The Phony Argument Against ‘Isolationism’
War Party twists history to suit its evil ends
(AntiWar.com) -- by Justin Raimondo --
The war continues – the war against “isolationism,” that is. This time the latest blows are being struck on the op ed page of the New York Times, where Rutgers historian David Greenberg takes up the cudgels against these hated troglodytes. Bemoaning the sudden Republican turnabout on foreign policy, Professor Greenberg notes his surprise that the all-too-“predictable” response of GOP presidential candidates to President Obama’s Afghanistan speech wasn’t all that predictable after all: several declared his withdrawal announcement “too little, too late.” In the Republican-controlled House, too, some have the nerve to question the President’s legal authority to take us to war without congressional authorization – and, as if all that wasn’t enough, GOP’ers afflicted with “balanced budget mania” have gone on a veritable rampage, and are actually talking about “scaling back defense spending of a sort that Republicans would once have never dared broach.”
So, what does all this add up to, in Greenberg’s view? Well, this:
“Suddenly, after the aggressive, militaristic foreign policy of the Bush years, isolationism — a stance that rejects America’s leadership role in the world — is on the rise among Republicans.”
If you think Congress, rather than the President, has the constitutionally-granted power to declare war, then what are you – a constitutionalist? An anti-monarchist? A believer in the rule of law? Well, no – you’re an “isolationist.”
If you don’t sign on to the idea that America must exercise a “leadership role in the world” – i.e. if you don’t’ think we should be invading countries left and right and footing the bill for all kinds of international welfare schemes – you’re somebody who wants to “isolate” America from the rest of the universe, no doubt by building a crocodile-filled moat on the border and posting a “Keep Out!” sign (in English only) just in case potential interlopers fail to take the hint.
By posing a false choice between a hyperactive foreign policy and an “isolationist” one, the War Party gets to argue as if they are the reasonable ones, and everyone else – in this case, most of the country – are marginal cranks...
Greenberg’s historical overview is pretty much the Establishment party line: always there have been those “forward-looking” “progressive” leaders, like Woodrow Wilson, who campaigned tirelessly to get the US entangled in Europe’s intrigues and her endless wars: and always, opposing these noble souls, there have been those nasty “Irreconcilables” – even the name sounds unreasonable, fanatic – who somehow doubted mortal men could “actively manage world affairs.” What could possibly motivate these Irreconcilables, other than pure malicious contrarianism?
“The isolationists had complex motives: Congressional vigilance against presidential encroachments on their constitutional powers; a small-town obsession with balanced budgets; and conspiratorial suspicions of foreigners, financiers and — in the case of anti-Semites like Charles A. Lindbergh — Jews. Naturally, isolationism thrived among Congressional Republicans when a Democrat held the White House — as it does again today — but it continued through the Coolidge and Hoover years, too.”
Those mean-minded members of Congress who think the Constitution must be obeyed – they’re just selfish reactionaries, obsessed with maintaining their own power. And as for those who think we need to live within our means and balance the federal budget – they’re just small-town “obsessives,” and probably anti-Semites to boot.
Left out of Greenberg’s pocket version of American history is World War I – and its legacy, which embittered an entire generation of American liberals who really did believe it was a “war to make the world safe for democracy.” That is, until they saw the “peace” it created, which planted the seeds for yet another – and far bloodier – world conflagration. That was the warning of the “Irreconcilables,” who saw the United States becoming an empire molded on the British model and – quite rightly – wanted no part of it...
One has to ask Professor Greenberg: who is being “doctrinaire,” here – the interventionists (like himself) who adhere to a failed policy of global meddling, which has gotten us into nothing but trouble and costs us trillions, or the “isolationists” who are saying it’s time for a new course?
Greenberg’s point is that non-intervention is not a new course, but rather an old pattern that was broken by his heroes Wilson and FDR – but what he leaves out is that the “isolationists” lost. Their advice – stay out of both world wars, mind our own business, abjure the temptations of empire – wasn’t followed: instead, we chose a path to “world leadership,” and now that the American Imperium is crumbling on every frontier some are beginning to call its alleged necessity into question.
It is Greenberg and his fellow interventionists who are the doctrinaires. Not since the end of World War II have we tried any policy other than asserting our alleged right to “world leadership.” But what if the world doesn’t want to be led – especially by us?
Well, then, these latter-day adherents of the League to Enforce Peace will just go in there and start enforcing, whether the world likes it or not.
Except that well-worn policy isn’t working out very well for us, as any objective observer of the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan, and Somalia will testify. We are coming to the end of our ability – and Americans’ willingness – to police the world. Call that “small town” if you will, but an empire is a luxury we can no longer afford. If Greenberg and the War Party’s academic detachment can’t or won’t reconcile themselves to the economic and political facts of reality, then it is they who are the true Irreconcilables....MORE...LINK