Rand Paul

The Secret 'Isolationist' Majority That's Lurking Until After the Election


Sen. Rand Paul
U.S. Senate

In a piece that confusingly suggests that politicians skeptical of permament war are hiding their true colors until after the midterm election even as he concedes that non-interventionism is an increasingly popular position among Americans, Nicholas Wapshott frets for Politico that "after election day, the isolationists will be back."

When we wake up Wednesday morning, a lot of us will be isolationists again. All the tough election-season rhetoric about supporting U.S. troops abroad will have disappeared overnight, and many Americans can be expected to revert back to what has been a rising and unmistakable trend: For the first time in nearly three-quarters of a century – since the months before Dec. 7, 1941—many people are forthrightly embracing isolationism as an election issue. And the feeling isn't likely to go away any time soon, despite some recent polls suggesting that more and more Americans outraged by the videotaped beheadings of two journalists have supported military action against ISIL, also known as the Islamic State. With the war against ISIL expected to last many years, the pivotal issue of the 2016 election might turn out to be not the economy or health care but whether the United States should continue as the world's policeman, as it has since the end of World War II, or should finally come home for good.

"Isolationism" is Wapshott's preferred term throughout; he castigates as a "weasel word" any attempt to distinguish isolationists who didn't want to engage the world at all from non-interventionists who support free trade and peaceful interaction with the world, but object to the D.C. fetish for dropping American bombs and bodies into every knife fight on the planet.

Wapshott acknowledges that "isolationism" as well as opposition to NSA surveillance unites Americans, "bringing together the far left of the Democratic Party with libertarian Republicans in a show of solidarity rarely seen in Washington."

It's also popular among Americans who vote for those politicians, he concedes, with support for limited action against ISIS acting as an exception to public opposition to greater military intervention, according to Pew. Reason-Rupe polling finds almost identical results, with support for air strikes against ISIS balanced against opposition to the use of ground forces.

That skepticism about intervention extends elsewhere, according to Reason-Rupe polling. Only 28 percent of Americans want to increase the U.S. military presence around the world, while 36 percent want to decrease America's global military presence.

This skepticism of permanent war is so popular that…non-interventionists send "dog-whistle signals" to reassure the faithful without letting hawks catch on, according to Wapshott. But "as soon as the midterms are out of the way, dovish Democrats and libertarian Republicans will feel free once again to express their reluctance to continue to support military action abroad."

But the polling…Never mind. Wapshott is convinced that this is an underground movement—of the majority.

His spin aside, Wapshott is likely right. Non-interventionism—or "isolationism," if he insists—is on the rise, with limited exceptions made for special horrors like ISIS. Wapshott clearly doesn't like that development, but those of us who care about American lives might find it encouraging.

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  1. I suppose that according to some folks, if you don’t want your country’s military to go around the world shooting at everyone that offends you, you’re an isolationist.

    1. But Lindsey Graham said we’d all be killed at home by groups like ISIS if we aren’t ready to use more force.

  2. Non-interventionism?or “isolationism,” if he insists?is on the rise

    Yeah, except I don’t think that it is. People got their warboner on – kill ISIS, kill Iran, kill Russia, Obama’s too much of a pussy, better get your McCain/McConnell/Graham on.

    Nope – I’ll believe ‘murcans are starting to lean “non-interventionist” – much less “isolationist” – when there’s actually evidence of it. I find none at this time.

  3. JD, I know you are trying to be ironical, but why give the media/Team Red credibility by perpetuating the isolationist label?

    That mischaracterization makes my blood boil.

    1. Okay, as I read the rest of the article, I see why you did it.

  4. I can think of no better way to prepare children to accept the police state with open arms than to begin subjecting them to completely undeserved searches in their formative years.

    If this were elementary and earlier it might have the effect of making them more submissive. But if these are high schools, then I’d say these searches has the opposite to no effect on making the authorities more acceptable. It may make them a bit more risk averse or more cunning though.

    1. Whoops, wrong article. I would like to blame the squirrels, but I can only hang my head in shame.

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  6. Anyone who seriously employs the terms “isolationist”, “dog-whistle”, or “US homeland” is begging not to be taken seriously.

