LIKE THESE . . .
breathtaking redefinition of friendship as dependence is buttressed
with plenty of rhetorical huffing and puffing: "They
are betting our children's future on the reckless proposition
that we can go it alone, that we should bury our heads in
the sand behind a wall." The hysteria unleashed by the
President's own personal humiliation in failing to get the
CTBT through the Senate is reflected in the frothy-mouthed
fulminations of his personal attack dogs: both Mad Madeleine
Albright and Democratic strategist James Carville have lately
taken to the airwaves with the dire warning that the Republicans
have been taken over by you guessed it a cabal
of evil "isolationists." The imprecision of the
President's language not to mention his unfortunate
penchant for mixed metaphors: no one buries his "head
in the sand behind a wall" is matched only by
the hysteria and confusion of the nation's talking heads,
who are similarly unclear on the concept of "isolationism."
confusion was encapsulated in a
recent Chicago Tribune editorial [October 20, 1999]
that asserted "there is no evidence that America has
entered a period of isolationist withdrawal from the global
arena or that it could. This isn't the 1930s."
Americans, the Tribune insists, "invest and buy
more abroad that anyone." Well, bully for them
but what does any of this have to do with not paying our UN
"dues" or refusing to shovel money into some Third
World hellhole? The answer: exactly nothing. It is logically
consistent, and entirely possible, for an advocate of utterly
unfettered trade to espouse the foreign policy of the Founders
of this country, that is, peaceful relations with all, entangling
alliances with none oh yes, they too were among the
dreaded "isolationists." The intrigues of Europe,
said George Washington, "are essentially foreign to our
concerns," and therefore "the great rule of conduct
for us in regard to foreign nations is, in extending our commercial
relations to have with them as little political connection
as possible." Washington understood the difference between
commerce and imperialism, even if the Chicago Tribune
VERSUS THE NEW
wasn't always so. The Tribune, once known as "the
world's greatest newspaper" a maxim that for years
graced its masthead under its indomitable publisher,
Colonel Robert Rutherford McCormick, was once the fiery "Thunderer
of the Prairies," the voice of Midwestern opposition
to American involvement in two world wars. The paper's editorial
support for the old America First movement to keep us out
of World War II provoked President Franklin Delano Roosevelt
into all kinds of schemes to undermine the Tribune's
influence McCormick stood like a rock against the cabal of
New Dealers and foreign lobbyists who lied us into war. It
is in the files of the old Tribune, ironically enough,
that the best answer to the new Tribune's isolationist-bashing
is to be found. On September 19, 1943, the Tribune
published a very different editorial, Garet Garrett's "The
Mortification of History" a title that perfectly describes
the tenor and direction of the current debate about "isolationism"
and the origins of World War II.
often think, in rereading his works, that Garrett a
prolific writer and an editor of the Saturday Evening Post
in its heyday was blessed with a kind of second vision,
a prophetic sense that allowed him to see history before it
unfolded. As the Russian Mafia squirrels away US taxpayers'
dollars in Swiss bank accounts, the Clintonians demand yet
more to "safeguard" the old Soviet nuclear arsenal
from being sold off to Osama bin Laden and the "international
community" condemns Republican "isolationism"
for failing to come up with enough to pay the ransom
these words of Garrett's come to mind:
you say, 'I am first of all an American,' you have to be careful.
It may be misunderstood. You might have said, 'I am for America
first.' And the American who says that will be denounced in
his own country and by his own government. That is not enough,
He will be denounced also in Great Britain, Russia, and China,
all accusing him of being one thing: he is an isolationist."
DISSOLUTION OF THE "CONSENSUS"
are these isolationists, says the Tribune of today,
but "a few extremists" (that's us!) while the rest
of the country glories in globalism. But not so fast. The
"bipartisan consensus for an active foreign policy to
protect vital U.S. interests abroad" the Tribune
editorial writers would have us believe is safely ensconced
and unchallenged was strangely missing during the Kosovo war,
when a Republican Congress refused to go along. The whole
post-Cold War trend of conservative thought in the foreign
policy realm is away from the aggressive internationalism
of the Reagan era and toward something closer to the original
vision of the Founders. But what can an editorial writer for
the Tribune of the 1990s be expected to know about
such an arcane subject? One thing is for sure: they don't
make Tribune editorialists the way they used to.
