach, building American defense capability and making clear that we had definite red lines, worked well and led to the end of the Cold War.
Now liberal websites are gleeful in ridiculing the defense wing of the Republican Party, led by John McCain, claiming it’s losing influence. Suddenly, some leading Republicans, who’d spent their careers disparaging the War Powers Act, are embracing it, trying to restrict President Obama’s role in Libya.
It is clearly not isolationism to question Obama’s Libya policy, which has been botched from the start. Nor is it isolationism to question our course in Afghanistan. But it is isolationism to ask for a general retrenchment for America around the world. Yes, we should bring some troops home from Europe and possibly even Korea. But what I’m hearing from some Republicans is a rejection of the traditional Republican stance – a strong America, second to none, and willing to assume our proper role as the world’s superpower.
It was the Democratic Party that turned against national defense in the late 60s. Fortunately, the Republicans were there to counter that dangerous shift. The war on terror is far from over, and will require a twilight struggle for decades to come. It is disheartening to think that some Republicans are going McGovern on us, to take advantage of a temporary change in public opinion. Will we wake up one morning to find that Republicans never meant it at all? That they’re frauds?
And, incredibly, will we find that, in the 2012 election campaign, the hawk will be….Barack Obama? Would you have thought that six months ago?
We have some thinking to do, don’t we?
FROM URGENT AGENDA (WWW.URGENTAGENDA.COM)
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