    1. Your dog whistle to your isolationist comrades hoping to take over the homeland are duly noted, HUGH.

      1. Foreign policy debates bring out the stupid phraseology in everybody’s writing (e.g., “blood and treasure”).

  7. Interesting to contrast Tuccille’s entry above with some other recent pieces covering this subject:

    “Remember when the Republican Party was quickly shifting toward a new brand of Rand Paul-esque foreign policy non-interventionism?

    No more.

    Less than a year ago, just 18 percent of GOPers said that the United States does “too little” when it comes to helping solve the world’s problems, according to a Pew Research Center poll. Today, that number has more than doubled, to 46 percent.”


    “Republican Senate candidates in North Carolina, Alaska, New Hampshire, Iowa, Arkansas, and elsewhere are running with a heavy emphasis on their hawkishness. New Jersey governor Chris Christie is hitting Barack Obama on his handling of ISIS. Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal will deliver a speech on October 6 at the American Enterprise Institute on rebuilding U.S. defenses?three weeks after Marco Rubio gave a speech entitled “American Strength: Building 21st Century Defense Capabilities.”


    I’m sure the landscape is fluid in this area, but I sincerely hope J.D. is right.

  8. but those of us who care about American lives might find it encouraging.

    Just as a point of order, I don’t give a flaming shit about the lives of American soldiers. If they want to die to improve some politician’s chances of re-election, that’s their choice.

    My concern is the lives of the people in other countries that are ended or irreparably damaged by American bullet-catchers. People who never declared war on America, and who are no threat to America, and have no way to defend or fight back against American bombs dropped on them whether they are fighting or not.

    1. I don’t give a flaming shit about the lives of American soldiers.

      Says the person who lectures others about how not to be taken seriously.

  9. A nation that maintains multiple military bases worldwide in order to produce greater force projection is incapable of being ‘isolationist’. Anyone who uses the term to describe foreign policy concepts that don’t include a massive reduction in these forces is a moron or a liar.

    1. I suppose when you characterize pretty much any potential threat to the Unites States as existential in nature then it may look like that. It’s absolutely ludicrous, but the hawks are great at fear mongering.

      1. It’s absolutely ludicrous, but the hawks are great at fear mongering.

        The national freak-out after 9/11 gave them a shot of credibility and launched careers. Then the Iron Law of Bureaucracy takes over. It is in their personal interest that this problem be ongoing, intractable, and immediate, and that’s all you hear when they do their media rounds. The new thing is always the worst thing ever, 9/11 times a thousand, yada yada yada. Frightened people are easier to control and get money from.

      2. There was, arguably, a legitimate threat, at one time. That threat was prepared for at a level thought appropriate (turned out we way overdid it, but we defended against what we thought the actual threat was).

        Then the threat went away and everyone scrambled to justify their existence. In order to do that, they had to change the definition of the word threat. It used to be a threat was something capable of toppling your country. Now it means something capable of giving you a hangnail.

        Why? Political power.

    2. ^This. While it looks like we’re stuck engaging ISIS for a while, the best we can hope for from this surge in isolationism is closing a lot of those bases in Japan, Okinawa, Germany, etc.

  10. Look, the United States massively contracted its military might after the First World War, and that’s why it was decisively defeated in the Second. We can’t make that mistake ever again.

    1. Maybe not the best comparison. The US was woefully unprepared for WW2 land based operations, and a lot of people got killed playing catch up. The threat, also, was pretty clear compared to anything that we face today.

      The US military isn’t all that huge in regards to shooters, it has a metric fuckton of unnecessary non-combat personnel and spends a stupid amount of money on world-policing. We don’t even need to reduce combat capability, really, to get a huge improvement on the costs. Just restructure (or privatize) non-combat units and stop stroking the warboners and we’d be fine.

  11. “For the first time in nearly three-quarters of a century ? since the months before Dec. 7, 1941”

    Why is it that when Basil Fawlty breaks down and “mentions the war,”


    it makes him ridiculous, but when some retard Godwins a foreign policy debate, it makes him a deep thinker?

  12. “Wapshott clearly doesn’t like that development, but those of us who care about American human lives might find it encouraging.”


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