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What Social Animals Owe to Each Other

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Again, the Isolationist Smear

It doesn’t take much to be smeared as an isolationist by leading Republicans. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who appears to be running for president again, and former vice president Dick Cheney — not to mention Sen. John McCain, Gov. Chris Christie, and other members of the GOP establishment — can always be counted on to drag out that insult whenever they sense a threat from anyone not as hawkish as they are. If they thought that 30,000 U.S. troops should be sent somewhere, and someone recommended sending only 10,000, we could count on Perry, Cheney, et al., to condemn the other person as an appeasing isolationist.
UPDATE: Yikes I forgot the link. The article is here.


Eric Hanneken said...

Good article, Sheldon. Coincidentally, I recently finished reading Bill Kauffman's Ain't My America (I know, it's been out since 2008), which, after making the same point about the isolationism smear that you did, proceeds to half-ironically appropriate the label for his brand of conservatism. Bill is a fervent localist who expresses some disdain for globalization. In his view, America went off the rails with the Louisiana purchase, which made the country too big to be governed with sensitivity to regional differences.

I would add a couple of points to the noninterventionist case, which I think you would agree with:

1. When the U.S. intervenes in other countries with force (or sometimes even just with money), this causes a lot of death, misery, and property destruction.

2. It seems really difficult for the U.S. government to choose allies whom it doesn't later regret helping. For examples, the Mujahideen or Saddam Hussein. Even if there are some interventions that a philosopher king might use to make the world a better place, it's too much to expect a real-world government to correctly identify them. A noninterventionist policy is easier to get right. (I think David Friedman made this point in MoF.)

Sheldon Richman said...

Great points, Eric. Bryan Caplan makes the same sort of argument in his pragmatic case for pacifism. I've long been a big fan of Kauffman. Somewhere he says something to this effect: the difference between a republic and an empire is the difference between an American taking his girl to a dance on Saturday night and his paying for a a night with a Saigon prostitute.

I note that some noniterventionists, like William Graham Sumner, embraced the label "isolationist." Who wouldn't, he asked at the turn of the 20th century, want to isolate himself from the strife in Europe? Yet, of course, he was a devote free trader.

Heroic Mulatto said...

Further, he implicitly endorses massive military aid to Israel by calling on the Obama administration to cut off all aid to the Palestinians without even mentioning the $3 billion that American taxpayers send to Israel every year.

And, why must he mention it? When was the rule established that every mention of Palestinian perfidy must be equaled on some cosmic scoreboard with a boilerplate mention of Israeli misadventure? Vu ist geschrieben, Sheldon?