Syria

So Many Isolationists!

Does opposing war with Syria mean withdrawing from the world?

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According to a recent New York Times poll, just 30 percent of Americans think the United States should launch air strikes against Syria to punish its government's use of chemical weapons, while twice as many oppose the idea. Evidently America is overrun with isolationists.

Or so the politicians and pundits agitating for an attack on Syria claim, aided by the supposedly evenhanded reporting of major news outlets. If you oppose this particular intervention, they say, that means you want to withdraw from the world—a plainly crazy position that shows how wrong you are.

"This is not the time for armchair isolationism," Secretary of State John Kerry told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week. Which raises the question: When is the time for armchair isolationism? Perhaps it is appropriate when you are furnishing a spartan living room.

Kerry's point, of course, was that only someone utterly detached from reality could possibly think the U.S. should stay out of Syria's civil war. If, by contrast, you think the U.S. government can intervene surgically in this complicated sectarian conflict 6,000 miles away, achieving precisely the results it wants without any unintended consequences, you are a practical-minded person steeped in knowledge of how the world actually works.

That explains the "armchair" part. But "isolationism" is where the real inaction is.

The Washington Post reports that President Obama, in seeking congressional approval for an attack on Syria, must contend with "the growing bloc of Republican isolationists." Interviewing Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) about his opposition to the proposed missile assault, The New York Times asks, "How big is the isolationist wing within the Republican Party? Are you part of it?"

Wall Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens says the Syria debate has exposed "the isolationist worm eating its way through the GOP apple." As evidence, he quotes Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who argues that "the war in Syria has no clear national security connection to the United States," and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), who says "the situation in Syria is not an imminent threat to American national security."

Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson, who used to write speeches for George W. Bush, warns that failing to attack Syria would represent a victory for "the rising isolationists of the right." New York Times columnist Timothy Egan, who believes "the isolationists in the Republican Party are a direct result of the Bush foreign policy," under which "the world was conned into an awful conflict" (i.e., the eight-year war in Iraq), nevertheless agrees with Gerson that a) opposing intervention in Syria is isolationism and b) isolationism is bad.

Politicians who fail to automatically support military action based on "spontaneous revulsion" at the Syrian regime's crimes, says Daily Beast writer Tunku Varadarajan, "are like those hideous baby voles in wildlife documentaries: naked, blind, and shrinking from the light, trapped in burrows that appear to lead nowhere but deeper into darkness." He singles out one baby vole in particular: Rand Paul, "a hideous isolationist" who "will not do the right thing by innocent Syrians," which apparently involves dropping bombs on them.

What makes isolationists so hideous? According to Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin, "the isolationist vision" includes opposition to the National Security Agency's domestic snooping. But according to New York Times columnist Bill Keller, "the isolationist temper…helped give rise to the expanding surveillance state."

In short, isolationists are against whatever you're for and for whatever you're against. It is not clear where that leaves actual opponents of war with Syria, who represent a wide range of foreign policy views, let alone the libertarians among them, who favor free trade and a more liberal immigration policy along with greater restraint in the use of military power.

For those who conflate resistance to military intervention with isolationism, peaceful interactions do not count. What does it say about the interventionists that killing people is their litmus test for openness to the world? Nothing good. Maybe even something hideous.

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  1. What does it say about the interventionists that killing people is their litmus test for openness to the world?

    When you think about it, a couple cruise missiles would do the Syrian economy good. All that new construction? We’d be doing them a favor. That’s total globalism.

    1. Especially if a bunch of people died in the process! Imagine all those new jobs that would open up if their current workers were incinerated! This sounds like a win-win.

      1. JERBZ CREATED OR SAVED!!!11!!!!1!!!

  2. I have no problem killing people, they just have to be actual enemies. You know, Al-Qaeda?

    Which is actually the people who we would be helping. Yes, not the actual people who were responsible for 9/11, but people who thought that was a good thing and wanted to ally with the people who did it, not to mention, many people who actually fought against us in Iraq.

    Not to mention, they are enemies of the few people who like us in the region, the Kurds. The Islamist part of the rebels are massacring Kurds (along with Christians).

    1. “…fought against us in Iraq.”

      Who is this ‘us’ you speak of?

      1. Uncle Sam.

    2. I think it is actually the Kurds that the US is largely looking to help – the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, who they’ve been quoting left and right, is tied more to the Kurdish nationalist movement than to anything else.

