Americans Showing Isolationist Streak, Poll Finds
By JIM RUTENBERG and MEGAN C. THEE
Americans are overwhelmingly pessimistic about the state of affairs in the Middle East, with majorities doubtful there will ever be peace between Israel and its neighbors, or that American troops will be able to leave Iraq anytime soon, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.Over at Cato at Liberty Justin Logan asks a very good question:
Is Opposition to the Bush Doctrine “Isolationism”?
The substance of the poll shows several things: Americans want out of Iraq, they don’t want to deploy US servicemen to try to make peace in Lebanon, and they don’t think that it’s our responsibility to go around the world attempting to force peace on warring nations.So what did Mr Logan say about isolationism back in February?
Is that really “isolationism”? I covered the topic of “isolationism” earlier this year when a Pew poll interpreted Americans’ desire to “mind our own business internationally” as a sign of isolationism. (Should we not mind our own business internationally???)
I’ll say one thing: If the media keeps portraying the choice as between the Bush doctrine or “isolationism,” then isolationism is going to end up with a lot more adherents than any of us thought.
During his State of the Union address, President Bush warned Americans about the lure of “isolationism.” The president mentioned “isolationism” or “isolation” four times, warning that the strategy offered only “false comfort” that would result in “danger and decline.” By contrast, the president explained his own position clearly: “The future security of America depends on…the end of tyranny in our world.” But who are these isolationists, and what is it that they are proposing?Sounds familiar, just more name calling, just another dirty word like anti-Semite.
It’s tough to tell. The term “isolationist” didn’t arise until the late nineteenth century, when it was made popular by Alfred Thayer Mahan, an ardent militarist, who used the term to slur opponents of American imperialism. As historian Walter McDougall has pointed out, America’s “vaunted tradition of ‘isolationism’ is no tradition at all, but a dirty word that interventionists, especially since Pearl Harbor, hurl at anyone who questions their policies.”
That’s pretty consistent with the way the president used the term. During the speech, he presented the choice on Iraq in the bipolar manner that has become his trademark: On Iraq, either you’re with the president, or you’re with the isolationists. “Responsible criticism,” according to the president, comes from within the first faction, whereas “defeatism,” “hindsight,” and “second-guessing” come from the latter. In the real world, the choice is much more complex than simply between the reckless and militant interventionism of Bush’s forced democracy policy and the head-in-the-sand posture of isolationism. Setting up the isolationist straw man was a cynical tactic used to frame the debate over Iraq, not a serious characterization of a real position on foreign policy.