The Corner

The “neo-isolationism” libel

Just saw Mark K and Katrina’s posts. Just so we’re clear, the invocations of “isolationism” and “neo-isolationism” came into vogue as smears to undermine principled opposition to President Obama’s unilateral decision to start a war in Libya. In the main, that opposition in no way conveys a belief that the United States should retreat from defending our vital interests in the world, or that American national security (like global security) does not hinge on our maintaining military superiority. It is based on the beliefs that Qaddafi’s adversaries include Islamists (al Qaeda elements among them) whose accession would be as bad or worse for our country than Qaddafi’s regime (which Republican and Democratic leaders regarded as a key counterterrorism ally until just a few months ago); that there are no vital American interests at stake in Libya (as then-Defense Secretary Gates conceded); and that the United States should not launch a war in the absence of any threat to the United States without there having been searching debate in, and authorization from, Congress — to insure that we know what we’re doing, for whom we’re doing it, and why, before we put young American men and women in harm’s way, and before we take forcible actions that are bound to provoke forcible retaliation.  

You would have to go a long way to find someone who is more interventionist than I am when American security is at risk. And the fact that Islamists are threaded through the “rebels” does not induce me to call those who supported intervention in Libya “pro-Islamist,” even though doing so would be no less accurate than calling me a “neo-isolationist.” We have a good faith policy disagreement — I know the pro-interventionists want what they believe is best for America; we just don’t see eye to eye on what that is in this very complex and treacherous region of the world. I don’t know why that has to disintegrate into this sort of nonsense. Admittedly, this “isolationist” business isn’t as shameful as referring to Tea Party activists and conservative House Republicans as “terrorists” and “hostage takers.” But it is noxious and it ought to stop.


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