American Isolationism is Not New … But Never Right
Isolationism has been part of the American fabric since we declared independence from Great Britain.
Within the isolationist movement are the pure pacifist – those who do not believe even in St. Augustin’s treatise on a “just war.” Then there are those who believe in “island America” – that are best interests are met in avoiding all “foreign entanglements” – as President Washington called them in his farewell address.
Most Americans, however, draw distinctions between appropriate – even existential – involvements and the inappropriate. It is a grey area over which we debate constantly – not just in military terms. We have dubbed those who were “entangled” in World War II “the greatest generation.” We look back on the Vietnam War with grave reservations, to say the least.
Once again, we are facing the question of involvement in another major conflict – the War in Ukraine.
President Zelenskyy is pushing against what appears to be a growing opposition to the kind of help he needs. Both the far left and the far right have found common ground in opposing increasing levels of spending on the Ukraine War – but for different reasons. The left wants that money for more social welfare and anti-capitalist regulations (meaning more bureaucrats). The right just does not want the federal government to spend so much … period.
While the position of those on the far left is isolationist, it is not as overt as those on the far right. Frankly, I do not understand their vision – and how they cannot see the vital existential interests of the United States and the West in defeating Putin.
The division of opinion is particularly stark on the FOX network, where various personalities are in open debate with each other. It is personified whenever you see Brian Kilmeade on the same screen with Pete Hegseth. Kilmeade sees the need to support Ukraine in the national interest of the United States, while Hegseth is staunchly isolationist.
Most of the FOX daytime line-up seems to favor supporting Ukraine, but the big names – specifically Laura Ingraham, and Tucker Carlson – are vehemently opposed to helping Ukraine. They have a let-Putin-have-it attitude that I do not understand.
The anti-Ukraine sentiment runs so strong that Ingraham’s comic relief character Raymond Arroyo was all over Zelenskyy for wearing his commander-in-chief “uniform” during his visit to Washington. He called it “disgusting” and “disrespectful.”
Personally, I thought the attire was appropriate. Rather than looking like a Wall Street banker or a Washington lobbyist, Zelenskyy’s attire brought home his role as a head-of-state under siege. But Arroyo’s is the type of irresponsible cheap shot rhetoric that dominates FOX’s late-night lineup.
It is in America’s interest to stop Putin’s ambition of a new Soviet Union – and maybe more. Lose the War and America loses another democratic nation to the authoritarian enemy – even a potential future NATO ally. We lose to Putin another strategic location … enormous natural resources … a cooperative business relationship … intelligence gathering potential.
Fortunately, the small number of congressional members – on the left and right – is too few to prevent the full Congress from pursuing the critical security interests of both Ukraine and the United States.
As one of the television generals put it, this is the time to provide Ukraine with everything we have in the non-nuclear arsenal, so that the Ukraine military can drive every Russian soldier out of their country. I tend to agree with that assessment. Those who express concern about the money the United States spends on fighting Putin should understand that increasing our participation to the point of victory will cost a lot less in the long run.
And we need to understand what victory means. There are three elements of total victory. Most important is to have Putin withdraw all his forces from Ukraine – including the Crimea. Second is to pay reparations for the destruction and loss of life. Third is to have Putin put on trial for war crimes. It is not likely that we will see a complete victory, but the first element is essential.
I find it unacceptable that America – and the western democracies in and out of NATO – will allow our mortal enemies gain yet another strategic, psychological, and immoral victory. We are not only taking up a just war, but one that Ukraine and the world democracies must win.
So, there ‘tis.