“NEO-ISOLATIONISM is the direct product of foolish globalism. ... Compared to people who thought they could run the universe, or at least the globe, I am neo-isolationist and proud of it.”
Those are not the words of an old America Firster, but the declaration of that icon of the liberal establishment Walter Lippmann in 1967, a year before he endorsed Richard Nixon.
In 1968, it was Nixon urging we stay the course in Vietnam, as Sens. Eugene McCarthy and Robert Kennedy were clamoring for retreat and swift withdrawal. In 1972, it was Democratic nominee George McGovern who would run on the neo-isolationist slogan “Come Home, America!” and win the endorsement of the New York Times and Washington Post.
Today, neo-isolationism, bred of that “foolish globalism” of which Lippmann wrote, has made a comeback. For the first time since polling began in 1964, it is the dominant sentiment of the nation. According to a new Pew poll, 52 percent of Americans believe “the U.S. should mind its own business internationally and let other countries get along the best they can on their own.” Only 38 percent disagree.
Asked if the United States should think less in “international terms but concentrate more on our national problems,” Americans agree by 80-16, or a ratio of 5-to-1. As Max Fisher of the Washington Post writes, this sentiment manifest itself decisively in the uprising last summer against U.S. intervention in Syria.
The roots of the new isolationism are not difficult to discern. There is, first, the end of the Cold War. The Cold War, our war, was over. Time to come home. The Bushes and Bill Clinton said no. So we let the New World Order crowd have its run in the yard. We invaded Panama, intervened in Haiti and Mogadishu, launched Desert Storm to liberate Kuwait, bombed Serbia for 78 days to force it to surrender its cradle province of Kosovo.
Came then the blowback of 9/11, following which we had the Afghan war to overthrow the Taliban and create a new democracy in the Hindu Kush, the invasion and occupation of Iraq to strip Saddam Hussein of weapons of mass destruction he did not have, and the air war on Libya. Others may celebrate the fruits of these wars, but consider the costs:
A decade of bleeding with 8,000 U.S. dead, 40,000 wounded, $2 trillion sunk, Iraq and Libya disintegrating in tribal, civil and sectarian war, Afghanistan on the precipice, and al-Qaida no longer confined to Tora Bora but active in Pakistan, Libya, Iraq, Yemen and Syria.
While America was caught up in these wars, China swept past Britain, France, Germany and Japan to emerge as the second-largest economy on earth. Now Beijing has declared its own Monroe Doctrine to encompass the East and South China seas and all islands therein and to challenge the United States for hegemony over the Western Pacific.
Consider, now, what America was up to earlier this month. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland was in Kiev, egging on protesters demanding the resignation of the elected president, should he choose a Russia-led customs union over the EU. Even as we are pushing Kiev toward the EU, conservative and populist parties are rising across Europe to get their countries out of the EU, including in Britain where the Tories are demanding a vote.
John (“We are all Georgians now!”) McCain was also in Kiev threatening sanctions if the government clears its main square of squatters the way we cleared Zuccotti Park of Occupy Wall Street. The demand that Ukraine be gentle with its demonstrators was issued as the U.S. was lifting sanctions on Egypt’s army, which this year arrested President Mohammed Morsi, jailed thousands of Muslim Brotherhood, and mowed down hundreds in Cairo’s streets in an action John Kerry described as “restoring democracy.”
What hypocrites we must seem to the world.
Now, President and Mrs. Obama and Vice President Biden have, on the high moral ground that Russia has outlawed LBGT propaganda, declared they will not attend the Sochi winter Olympics. Yet, are we not courting Iran? Did not Obama bow to the king of Saudi Arabia?
How can a nation as polarized morally and paralyzed politically as ours lead the world? It cannot. The people sense what the elites cannot see. The American Century is over. Time to restore the republic.
Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of “Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025?”