Re: Who’s an Isolationist?

Former Ambassador Jon Huntsman

Carson’s got a great write-up on Jonah Goldberg taking NPR’s Mira Liasson to task for her sloppy use of the word isolationism. As Carson notes, Goldberg regrettably criticized Patrick Buchanan unfairly. But all in all, good that Goldberg didn’t let just Liasson get away with using the term like that.

It is true that Republican candidates are (finally) less zealous about foreign wars, which Liasson noted. Bachmann questioned why America should be involved in a Libyan civil war. Gingrich suggested that after 8 years in Iraq and 10 years in Afghanistan, that perhaps it was time to end our involvements there. Jon Huntsman suggested that we exit Iraq because we could no longer afford it.

With the exception of Bachmann’s comments on Libya, none of these suggest the current Republican field is dovish. Just that they see some limit on American military action overseas. That doesn’t make them isolationists. Perhaps the term non-interventionists would be closer to the mark.

But I have to tip my hat to columnist Tim Carney who offered a more forceful and passionate rebuke to Mira Liasson and Time writer Adam Sorenson for their use of isolationism. Carney has his guns blazing in an article titled: “Isolationist: n. Someone who, on occasion, opposes bombing foreigners.”

Carney suggests that calling Huntsman an isolationist just because he was less zealous about military action would mark the term’s descent into “permanent and utter meaninglessness.”

Hunstman was an AMBASSADOR TO CHINA! He speaks Mandarin. He was deputy assistant secretary of Commerce and ambassador to Singapore. His degree from U Penn is in international politics. He was deputy U.S. Trade Representative who launched the Doha free-trade talks. Wikipedia tells me he is or has been on the boards of “the Pacific Council on International Policy … the Brookings Institute Asia Policy Board, the Asia Society in New York, and the National Bureau of Asian Research.”

But he could be an “isolationist” if he wants us to do less bombing, policing, and shooting in the Muslim world?

Carney reminds us that just because some conservatives don’t want to fight in foreign wars, that doesn’t mean they are xenophobes. (NB: I’m not calling Huntsman a conservative — after all he supports civil unions, but I like what Huntsman is saying on foreign policy.)

Again Carney:

But someone can support — and applaud — the free interchange of people, money, goods, and ideas among nations, but if he doesn’t also want to trade fire with other nations, he’s an “isolationist”?

Carney is a good friend of mine. We were even roommates about ten years ago. I remember the arguments we got into over the Iraqi War. He warned me about the dangers of Bush’s Wilsonian foreign policy. I wish that I and fellow conservatives had listened to him (and Bob Novak) back then.

It appears now that more and more conservatives are thinking clearly about the limits of military action all across the globe. Thank God.



  • Joe M

    Mr. Mercer. Isn’t it the same type of thing in the reverse direction to characterize those who are interested in withdrawal from Iraq as “less zealous about foreign wars”? That’s to say that anyone who was for going into Iraq or saw reason to stay for some period of time was so simply because they are zealous about foreign wars. — My experience has been that the anti-intervention groups that are offended by the term “isolationist” engage a litany of insults and hyperbole to describe people they disagree with (“imperialists”, “war-mongers”, “the war party”, “nation building”, “expansionist”, etc.). — PS: Any way that we can get carriage returns to work in comments? :)

    • Wayne L

      What term would you use to describe our involvement in the affairs of other nations? The Vatican’s response to these matters has been more respectable.

      Is it a mere coincidence that the US has had some influence in toppling these regimes in this region shortly after China began to invest militarily in these nations?

      • Joe

        The term I would use generally is “prudent”. — While “the Vatican” has responses to world events, its doctrine gives judgment for these matters to the government leaders involved. — I don’t doubt that Chinese foreign policies are a factor in US decision-making abroad. What is China’s record like on human rights, in Catholic terms?

        • Wayne

          I’m not defending China. How is it prudent for us to influence the civil affairs of another nation? Would you support China’s influence in our politics, by propaganda or force?



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