IS NOT JAPAN
all right, then, let's get down to brass tacks and
the reality that there are no isolationists in the
sense that both Clinton and the Tribune evoke: the
US is not the Hermit Kingdom of Japan, and never even came
close. As both Garrett and, more recently, Patrick J. Buchanan,
have argued, there was never any such creature as an American
isolationist, not in the sense of what the word seems to imply.
From Manifest Destiny to the Monroe Doctrine to the commercial
and cultural expansion that has been a national leitmotif
since our nation's birth, the history of America refutes this
isolationist bogeyman, then, is a straw man. For not paying
the world's bills, not carrying the UN on our shoulders, and
failing to lift every nation out of poverty and ethnic strife,
the Republicans stand accused of being isolationists. "But
what is that?" asked Garrett, all those years
isolationist is one who is said to have sinned against the
peace and well being of the whole world. He is held responsible
for the necessity of now to mortify American history by rewriting
it to a theme of guilt and atonement."
SPIRIT OF NOBLESSE OBLIGE
and guilt for our wealth, our power, our freedom, our
very existence: and the burden of Empire is our punishment.
We must bail out the Russians, the Mexicans, the East Timorese
and the UN, but never think of ourselves. That would be selfish,
and so awfully contrary to the aristocratic spirit of noblesse
oblige that our elites inherited from their British predecessors.
In the era of political correctness, the exhortation to "take
up the White Man's burden" has new resonance and a new
there never was anything that could legitimately and fairly
be called "isolationism" flourishing on American
soil, said Garrett, but "if you say of this history that
its intense character has been nationalistic, consistently
so from the beginning until now, that is true. Therefore,
the word in place of isolationism that would make sense is
nationalism. Why is the right word avoided?"
indeed: I think Garrett, a veteran of the ideological wars
since the 1920s, knew perfectly well why the coiners of this
misbegotten label would rather not define just what is was
they were denouncing as the root of all evil in the world.
As he put it:
explanation must be that the wrong one, for what it is intended
to do, is the perfect political word. Since isolationism cannot
be defined, those who attack it are not obliged to define
themselves. What are they? Anti-isolationists? But if you
cannot say what isolationism is neither can you say what anti-isolationism
is, whereas nationalism, being definite, has a positive antithesis.
One who attacks nationalism is an internationalist."
the Autumn of 1943, when the Tribune was at the height
of its glory as the watchdog of American sovereignty and the
voice of the Old Right, the appellation of "internationalist"
repelled and even outraged any ordinary person. The word itself
had a sinister ring to it, because only the Communists, of
one sort or another, used to go around hailing the virtues
of "internationalism" and singing their anthem,
appropriately entitled "The Internationale." Then,
to be called an internationalist was an accusation: today,
at least among our elites, it is taken as a high compliment.
at how casually Strobe Talbott announces that "nationhood
as we know it will be obsolete; all states will recognize
a single, global authority.'' These people look forward to
the day that America is a relic of the past, in the same category
as the horse-and-buggy, the hoop skirt, and the Constitution.
(This last will still be preserved under glass, but deemed
a dead letter formally as well as de facto.)
this is not an aberration confined exclusively to the Clintonistas
and the Democratic party. The fruits of our great "victory"
over Communism are that, today, the leadership of both parties
is now engaged in a contest to see who is the most internationalist.
As the Investor's
[October 21, 1999] recently informed us, "Clinton's
brand of internationalism isn't the only kind. Voters next
year may have a choice between two types."
for joy! A "choice" between two varieties
of the same poison: isn't democracy wonderful? The IBD
piece also perceptively notes that the Anti-Buchanan Brigade
in the Republican Party "did their best to convince voters
that 'isolationism' is bad. Now the White House is using the
same brush to tar the GOP." Oh no, not us, the
Republicans cry. We have our own brand of internationalism
that is far superior to the Clintonian concept. More hardheaded,
more realistic and tough-minded, theirs is internationalism
absent the vapid sentimentalism so typical of the "we
are the world" generation. George W. Bush is likened
by one advisor to be "Reaganeseque" in his foreign
policy views, and avers that "''he is the true inheritor
of a vigorous, pro-defense, internationalist Reagan position.
