Frank Gaffney Slams Noted Libertarian Isolationists Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson

I missed this Frank Gaffney column from a couple of weeks ago:

I had an unsettling flashback last week listening to two of the Republican presidential candidates talk about foreign policy. Representative Ron Paul of Texas and former Utah Governor Jon Hunstman espoused isolationist stances that called to mind one of the most preposterous public policy debates in decades.

As I recall, the occasion was a Washington, D.C. event sponsored in the early 1990s by a group of libertarians. A colleague and I were invited to rebut the following proposition: “Resolved, the Constitution of the United States should be amended to prohibit the use of military force for any purpose other than defending the nation’s borders.”

Our side of the debate pointed out that, however superficially appealing such an idea might appear, it was ahistorical, irrational and reckless.

After all, if history teaches us anything, it is that wars happen – as Ronald Reagan put it – not when America is too strong, but when we are too weak. In the run-up to World Wars I and II, we followed more or less the libertarians’ prescription, and disaster ensued.

It continues, but I’ll just home in on the best part: World War I happened, or was worse than it would have been otherwise, because America was following a libertarian — i.e., “isolationist” — foreign policy.

Frank Gaffney takes refuge in a libertarian-free zone.

Now, in the 16 years before the outbreak of the Great War in Europe, the United States took part in the Spanish-American War, a savage occupation and counterinsurgency in the Philippines, and various smaller interventions in places such as Panama, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, China, and Haiti. What this has to do with the Triple Entente, the Triple Alliance, and the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand is anyone’s guess, but “isolationism” it isn’t.

But Frank Gaffney has been peddling this story for decades. When I was looking for something on his harrowing run-in with libertarians, the World War I thing popped up again. In his opening remarks at a January 1990 Cato Institute debate on foreign policy after the Cold War*, Gaffney said:

I think that it is equally evident that we have tried a policy of disengagement from Europe, a policy known in varying eras as “America-first-ism,” “isolationism,” what have you. And I think our experience is unmistakably clear. It has been a disaster every time it has been tried. The obvious, most glaring cases in point, of course, are World War I and World War II.

Later, in the Q & A portion, an audience member asked:

I have a single, simple question for Mr. Gaffney.

Mr. Gaffney, you suggested that America’s traditional pre-World War I policy of disengagement was an unmitigated disaster in part because it permitted wars on the European continent. In your opinion, at what date before World War I, 1898, 1870, 1848, 1815, whatever, should the United States have entered into formal military commitments to send and station troops in Europe?

To which Gaffney responded:

Well, it’s an interesting rhetorical question. I think that, obviously, at that particular juncture in history, let’s say, prior to 1914, the United States was neither terribly well equipped and certainly not disposed to be a world power. As was evident, starting with 1917, it had the resources to play a major role in restoring what I believe was the proper arrangement — the proper post-war configuration. Unfortunately, I think, in part because it once again withdrew[,] the proper order, the institutions of democracy that flourished briefly in the post-war period did, indeed, fall apart as Chris Layne indicated and gave rise to the seeds of World War II.

Actually, Layne had said that “one could make a very convincing argument that it was precisely the American intervention in World War I that prevented that war from ending in a compromise peace and that gave rise to many of the problems that led subsequently to the rise of Hitler and fascism and thence to World War II, and ultimately to the problems we’re facing now.” Rather different, no? But in Frank Gaffney’s mind, all of this could have been prevented if the United States had dispatched troops to Europe during the Napoleonic Wars. Yes, there are actually people who think like this.

*Sorry, I can’t find a link online. I got this transcript off LexisNexis. Gaffney’s questioner was probably Michael Lind, though the transcriber wrote “Lindt.”

Action Item: Tell Your Rep to Vote “NO” on H.R. 1905

From the Friends Committee on National Legislation:

The conflict between the U.S. and Iran is reaching a point where it could spiral out of control. In the U.S., Congress and the administration have become more confrontational toward Iran. Iran has done the same and withdrawn further from the international community.

Now, Congress is preparing to add fuel to this fire. Your representative is preparing to vote on legislation that could close off prospects for diplomatic communication between the U.S. and Iran at the very time that such channels are critical for preventing war.

This vote could come as soon as next Tuesday. Please call your representative today at 877-429-0678 and ask her or him to vote “no” on the Iran Threat Reduction Act, H.R. 1905. Enter your zip code to get talking points that reflect whether your member has publicly supported this bill.

Second Chance to Prevent Indefinite Detention of Americans

Reposted with permission from Campaign for Liberty’s Michael Ostrolenk:

A vote could occur today on two amendments introduced to prevent the indefinite detention of American citizens as currently written into the National Defense Authorization Act, S. 1867.

Senate Amendment (SA) 1126 would “clarify” Section 1031 to explicitly state within the section that the authority of the military to detain persons without trial until the end of hostilities does not apply to American citizens.

