"Isolationism" Now Center Stage in GOP Tent? Oh My! Former GOP Presidential Standard-Bearer John McCain Chided the 2012 Crop of Presidential Aspirants for Being "Isolationists" in Regard to Bombing Libya
Kenny, Jack, The New American
It seems strange sometimes, the things that trouble Senator John McCain. Take the NATO war on Libya, for example, in which the United States is a participant, if not the outright leader.
Libya has, so far as is generally known, committed no recent offense against the United States or our NATO allies, nor threatened to do so. The African nation poses no threat to America and her interests abroad, nor has it made any assault on our nation's honor. Yet President Barack Obama has waged an air war against Libya without any authorization by Congress, let alone a declaration of war, which power the Constitution assigns to Congress. He has gone past the time allotted by the 1973 War Powers Act for either obtaining the support of Congress or ceasing the military action. You might think all of that would trouble the senior Senator from Arizona and Republican nominee for President in 2008. But no, what troubles McCain is that some members of his party, and particularly its presidential contenders, are opposed to the Libyan intervention and want to end it. Less than a week before House Republicans, with the help of 70 Democrats, defeated by a vote of 295-123 a measure giving President Obama authority to continue the mission in Libya, McCain was asked on ABC's This Week if he were concerned about the words and actions of Speaker John Boehner concerning the Libya campaign.
"Well, I was more concerned about what the candidates in New Hampshire [said] the other night," McCain said, referring to the June 13 gathering of Republican presidential hopefuls at Saint Anselm College in Manchester in a forum broadcast nationally on the Cable News Network. While some candidates argued the Libya adventure is unconstitutional, McCain told ABC's Christiana Amanpour, "This is isolationism. There's always been an ... isolation strain on the Republican Party--that Pat Buchanan wing of our party. But now it seems to have moved more center stage, so to speak. ... If we had not intervened, Gadhafi was at the gates of Benghazi. He said he was going to go house to house to kill everybody. That's a city of 700,000 people." We simply could not allow that to happen, McCain contended.
"Well, you were one of the key supports," Amanpour said. "And what you're talking [about] is all the Republicans on the stage of that debate on Monday seeming to waver from what's a traditional Republican position on national security."
"Yes, I wonder what Ronald Reagan would be saying today," McCain replied.
"What would he be saying today," Amanpour asked, "if he heard, for instance, Michele Bachmann or Mitt Romney?" McCain, who no doubt fancies himself even more skilled at channeling dead Presidents than in winning electoral votes, did not hesitate to speak for "the Gipper."
"He would be saying: That's not the Republican Party of the 20th century, and now the 21 st century. That is not the Republican Party that has been willing to stand up for freedom for people for all over the world, whether it be in Grenada--that Ronald Reagan had a quick operation about--or whether it be in our enduring commitment to countering the Soviet Union."
Well, Grenada showed that military action against a largely absent enemy is likely to be successful, but Reagan realized in Lebanon--too late, alas, for more than 240 U.S. Marines killed in a bombed barracks there--that a willy-nilly show of force in a war not of our making nor of the American people's choosing makes no sense, and he had the troops "redeployed offshore." Had a commander in chief of the other party done the same, McCain and other Republicans might have called it "cutting and running" and even a betrayal of our commitments.
What Is Isolationism?
It is both difficult and unwise to take seriously a term so ill defined and lightly tossed about as "isolationism." To many, it suggests the mythical America of the 1920s and 1930s, when the nation supposedly withdrew from the world and let Europe and the Far East go to hell in a handbasket until it was too late for deterrence and war was forced upon us. …