Two weeks back the New York Times posted a video primer in which the defiantly unshaven writer Sam Tanenhaus cast the current antiwar debate as one of idealists versus isolationists. The argument over Syria calls on an ancient divide in the US polity.
Are we an isolationist country that doesn’t want to get involved in other nations’ problems or are we a global leader who must try to solve them?
Then Tanenhaus goes right to Charles Lindbergh opposing intervention in World War II, and puts everything in the isolationist blender. Opposition to the Cold War and Korean war and the Vietnam War. All isolationism.
Isolationism emerged again in the early 1950s when war broke out in Korea. Isolationists left and right opposed American intervention in that conflict and also the broader Cold War against the Soviet Union.
During Vietnam, liberals were labeled isolationists, he says. Were we? I remember that we called ourselves peaceniks, and antiwar. George McGovern an isolationist? He said, Come home America, Tanenhaus says, and there are more important battles to fight here than there.
Today after more than ten years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, isolationist sentiment is strong in both parties. Americans are tired of war.
As if war is the way you engage positively in the world. Says Annie Robbins, who pointed me to this: “Psychologically, this NYT piece said to me, Are you a Nazi sympathizing Lindbergh, or do you support intervention/bombing Syria?”