The Hate Campaign Against ‘Isolationism’

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Recently by Justin Raimondo: The American Spring

Yesterday’s radicalism is today’s conventional wisdom — and nothing underscores this truism more than the current foreign policy debate. Remember way back when neoconservatives were calling for “draining the swamp” of the Middle East, George W. Bush was hailing the advent of a “global democratic revolution” to be led by the US, and anyone who dissented was marginalized as part of what Andrew Sullivan called a pro-terrorist “fifth column“? Those were heady days for the War Party, which was still enjoying the momentum of the post-9/11 rage that sucked us into two major wars simultaneously. It was also before the Great Meltdown of 2008, when the biggest pillars of the American economy creaked, cracked, and nearly collapsed of their own weight.

As a great songwriter put it a couple of decades ago: the times, they are a’changing.

A Pew poll taken a couple of years ago in which respondents were asked whether the US should “mind its own business” showed a huge disparity between elite and hoi polloi opinion on the matter, with the elites saying “No, no, a thousand times no!” and the plebeians answering “Heck yeah!” I suspect elite opinion hasn’t changed much: among the general public, however, recent polls show an even more overwhelming popular consensus in favor of non-intervention, including one taken by The Hill newspaper which records a whopping 72 percent saying “the United States is fighting in too many places,” and a mere 16 percent saying “the current level of engagement represented an appropriate level.” (Twelve percent weren’t sure.)

Against this level of popular disapproval, no administration can stand. That’s why the President is getting ready to announce the withdrawal of some 10,000 troops from Afghanistan, with more in the pipeline. There’s also the supposedly ongoing withdrawal from Iraq — yes, we’re still there!

Of course, there are the usual caveats about “conditions on the ground,” i.e. the possibility that the generals will veto more substantial future troop cuts. In short, these announcements of troop withdrawals are just smoke and mirrors: even if the administration actually follows through on the maximum cut of 30,000 soldiers out of Afghanistan, in stages, that will still leave 70,000. And will someone tell me what we are doing still bogged down in Iraq, which is being held up as a “model” of successful US intervention? According to the Status of Forces Agreement signed by the US and Iraq, all American troops are scheduled to leave by the end of 2011 — but the American public doesn’t believe it, and neither do I. The Hill reports:

“Forty-nine percent said it is not very likely that troops will leave Iraq by the end of the year, and another 10 percent said it is not at all likely. Seven percent said it is very likely troops will leave Iraq by the end of the year, and 22 percent said it is somewhat likely.”

In the face of such skepticism, the White House is scrambling to appear credible: thus the Obama speech on Afghanistan, which will be delivered on Wednesday night, is meant to reassure voters that the Afghan war is coming to an end. However, it isn’t going to happen, and I think the American public realizes that, too.

For the first time since the 1970s, the American ruling class is frightened to death that its global empire is in danger of being subverted on the home front by an “isolationist” movement, and elite pundits are up in arms. Liberal columnist Richard Cohen writes that the President should leave “as few as possible” troops in Afghanistan, but then avers:

“The trouble with recommending such a course is that it conforms to the foreign policy views of almost all the Republican presidential candidates. Their position regarding Afghanistan is, however, just a piece of their wholesale embrace of Herbert Hoover Republicanism. They would turn the country inward — what Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham characterize as isolationism — while also adopting Hoover’s disastrous economic policy. Not satisfied with a recession, they would cut government spending and bring on a depression.

“The Republican response to both foreign and domestic problems somehow fits what is beginning to look like the 1930s all over again. Back then, a severe worldwide depression encouraged the rise of Fascist and Communist movements and turned nations inward….

“Staying in Afghanistan will only buttress the argument of the New Isolationists. This is the larger danger. The world needs us and will soon need us even more. China, India, Pakistan, Japan and the two Koreas are about as compatible as the Real Housewives of New York. They all either have or are capable of developing nuclear weapons. Iran is on its way. Its program could cause the Israelis to attack and it might also prompt Saudi Arabia and maybe Egypt to go nuclear. Jordan could implode and Iraq could come apart.”

Calls by Establishment figures like Cohen — and all too many Republicans like Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman — to withdraw substantially from Afghanistan and keep our pledge to get out of Iraq should be viewed with extreme suspicion. Because what they have in mind is not a foreign policy of minding our own business, but one of new interventions in Asia, Africa, and regions yet untouched by our policy of perpetual war. Pakistan, the former Soviet republics of Central Asia, and — most of all — Iran are all on the War Party’s agenda. Libya is just the latest example of expanding US/NATO ambitions.

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Justin Raimondo [send him mail] is editorial director of and is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard and Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement.

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