      Can we help selected groups of rebels without helping others? Johns Kerry and McCain seem to think so, but I think many of us have our doubts . . .

      1. Nonsense. The Syrian rebels (Al Qaeda) are being funded by Qatar (over $1 billion so far) and the Saudis. The purpose is to determine the placement of a natural gas pipeline so as to fuck Russia.

  3. I was talking with a coworker who said if we don’t police Syria’s chemical weapons, then we can’t police the Norks nukes, and they are crazy and will nuke us. I said if North Korea fired nukes at the US we would turn that country to ash. She said they are crazy and don’t care if they live.

    The propagandist have won.

    1. Yeah, and if we let Iran get their nukes, that means they’ll automatically use them. … Like Pak and India have as soon as they got theirs.
      Hows about we just treat sovereign nations like adults instead of children and they might just surprise us.

      1. Don’t you understand!? They aren’t people like us! They are animals who don’t care about survival! I mean I know all animals have survival instincts but that is besides the point. We must control the world!

      2. Hows about we just treat sovereign nations like adults instead of children and they might just surprise us.

        Because all these sovereign nations are full of brown people who are too backward to know what’s good for them. /sarc

    2. What’s a Nork? Is that like a Nork and Nindy?

      1. Nork nork!

        Who’s there?

        Kim Jung Il!

        Kim Jung Il’s not HERE man!

        HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

        what?

        1. Are you channeling Keech and Khong?

    3. So she switched between “they can be deterred” and “they cannot be deterred” instantly? Fun.

      1. Cognitive dissonance is the new crack. But then what isn’t?

    4. She said they are crazy and don’t care if they live.

      But doing something in Syria will make North Korea sane?

      Your coworker’s worldview seems to be less than rigorously thought out.

      1. Sadly that is not an uncommon world view.

    5. “we can’t police the Norks nukes, and they are crazy and will nuke us”

      I doubt that North Korea will attack the USA, but they have threatened to attack and will continue to do so. Just as the US threatens to attack North Korea. That is the nature of the weapons. They are not credible deterrents unless the enemy believes they will be used against them. They only deter as long as we believe we are targeted. There’s more than a little craziness involved on both sides.

  4. good grief, it’s their own version of Team. Anyone not reflexively with them is, therefore, against them and must be cast into the wildnerness. As is the usual norm, no considering that the opposing argument is based on good faith, no thought that is grounded on principle, just the usual ad hominem. And largely from people who opposed the use of the military from the last POTUS.

  5. Armchair isolationism is especially appropriate when your rent-to-own couch is about to be reposessed and your landlord promised your coffee table to your neighbor because FYTW.

  6. I watched Boardwalk Empire on teh DVR and took a shower during the speech.

    Just as if I had watched it, I knew I’d want a shower after being drenched in his garbage.

    Also, fuck “9/11” and all the “commemorations”. We should have a fucking college bowl game on this day.

    1. That’s how you’ll know we’re finally “over” 9/11 as a society: when an annual re-match of the previous year’s NCAA championship game is played on 9/11 every year, complete with all the pomp of a typical college bowl game.

  7. When you’ve lost snarky, 20-something, Progressive comedians….

    Help Kickstart World War III!

    1. True snark comes through pain…and an eyepatch.

    2. What happened to her face?

    1. +1 “Call me Snake.”

  8. David Kusnet: The very definition of “hack”

    Obama’s speech a model of persuasion

    After reading the op-ed linked, I vomited up blood.

    1. I too had some extra blood that I wished to rid myself of via explosive projectile vomiting, so I read this article. It did the job in a jiff. No fuss, no muss!!

      I’d recommend this article for anyone needing to evacuate their stomachs!

  9. you know who else is French?

    Rene Auberjonois.

    1. Cheryl: I’m sorry, Krieger, but it’s over. So here’s all your Creedence Clearwater albums back.

      Krieger: And now, a sad moon is on the rise.

  10. I saw two main schools of isolationist bashing:

    1) Bush era Republican sympathizers, who resent the hell out of libertarians and the Tea Party.

    2) Democrat enthusiasts, who see opposition to attacks in Syria as an elaborate plot to embarrass Barack Obama.

    Rahmn Emmanuel’s adage about never letting a crisis go to waste seems to be the general consensus among journalists now. Is there anyone in the MSM still arguing for what’s in the best interests of the United States anymore?

