Rich – I found your reader’s explanation fascinating and quite literary, but ultimately deeply unpersuasive. A little less flourish and a few more examples would be helpful. Which isolationists does he have in mind when he says things like “The worst of the old isolationism was its sneering and ignorant dismissal of everything outside Peoria”? Does he mean John Dewey? Or Norman Thomas? Probably not because he’s talking about rightwing isolationists rather than the sophisticated cosmopolitans of leftwing isolationism (like Joe Kennedy, the former ambassador to the Court of St. James). Does he mean Charles Lindbergh, an unreconstructed Germanophile? Not Robert Taft, I have to assume, either since he was hardly ignorant about international affairs. But, I do take it as a given that were some isolationists of the variety he describes.
The problem is they don’t exist in the GOP today. Who, exactly, are the American isolationist righties who are dismissive about Europe and the French today? I haven’t been studying Pat Buchanan of late, but from what I’ve seen he’s been quite keen on the French and the sagacity of Europeans staying out of America’s adventure. He’s even written eloquently in defense of the Muslim world, Vladimir Putin and all sorts of funny-accented folks beyond Peoria. Oh and Buchanan’s not even a Republican.
Perhaps a third emailer could explain your reader’s interpretation of Hagel’s statement?