As the Obama administration goes to Congress to seek support for a resolution authorizing a military strike against Syria, the deep divisions in both the Democratic and Republican parties are at present making it problematic, at best, that he will gain the votes he needs for a consensus in favor of action.
The divisions today are eerily reminiscent of those at the beginning of the Cold War, when pre-war isolationists or, to use the term they preferred then and prefer now, non-interventionists once again came forth on both the Left and Right to oppose a strong response to Soviet expansionism.
Before Pearl Harbor, Franklin D. Roosevelt had to face convincing a strong isolationist sentiment at home, as well as a reluctant Congress, to do anything that could involve the United States in war. After running for the presidency with a promise to keep the nation out of war, once in office Roosevelt acted to strengthen the British resolve through the Lend-Lease program as well as putting through the famous trading of bases for destroyers.
At home, the America First Committee, headed by Charles Lindbergh and which included old liberals and progressives such as John T. Flynn and Oswald Garrison Villard as well as conservatives such as Col. Robert McCormick and William H. Regnery, became very influential. During the years of the Nazi-Soviet pact, the American Communist Party created its own front group, the American Peace Mobilization, which argued that FDR was seeking to wage an imperialist war for oil and urged Americans to keep out of war and focus their opposition on the nefarious plans for intervention favored by the British Empire.
Pearl Harbor put an end to the America First Committee’s efforts, as the nation united behind the president and thousands of young men flooded the recruiting centers to volunteer to fight against the threat to America’s security. At the war’s end, as the Soviets moved effectively to use the turmoil and insecurity to expand communism as far as they could in the East and the West, a new opposition emerged on both Left and Right against taking a firm stand against Stalin and his cadre.
On the Republican side, “Mr. Republican,” as Senator Robert A. Taft was called, vigorously opposed anything that he thought would lead the United States to “globalism” and a new empire. Taft opposed every measure that the Truman administration took to offset Soviet advances — including the Truman Doctrine, the creation of NATO, and the Korean War. When the communists took over Czechoslovakia in a coup in late February of 1948, Taft argued that it did not indicate any aggression and that the country had been placed in Russian hands and was in their “sphere of influence.”