FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

That Old Isolationist Smear

by

It doesn’t take much to be smeared as an isolationist by leading Republicans. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who appears to be running for president again, and former vice president Dick Cheney — not to mention Sen. John McCain, Gov. Chris Christie, and other members of the GOP establishment — can always be counted on to drag out that insult whenever they sense a threat from anyone not as hawkish as they are. If they thought that 30,000 U.S. troops should be sent somewhere, and someone recommended sending only 10,000, we could count on Perry, Cheney, et al., to condemn the other person as an appeasing isolationist.

Let’s be clear: Someone who simply doesn’t want Americans draw into foreign conflicts is not an isolationist. The proper word is “noninterventionist.” “Isolationism” suggests withdrawal from the world. But noninterventionists don’t seek that. The most principled noninterventionists — we libertarians — promote the individual’s freedom to trade and move across political boundaries without any government obstruction whatever. The wish to isolate the government from foreign wars does not translate into a desire to isolate the American people from commerce and other peaceful exchange. You’d think more folks would understand that elementary insight. Only someone who thinks government is the be-all and end-all of existence would commit this glaring error.

Perry and Cheney’s target du jour is Sen. Rand Paul, who also may be running for president. Paul’s message on foreign policy is muddier than it ought to be and certainly less clear than that of his father, former U.S. representative Ron Paul. Rand Paul has made welcome criticisms of NSA spying and Barack Obama’s autocratic murder-by-drone, but his message on Iraq is mixed: he says that he “would not rule out air strikes” or sending weapons to be used against the Sunni Muslims of the newly declared Islamic State in western Iraq and eastern Syria. On the other hand, he opposes sending troops. Yet even this is murky. He says, “I think it’s a mistake to put ground troops into Iraq and the main reason is that the people that are taking over large swaths of Iraq are now allied with the people who we were helping in Syria.” In other words, he went on to explain, the mission would be “confusing.” But this implies that if the Obama administration were not opposing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a U.S. deployment to Iraq might be something to consider.

He also says Americans shouldn’t fight for Iraq if the Iraqis themselves won’t fight for it. Doesn’t that  suggest Americans should be willing to fight if the Iraqi army stood its ground? Further, he implicitly endorses massive military aid to Israel by calling on the Obama administration to cut off all aid to the Palestinians without even mentioning the $3 billion that American taxpayers send to Israel every year. Much of that money goes to enforcing Israel’s military rule over millions of Palestinians in their own Israeli-occupied territory.

That is not noninterventionism — unless you mark on a steep curve. But almost anyone would look like a noninterventionist next to Cheney, Perry, McCain, Hillary Clinton, and the rest of the war party. Let’s keep in mind, however, that no one calls for sending U.S. troops back to Iraq.

Rand Paul aside, the critique of “isolationism” is based on a specious argument. Cheney and others caricature the position as one which holds that what happens outside the United States will not affect Americans. That’s not the argument I hear made by those who are at least skeptical of, if not outright opposed to, American intervention.

The war party believes that the 9/11 attacks and Pearl Harbor refute the noninterventionists. Here they display either their historical ignorance or their willingness to engage in demagoguery — I’m betting it’s the latter. No one who knows anything about the al-Qaeda or Japanese attacks could possibly believe that the U.S. government had pursued a noninterventionist foreign policy in the years preceding each event. Look it up. That the war party pretends otherwise shows how scared it is of scrutiny.

The noninterventionist case boils down to this: U.S. aggression abroad makes enemies and provokes blowback. That’s the lesson of Pearl Harbor and 9/11.

Sheldon Richman  is vice president and editor at The Future of Freedom Foundation in Fairfax, Va. (www.fff.org).

Sheldon Richman, author of America’s Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited, keeps the blog Free Association and is a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society, and a contributing editor at Antiwar.com.  He is also the Executive Editor of The Libertarian Institute.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
May 26, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Anthony DiMaggio
Swamp Politics, Trump Style: “Russiagate” Diverts From the Real White House Scandals
Paul Street
It’s Not Gonna Be Okay: the Nauseating Nothingness of Neoliberal Capitalist and Professional Class Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
The ICEmen Cometh
Pete Dolack
Why Pence Might be Even Worse Than Trump
Mark Ashwill
The Fat Lady Finally Sings: Bob Kerrey Quietly Resigns from Fulbright University Vietnam Leadership Position
John Davis
Beyond Hope
Ralph Nader
The Left/Right Challenge to the Failed “War on Drugs”
Traci Yoder
Free Speech on Campus: a Critical Analysis
Dave Lindorff
Beware the Supporter Scorned: Upstate New York Trump Voters Hit Hard in President’s Proposed 2018 Budget
Daniel Read
“Sickening Cowardice”: Now More Than Ever, Britain’s Theresa May Must be Held to Account on the Plight of Yemen’s Children
Ana Portnoy
Before the Gates: Puerto Rico’s First Bankruptcy Trial
M. Reza Behnam
Rethinking Iran’s Terrorism Designation
Brian Cloughley
Ukraine and the NATO Military Alliance
Josh Hoxie
Pain as a Policy Choice
Ramzy Baroud
Fear as an Obstacle to Peace: Why Are Israelis So Afraid?
Kathleen Wallace
The Bilious Incongruity of Trump’s Toilet
Seth Sandronsky
Temping Now
Alan Barber – Dean Baker
Blue Collar Blues: Manufacturing Falls in Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania in April
Jill Richardson
Saving America’s Great Places
Richard Lawless
Are Credit Rating Agencies America’s Secret Fifth Column?
Murray Dobbin
The NDP’s Singh and Ashton: Flash Versus Vision
Rev. John Dear
A Call to Mobilize the Nation Over the Next 18 Months
Charles R. Larson
Review: Mary V. Dearborn’s “Ernest Hemingway”
May 25, 2017
Jennifer Matsui
The Rise of the Alt-Center
Michael Hudson
Another Housing Bubble?
Robert Fisk
Trump Meets the New Leader of the Secular World, Pope Francis
John Laforge
Draft Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapons Unveiled
Benjamin Dangl
Trump’s Budget Expands War on the Backs of America’s Poor
Alice Donovan
US-Led Air Strikes Killed Record Number of Civilians in Syria
Andrew Moss
The Meaning of Trump’s Wall
Leslie Scott
Trump in the Middle East: New Ideas, Old Politics
George Wuerthner
Environmental Groups as Climate Deniers
Pauline Murphy
The Irish Dead: Fighting Fascism in Spain, 1937
Brian Trautman
Veterans on the March
Eric Sommer
Trumps Attack on Social Spending Escalates Long-term Massive Robbery of American Work
Binoy Kampmark
Twenty-Seven Hours: Donald Trump in Israel
Christian Hillegas
Trump’s Islamophobia: the Persistence of Orientalism in Western Rhetoric and Media
Michael J. Sainato
Russiagate: Clintonites Spread the Weiner Conspiracy
Walter Clemens
What the President Could Learn from Our Shih-Tzu Eddie
May 24, 2017
Paul Street
Beyond Neoliberal Identity Politics
Daniel Read
Powder Keg: Manchester Terror Attack Could Lead to Yet Another Resurgence in Nationalist Hate
Robert Fisk
When Peace is a Commodity: Trump in the Middle East
Kenneth Surin
The UK’s Epochal Election
Jeff Berg
Lessons From a Modern Greek Tragedy
Steve Cooper
A Concrete Agenda for Progressives
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail