State of the Union Fiction: Curse of Isolationism
Posted by Suzanne Nossel
Bush referred a half-dozen times tonight to the dangers of an American retreat to isolationism. He's adopting a strategy of trying to paint his critics as favoring a retreat to inward-looking policies and a renunciation of America's role in the world.
This is pure hogwash:
- Bush's Critics are Overwhelmingly Internationalists, Not Isolationists - As Charles Krauthammer wrote in 2004: " Isolationism is an important school of thought historically, but not today. . . Classical isolationism is not just intellectually obsolete; it is politically bankrupt as well. Four years ago, its most public advocate, Pat Buchanan, ran for president of the United States, and carried Palm Beach. By accident." The most outspoken opponents of the Bush Administration's foreign policy are, on the contrary, committed to multilateralism, to international development, and to global institutions.
- In his 2000 campaign, Bush skated near an isolationist platform - Though Bush professed opposition to isolationism, it was Condi Rice, not her democratic counterparts, who argued in 2000 that the US should not do nation-building and should not be a police force for the world. He thought the scope of the Clinton Administration's international involvements - many of which revolved around replacing dictators and building democracy in places like Bosnia and Haiti - was too broad.
- For Nearly a Century, Isolationism has been a Republican, not a Democratic Platform - Pat Buchanan had a long string of predecessors. This article details the history of Republican isolationism - and Democratic internationalism - dating back to the 1930s and going up to the Clinton and Bush Administrations.
- Flashes of Isolationism are Linked Directly to Bush's Own Policies - To the extent that ordinary Americans are tilting toward isolationism, polls show that such attitudes are linked directly to Bush Administration policies in Iraq. If it surges, the isolationism Bush rightly dreads will have been born of his own misguided policies, his breach of the public trust, and the strain he has put on the military.