The bogey of isolationism

Andrew Bacevich on President Bush’s “isolationist” canard in the SOTU. As Bacevich correctly points out, no political figure of any importance in the U.S. today could be accurately labeled an isolationist (more’s the pity, some might say).

Isolationism survives in contemporary American political discourse because it retains utility as a cheap device employed to impose discipline. Think of it as akin to red-baiting — conjuring up bogus fears to enforce conformity in the realm of foreign policy. In that regard, the beleaguered Bush, his standing in public opinion polls tumbling, is by no means the first president to sound the alarm about supposed isolationists subverting American statecraft.

Even those who, for a variety of reasons, favor a less interventionist U.S. foreign policy are hardly ever “isolationist” in the sense of wanting any kind of U.S. withdrawal from the rest of the world. On occasion you get someone like Pat Buchanan who is broadly non-interventionist and favors protectionism and stricter controls on immigration, but he’s a comparative rarity with virtually no following or significant influence (though the magazine he helped found frequently runs articles of interest). In any event, surely the greater danger right now is an excessive confidence, among virtually the entirety of our political elite, in the U.S.A.’s ability to solve the world’s problems, “end tyranny,” etc.

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