Neoconservative Again Tars with the "Isolationism" Brush
Mass, Warren, The New American
ITEM: The Washington Post.* September 13, 2013 carried a "Right Turn" blog by Jennifer Rubin with the headline "Where isolationism leads" that read:
The Syria debacle shed light on the thinking of both interventionists and isolationists.... We should fully understand what the isolationist right and left contemplate as ideal national security policy. According to Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), we have no national security interests in Syria. [Emphasis in original.] If we ever attempt to adopt the Paul/Cruz worldview, we would soon find we've compromised our humanity and our security. Every "ally" (and what reason would they have to remain our ally?) would be a sitting. duck.... If and when someone with this world view runs for president, he or she should face exacting scrutiny. (Frankly, every candidate after this president should be grilled on national security.) I suspect when pinned down on specifics, the self-described non-interventionist candidate will appear either nuts like Rand Paul's dad or suddenly (and insincerely) not so opposed after all to American intervention--when circumstances are right, of course.
CORRECTION: As might be expected from a writer who was a three-year veteran of Commentar.v and a regular contributor to the Weekly Standard--both bastions of neoconservative thinking--Rubin takes apparent delight in railing against proponents of the "no foreign entanglements"-type of foreign policy firmly advocated by our first six presidents and largely continued until the precedent-breaking Spanish American War.
As the Western World continues to decipher and assign blame for the chemical attacks launched against civilians outside Damascus on August 21, debate continues in the United States about what an appropriate response (if any) from our nation should be.
Former Defense Secretaries Leon Panetta and Robert Gates, appearing together September 17 at a conference at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, disagreed about whether President Obama should launch a military strike against Syria, with Panetta promoting the more hawkish position and Gates taking a more restrained view.
Though they disagreed on military strategy, both men denied that the president is required to secure a declaration of war from Congress, as the Constitution requires. Panetta complained that "this Congress has a hard time agreeing as to what the time of day is," and Gates believes it was a mistake for Obama to ask Congress for authority for an attack on Syria, for fear that a denial of the president's request by Congress would "weaken our county."
Similar debate has occurred in our nation's past. With the invasion of Poland by Germany, Slovakia, and the Soviet Union in September 1939, war in Europe became a reality, and Americans who remembered U.S. involvement in the first World War organized the America First Committee to oppose U.S. intervention in what would become World War II.
Members of America First were neither pacifists nor anti-military: Among their principles was that "the United States must build an impregnable defense for America." But they did adhere firmly to the advice of several early presidents to avoid foreign entanglements, noting: "'Aid short of war' weakens national defense at home and threatens to involve America in war abroad."
But advocates of military intervention abroad were quick to label the anti-interventioni sts with a negative-sounding word: "isolationists." This is despite the fact that non-interventionism--staying clear of foreign quarrels--is a far cry from isolationism, which could entail (as the word suggests) isolating the United States from the rest of the world (e.g., no trade, no relations). Yet the "isolationist" epithet has repeatedly been resurrected to apply to anyone who believes that the U.S. military should defend America and that the Founding Fathers were wise to warn against intervening abroad. …