He is the person to build on that legacy."
John McCain is also vying for the prize of Mr. Internationalist.
As the chief antagonist of the Buchananite heresy, he has
become the poster boy of the "strategic interest"
internationalists. As Dmitri Simes, president of the Nixon
Center, put it, McCain "takes a much less messianic,
a much less broad and promiscuous definition of American security
interests than the Clinton administration." A former
McCain advisor describes him as "somebody who focuses
on America's strategic interests rather than on some highly
idealistic view of what the world should be." But what
does it matter if McCain and Clinton came to the same conclusion,
in Kosovo, via different routes? McCain supported Clinton's
war, and indeed was more royalist than the king. his critique
of the Clintonian war strategy and McCain was, you
remember, given hours upon hours of prime time television
to express it was that the President should have unleashed
the ground troops and gone in there with guns blazing.
COMMIES ARE COMING AGAIN?
this vague invocation of the "national interest"
covers a lot of bases, and as we veer away from what is alleged
to be the "pragmatic" and "moderate" center,
represented by McCain, we come to the ostensibly "conservative"
view, articulated, in the IBD article, by John Lenczowski,
director of the Institute for World Politics, who addresses
the question of what are our national interests directly:
"It shouldn't simply be commerce uber alles,"
he opines. "However important commerce is, it's not the
highest national interest." Well, then, what is?
We never get an answer to this perfectly reasonable question,
however, as Lenczowski veers off in another direction, warning
of "the neutralization of traditional Republican business
constituencies" by China. "One of the great challenges
for national leadership is to be able to put the national
interest above the particular commercial interests that have
been harnessed into the pro-Communist lobby in Washington."
we see the appeal to noblesse oblige a sentiment
that sank the British Empire and will eventually topple our
own with the sheer weight of its overweening hubris. But the
conservatives are impatient with tin-pot dictators like Slobodan
Milosevic: they long for a real enemy, one that requires
a massive military buildup and the subsequent enrichment
of the arms industry, certain financial institutions, and
a news media that thrives on perpetual war and constant "crisis."
In lieu of the old Soviet Union, Lenczowski and the "right"
wing of the War Party have been somewhat at a loss, but now
seem to have decided that, at least for the moment, China
will just have to do.
VISIONS OF EMPIRE
so we have a "choice": between two versions of internationalism,
between two sets of enemies, between two visions of Empire.
One is an "idealistic," "democratic" and
"multicultural" imperium that nonetheless is ready
to strike out at those who defy its moral authority, as the
Serbian people can attest. The other is a frankly imperial
world order, dominated by the US and its "national interests"
as defined by a "President" with more power
than any Roman Emperor.
ECHO, NOT A CHOICE
is the extent of the "choice" we are given in a
political game in which the rules are rigged and the special
interests rule. The bipartisan foreign policy "consensus"
celebrated by the Tribune of the 1990s has been in
the driver's seat since the end of World War II. Now, with
the end of the Cold War, it may be that, finally, the American
people will have a choice, or at least be allowed to give
voice to the true spirit of their history not isolationism
but an authentic American nationalism.
Buchanan has been the most eloquent and certainly the most
audible, spokesman for this view, but he is far from
alone. Opposition to internationalism run amok, and the desire
to return, at long last, to the foreign policy of the Founders,
is the inevitable result of the end of the Cold War. It is
not isolationism, but a new nationalism which is sweeping
the country That it is threatening the hegemony of the two-party
monopoly is cause for celebration, and hope. Yet, it is vitally
important for antiwar activists to understand that political
candidates and movements will come and go, but the forging
of a real rebellion against both wings of the War Party requires
a long-term perspective. Can we build a movement that has
the support, the leadership, and the strategy to beat the
War Party and secure the future of our liberties?
is the key and that is our mission, after all,
the reason we work on Antiwar.com day and night to bring you
news of the war plans of our rulers each morning. We are building
a movement that is truly nonpartisan in that it goes way beyond
the existing parties, and will ultimately transcend the traditional
categories of "left" and "right"
which, unlike the concept of national sovereignty, really
is outdated. But we'll leave that subject for a future