FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

That Old Isolationist Smear

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).

More articles by:

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.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
September 13, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
The Age of Constitutional Coups
Rob Urie
Bernie Sanders and the Realignment of the American Left
Anthony DiMaggio
Teaching the “War on Terror”: Lessons for Contemporary Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: They Are the Walrus
T.J. Coles
Jeremy Corbyn: Electoral “Chicken” or Political Mastermind?
Joseph Natoli
The Vox Populi
Sasan Fayazmanesh
The Pirates of Gibraltar
John Feffer
Hong Kong and the Future of China
David Rosen
The Likely End to Roe v. Wade?
Ishmael Reed
When You Mess With Creation Myths, the Knives Come Out
Michael Hudson
Break Up the Democratic Party?
Paul Tritschler
What If This is as Good as It Gets?
Jonah Raskin
Uncensored Tony Serra: Consummate Criminal Defense Lawyer
Ryan Gunderson
Here’s to the Last Philosophes, the Frankfurt School
Michael T. Klare
The Pompeo Doctrine: How to Seize the Arctic’s Resources, Now Accessible Due to Climate Change (Just Don’t Mention Those Words!)
Luke O'Neil
I Would Want To Drink Their Blood: God Will Punish Them
Louis Proyect
The Intellectual Development of Karl Marx
Tom Clifford
How China Sees the World
Kelsey Hawkins-Johnson – Negin Owliaei
Who’s Burning the Amazon?
Yasin Khan
Rideshare Drivers are Employees, Not Contractors
Ralph Nader
Big Business Lies Taught a Watchful Donald Trump
Binoy Kampmark
The Sacking of John Bolton
Andrea Maki
Wild Love Preserve Founder: Our Path Forward
Jeremy Kuzmarov
The War in Eastern Ukraine May be Coming to an End But Do Any Americans Care?
Tim Davis – Stan Grier
Protect the Sacred Grizzly Bear, Follow Those Who Know Grandmother Earth
Clark T. Scott
Super-Delegated and Relegated
Jim Britell
Lessons From America’s Greatest Grassroots Campaigns 
Howie Hawkins
Workers Need More Rights and Economic Democracy
Ramzy Baroud
‘Justice is Indivisible’: Screams of Israa Ghrayeb Should Be Our Wake-up Call
Jill Richardson
It’s Not About Your Straws and Your Light Bulbs
George Wuerthner
Montana’s Wilderness Deficit
Colin Todhunter
Officials Ignore Pesticides and Blame Alcohol and Biscuits for Rising Rates of Disease
Volker Franke
Me First and the Loss of Compassion
Adolf Alzuphar
Why is the Left Without a Single Elected Official in LA?
Kim C. Domenico
All We Are Saying, Is Give Peace A Chance (Bring It Home!)
Jennifer Matsui
The End of Aquarius and The Dawn of a Death Star: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Missy Comley Beattie
Never Forget
James Haught
Prodding ‘Nones’ to Vote
David Swanson
For the First Time in My Life I’m Against Impeaching the President
Nicky Reid
Yemen as Arabian Vietnam
Kenn Orphan – Phil Rockstroh
Bearing Witness at Aeon’s End: the Wound Becomes the Womb
Fred Gardner
Homage to the Tabloids
Yves Engler
RCMP Attempt to Silence Critics of Trudeau Foreign Policy
Stephen Cooper
Hempress Sativa: “Rastafari Should be Protected”
David Yearsley
Joie-de-Job: Staying High, at Work
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail