Barack Obama

This Is Not What Non-Intervention Looks Like

The absurd argument that America is withdrawing from the world


Charlton Comics

"The claim that the U.S. is 'withdrawing' is a convenient and self-serving one for advocates of activist foreign policy," Daniel Larison writes, "since it lets them pretend that the U.S. is following a radically different foreign policy from the one that it is actually conducting and frees them from the responsibility for the results of incessant meddling abroad." So as a reminder to the people who peddle that narrative—he's calling out Fred Hiatt specifically, but Hiatt is hardly alone—Larison offers some quick reminders:

[T]he last three years in particular have seen the U.S. become much more involved in the conflicts in several countries, and its involvement around the world has stayed the same or increased in every case.

The U.S. is in its second year of bombing ISIS in Iraq, and has been bombing targets in Syria for almost as long. The U.S. has been actively aiding the Saudi-led devastation of Yemen for over a year, and it has done so precisely because it wants to "reassure" its awful clients in the region that it isn't going anywhere. At the same time, the U.S. has been increasing its military presence in Europe and leaving its other commitments unchanged. Earlier this summer, an exasperated John Kerry said, "The United States of America is more engaged in more places with greater impact today than at any time in American history. And that is simply documentable and undeniable." Yet hawkish interventionists have to deny it, because it contradicts the fairy tale they've been peddling for years. The main problem with Kerry's assessment is that he thinks the "impact" of all this engagement is desirable and constructive when much of it clearly is not.

It is true that President Obama has not favored every intervention the Serious People have proposed over the last seven years—he hesitated to intervene in Syria and has refrained from going to war with Iran—and it is true that he, unlike his party's presidential nominee, is willing to call the poor planning for the Libyan aftermath a "mistake." But that doesn't make him a dove; it makes him a hawk who is capable of reluctance and regret. What's depressing is the realization that in a year I may be nostalgic for even those small scruples.