SA 1125 would limit the mandatory detention provision in Section 1032 to persons captured abroad, not in America.

While there are certainly still problems with the indefinite detention of any persons without trial in a seemingly endless “war on terror,” both of these amendments will remove the worst offending provisions against American citizens and prevent turning America into a battlefield.

Contact your senators ASAP at 202-224-3121 to demand they support SA 1125 & 1126 to the National Defense Authorization Act, S. 1867 to prevent the indefinite detention of American citizens.

Below is a list of senators C4L has identified as targets for these amendments, if you live in their state, definitely make sure you contact them immediately!

Corker (TN) 202-224-3344
Murkowski (AK) 202-224-6665
Johnson (WI) 202-224-5323
Heller (NV) 202-224-6244
Snowe (ME) 202-224-5344
Toomey (PA) 202-224-4254
Lugar (IN) 202-224-4814
Rubio (FL) 202-224-3041

What Neoconservatives Think

Elliot Abrams’ wife (and as Glenn Greenwald points out, central figure in the neocon family) Rachel Abrams on the release of Gilad Shalit:

“Celebrate, Israel, with all the joyous gratitude that fills your hearts, as we all do along with you.

“Then round up [Shalit’s] captors, the slaughtering, death-worshiping, innocent-butchering, child-sacrificing savages who dip their hands in blood and use women—those who aren’t strapping bombs to their own devils’ spawn and sending them out to meet their seventy-two virgins by taking the lives of the school-bus-riding, heart-drawing, Transformer-doodling, homework-losing children of Others—and their offspring—those who haven’t already been pimped out by their mothers to the murder god—as shields, hiding behind their burkas and cradles like the unmanned animals they are, and throw them not into your prisons, where they can bide until they’re traded by the thousands for another child of Israel, but into the sea, to float there, food for sharks, stargazers, and whatever other oceanic carnivores God has put there for the purpose.”

Shalit was a bit more forgiving:

“I hope this deal helps achieve peace between both sides, Israel and the Palestinians. …

“I would be very happy if the [Palestinian prisoners] were all released so that they can go back to their families and their lands. I would be very happy if this happened.”

Pew Bias? Poll says 6 in 10 vets have ‘isolationist inclinations’

I originally posted this today at The American Conservative blog, @TAC

Buried in an amazing poll released by the Pew Research Center today that says 1 in 3 post-9/11 veterans believe the Iraq and Afghanistan wars were ‘not worth fighting,’ is an assertion that 6 in 10 such veterans polled also have ‘isolationist inclinations’ simply because they believe “the United States should pay less attention to problems overseas and concentrate on problems here at home.”

This bit of editorializing by Pew is interesting, and shows how successful the establishment/neoconservative message machine has been in propagating the belief that anyone who wants to pull back from our global military adventures to concentrate on the devolution of our fiscal stability at home is an “isolationist.’ The outrageous thing is that here, we are actually talking about people who fought in the wars. Those pushing the ‘isolationist’ meme with such vigor — think Charles Krauthammer, Bill Kristol, Steven Hayes –  have never picked up a gun, much less sat in a line to pick up a measly prescription at a VA pharmacy. Sure, Sen. John McCain, who likes to fling around the isolationist charge quite a bit, was a Navy pilot and POW, but he’s still fighting Vietnam, and thinks every war is worth a go today, and is willing to put every last man and woman in harm’s way to prove it.

But when 1 in 3 soldiers say fighting the wars was “not worth it,” especially those who leave countries still teetering on the brink, come home to apathy and no jobs  (11.5% unemployment rate for post-9/11 vets), marriages on the rocks (51%), disconnected from their children (44%) and suffering from post-traumatic stress (37%), I’d say their “inclinations” to refocus on the homefront are much better informed than the elitist warmongers whose dirtless fingernails have been drumming conference tables for the last 10 years, not the butt of a weapon or a bedside table at Walter Reed.

No, it’s not isolationist, it’s realistic.

But don’t think these vets have gone soft on war or the military as an institution: “84% of all post-9/11 veterans who served in a war zone would advise a young person to join (the military),” according to Pew.

And the beat goes on.

Join Ralph Nader and Lawrence Wilkerson on US Government Reactions to 9/11

On Monday, September 12, 2011 at 12:30pm at Busboys & Poets, 2021 14th St NW; (14th and V St NW), Washington, D.C. Free and open to the public.

Ralph Nader and Busboys & Poets will host a thought-provoking roundtable discussion on Monday, September 12, 2011. Looking at the tenth anniversary of 9/11 in a forthright way that promotes forward thinking.

Roundtable participants will include:

Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Mike German, policy counsel on National Security, Immigration and Privacy at the ACLU and former FBI agent.

Bruce Fein, adjunct scholar with the American Enterprise Institute and former executive editor of World Intelligence Review.

Ralph Nader, consumer advocate and people’s lawyer.

(HT: Matthew Zawisky)