    1. I keep hearing people Rahmn’s phrase as if it were some sort of sage wisdom and not the morally reprehensible advice of a tyrant.

      1. It’s disgusting how it went from being what Goering would have said about the Reichstag fire–as advice to a tyrant–to how so many in the media seem to treat their responsibility to make Obama seem wise and saintly.

        It’s one thing if a Machiavellian uses that as a path to more power. Quite another when the journalists think it’s their job to use every crisis to magnify the majesty of their messiah.

        With journalists like that, who needs state controlled media?

        1. leftists have apparently caved on free market solutions, when it comes to propaganda.

    2. Is there anyone in the MSM still arguing for what’s in the best interests of the United States anymore?

      Was there ever?

  11. Which raises the question:

    Thank you for not saying “Which begs the question:” as that particular misuse of language literally makes my blood boil.

    1. Dang, that’s gotta hurt.

  12. oh, boo hoo. Americans won’t give the corporations another war?! They won’t give the corporations another chance to steal billions from the taxpayer? They won’t give the corporations another chance to open up and exploit another country?

    What will the poor corporations do?

    Won’t someone PLEASE think of the zillionaire corporate shareholders?!

    1. What is the “Corporate” interest in bombing Syria? So far, it’s been old fashioned “The King Was Insulted and We Must Defend His Honor” logic.

      1. There is a semi-conspiracy theory about Qatar wanting to build a gas pipeline to Europe thru Syria, that Russia and thus Assad were blocking.

    2. zillionaire corporate shareholders

      You leave the Teachers Unions out of this. Haven’t they suffered enough already?

    3. I work for a corporation. We do plastering. Mostly on public school buildings.

      Where’s my cut of the war profits?

      1. You get a cut from the money from pretending to care about people’s education, the military industrial complex get a cut from the money from pretending to care about Syrians.

  13. What makes isolationists so hideous? According to Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin, “the isolationist vision” includes opposition to the National Security Agency’s domestic snooping. But according to New York Times columnist Bill Keller, “the isolationist temper… helped give rise to the expanding surveillance state.”

    Which makes “isolationist” the perfect character-assassination buzzword, because its definition is so shifty, like a chameleon; and slippery, like a minnow.

  14. For those who conflate resistance to military intervention with isolationism, peaceful interactions do not count.

    Just ask Bill O’Reilly, who in his cable show yesterday was telling Stossel that he sees parallels between 1938 and today because, you know, Syria is Germany and Assad is Hitler and all that, and would not entertain the notion that libertarians are not isolationists even when they aren’t militarists or imperialists.

  15. What does it say about the interventionists that killing people is their litmus test for openness to the world?

    That they’re a bunch of sociopaths?

    1. That their parents showed them that problems were solved by threats and violence?

  16. Well, I was feelin’ kind of sad and blue
    I didn’t know what I was gonna do
    The isolationists were coming around
    They was in the air, they were on the ground
    They were all over

    So I ran down most hurriedly
    And joined the American Israel Public Affairs Committee
    I got me a world-cop membership card
    Went back to my backyard
    And started looking on the sidewalk
    Beneath the rose bush

    Well, I was lookin’ everywhere for them damned peaceniks
    I got up in the morning and looked under my bed
    Looked behind the kitchen, behind the door
    Even tore loose the kitchen floor
    Couldn’t find any

    I looked beneath the sofa, beneath the chair
    Looking for them isolationists everywhere
    I looked way up my chimney hole
    Even looked deep inside my toilet bowl
    They got away

    I heard some footsteps by the front porch door
    So I grabbed my pepper spray from the safe
    I snuck around the house with a huff and hiss and
    “Hands up, you isolationist!”
    It was my community organizer
    He othered me

  17. I love the fact that no one can have an objection to inervention without becoming an isolationist in the same way that you can oppose funding a social program witout becoming a heartles bastard. When people resort to name calling and attacks on motives, it means they cannot make a legitimate argument why it is good to intervene in this country or add more money to a failing program. So wear the badge of being an isolationist in this case proudly because it means you have the better case. Of course, when you agree we should do something in some other place or time when action is advisable, you will also be called a flip flopper–which will yet again be proof of your interllectual superiority.

  18. Not isolationists. Just not mindless, unprepared, narcissists with a bent toward sociopathology.

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