Don’t Call It Isolationism

by Jonah Goldberg

 Here’s Tim Carney:

This morning Mara Liasson at NPR reported on the “new isolationism” in the GOP, and Adam Sorensen at Time pegged Jon Hunstman — Obama’s first ambassador to China — with the “isolationism” label.

“Isolationism” has long been a vague term, used mostly as a slur against people opposing foreign military adventures. Today, I think, we can mark the term’s descent into permanent and utter meaninglessness.

Look at Liasson’s evidence of “new isolationism” in the GOP: Michele Bachmann opposing U.S. intervention Libya’s civil war, and Newt Gingrich’s call to wrap up our 10-year and 8-year occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Here’s my favorite line from Liasson’s report: “Isolationism in the Republican field is no longer confined to Ron Paul.” Again, what can “isolationism” mean here other than “opposition to war against Muslim nations”? Paul believes, more or less, in open borders. He is the firmest free trader and tariff opponent in Congress. But someone can support — and applaud — the free interchange of people, money, goods, and ideas among nations, but if he doesn’t also want to trade fire with other nations, he’s an “isolationist”?

I think Carney’s pretty much exactly right on all this. Indeed, I wrote something similar earlier this morning over at the Enterprise Blog.

Isolationism is a very complex historical label that is almost always used either in ignorance (often well-intentioned) or part of an ideological agenda. I wrote about it at length for the magazine a few years ago.

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