Saturday, December 15, 2007


Faith and Thought has a great piece on the politics of non-interventionism vs. isolationism. Here's an excerpt:

One of the most common criticisms I hear about Ron Paul is that he is an “isolationist.” Of course, labels can mean just about anything. Paul has repeatedly said that he does not favor isolationism; that he desires trade and diplomatic relations with all nations; that his foreign policy is best described as “non-interventionism.” Further, he has made the argument that his views are in line with the vision of our foreign policy laid out by the Founding Fathers, and as recently as 50 years ago were the settled position of the conservative wing of the Republican Party. On these historical observations he is undeniably correct, though his critics would no doubt dismiss Washington, Jefferson, and Robert Taft as fellow “isolationists.”

But what about the argument in favor of “non-interventionism”? Typically, the folks I have heard criticize Ron Paul are conservatives who support President Bush’s foreign policy, particularly the war in Iraq. And to those critics I would say that it is simply not that case that the only options are Bush’s policies or isolationism. There is a better course. America should pursue a foreign policy of prudence, one that serves as the shield of our republic.

True conservatives, by definition, are prudent. And as such, conservatives are deeply suspicious of ideologies, whether promoted from the left or the right. This is especially the case of various efforts to perfect mankind, whether through domestic programs such as the “war on poverty,” or through military efforts to “make the world safe for democracy.”

Though Bush campaigned as a conservative (“a humble foreign policy”), in reality he has completely committed to an ideology just as misguided as Lyndon Johnson’s domestic policies or Woodrow Wilson’s foreign policies. Indeed, it is the latter parallel that is especially troubling. Wilson was convinced that American military intervention could “bring peace and safety to all nations and make the world itself at last free” (quoting his speech before Congress asking for a war declaration on Germany). Similarly, Bush declared in his second inaugural: “So it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.”

American foreign policy has always been a balancing act between idealism and realism.
But objectives such as bringing peace and safety to all nations, or ending tyranny in our world, transcend idealism completely. Such hubristic aims could only emerge from the belief that American military might can do for nations what social programs can do for individuals. But just as conservatives opposed the efforts of liberals to end poverty through social engineering, we must also oppose efforts to end tyranny (or insert your favorite boogeyman: islamofacism, terror, etc) through international engineering. And, just as social programs often made the problems they were designed to solve much worse, so has it often been the case with such foreign policies. It is a bit ironic that many of the same people who attack Ron Paul as an isolationist have supported the policies of this administration which have isolated us more than ever.

Read the entire piece here.