When President Bill Clinton moved against Serbian aggression and the ethnic cleansing practiced by the regime of Slobodan Milosevic in what remained of Yugoslovia, and finally called in NATO bombing sorties to put a stop to their aggression against Muslims in Sarajevo and Bosnia, both the Left and the remaining adherents of the Old Right moved to join together in an attempt to stop what they saw as a U.S.-sponsored aggression.
The result was the start of what I called a Red-Brown coalition — the uniting of far Right and far Left — culminating in an antiwar rally at which both Pat Buchanan and the Stalinist journalist Alex Cockburn of The Nation were featured speakers.
This division goes back to the early days of the Cold War, when the isolationist wing led by “Mr. Republican,” Sen. Robert A. Taft of Ohio, was beaten in the 1952 GOP primary by General Dwight D. Eisenhower, who then won the presidency. With Ike’s victory in the presidential campaign, the United States continued along the bipartisan path formed earlier by President Harry S. Truman, assuring that Republicans as well as Democrats were willing to do what was necessary to fight the Cold War against the Soviets.
Now, polls show that isolationist sentiment is growing rapidly and resonates especially with some conservatives. At last year’s CPAC conference, the John Birch Society was welcomed as a sponsor, and the forces of Ron Paul combined with them to create a new antiwar bloc. Long forgotten, Robert A. Taft and those who adhere to his views have suddenly made a return to the conservative ranks. The Old Right view, Avlon writes, “is fueling grassroots conservatism with an ideologically coherent critique of both Bush and Obama, against foreign wars and the growing federal debt.”
The reason such a development is dangerous? Go back and ask yourselsf what would have happened had the Taftites and the Old Right won over the Eisenhower center-right coalition. The answer is simple. The United States would have not helped create NATO; the Marshall Plan might have been defeated; and with the support of the pro-Communist Left, Joe Stalin and his minions would have had an American government willing to follow a policy of appeasement that would have allowed Stalin to take over not just Eastern Europe, but countries like France and Italy as well. Now the new neo-isolationists are promoting a policy that stands at odds with that which under Truman, Eisenhower, and later Ronald Reagan won the Cold War. It also opposes the steps taken by George W. Bush during his administration to fight radical Islam and the War on Terror.
This return to isolationist prescriptions once again echoes the views and outlook of those on the political anti-war Left. As I wrote in my old Boston Globe article, the Buchananites promise to “champion a number of causes that also find support on the political left: protectionism to keep workers’ wages high in America, opposition to globalism (‘we will point to the pitfalls of the global free trade economy;); and the struggle against ‘global hegemony.’ Noam Chomsky probably would not put it differently.” And that is why when readers picks up The American Conservative, they might be excused for wondering if they had accidentally picked up The Nation.
So will the neo-isolationists fuse with the paleoconservatives, as Avlon fears might well happen? The danger is that those who now believe the Afghanistan war is unwinnable, and that we should scuttle our Afghanistan policy and withdraw, will soon be moving on to demand acceptance of the entire neo-isolationist agenda. If Republican leaders decide to join Coulter, Ron Paul, and Buchanan in a new alliance, hoping to benefit politically, the split could prove disastrous for the Republicans in 2012. As Avlon points out, any serious Republican nominee will have to campaign on being “strong on national security.” That is not exactly the strong point of the neo-isolationists.
While recognizing that our resources are finite and must be utilized effectively, given the very real threats we face from Islamic radicalism, among others, we can ill afford to withdraw from the world. If we do, not only will we not bequeath a solvent America to our grandchildren, they may be walking around with beards and burqas.