In the 1980’s the United States funded Iraq’s Saddam Hussein yet considered Palestine’s Yasser Arafat and Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi terrorists. And they were. But so was Saddam, who at that time was terrorizing his own people, gassing Iraqi Kurds while receiving America’s financial and political support. In the 1990’s, the US declared Hussein a menace and we apparently changed our mind about Arafat, who was even invited to the White House to shake hands with Bill Clinton. In the 2000’s George W. Bush went back to calling Arafat a terrorist, went to war with Saddam, who we also began calling a terrorist, but made amends with Gaddafi by taking Libya off our official list of state sponsors of terror and sending Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to shake Gaddafi’s hand. Mind you, this is the same Libyan dictator that Ronald Reagan once called the “mad dog of the Middle East” and who was responsible for blowing up an airplane full of American school kids over Lockerbie Scotland in 1988.
If the above history of the US’s overseas alliances and antagonisms sounds nonsensical or perhaps even immoral, that’s because, well, it is. Welcome to American foreign policy.
Like Egypt before it a few weeks ago, as Libya descends into chaos the eyes of the world now look to America to see what we will do. Why? Because the rest of the world is accustomed to the US always doing something. In fact, no matter how much our constant involvement becomes obviously counterproductive or our actions come back to haunt us in the most damaging ways imaginable, the so called “experts” in Washington, DC continue to tell us we must still be involved heavily in the Middle East and around the globe, funding dictators and supporting terrorists, while also toppling the same dictators and fighting the same terrorists, as determined by which decade we find ourselves in or which president sits in the White House. For example,
in the 1980’s it was the official policy of the State Department to encourage radical jihad in Afghanistan to undermine the Soviets. Today, we find ourselves in a decade long war in Afghanistan fighting against the same radical jihadists we once encouraged and helped fund. Such insanity is what our leaders continue to advocate as a reasonable and necessary foreign policy. To suggest that we should just give up these ever-changing entanglements as a practical matter is disparaged as “isolationist” and therefore unfathomable, the experts tell us.
The term “isolationism” is much like the word “racism,” in that it is an accusatory term designed specifically to shut down debate before it begins. As the Tea Party is well aware, if you question Obama you are “racist.” Likewise, if you question US foreign policy you are an “isolationist.” Nobody wants to attempt to reason with a racist or an
isolationist, and indeed to criticize our insane foreign policy is the quickest way to invite this discussion-ending disparagement. Luckily, at least at the moment, a majority of Americans don’t appear to be as insane as their rulers. According to pollster Scott Rasmussen, his most recent data reveals that “most Americans (67%) say the United States should leave the situation in the Arab countries alone. Just 17% say the United States should get more directly involved in the political situation there, but another 17% are not sure.” A Reuters poll in January produced similar results, showing that 73% of Americans support eliminating all foreign aid.
So are Americans now “isolationist?” Or in being somewhat isolated from the special interests and entrenched, status quo politics that dominates Washington, do Americans see our involvement in foreign affairs in more clear and common-sense terms than our political class is even capable of?
The very notion that it is somehow “isolationist” to not endlessly support dictators and terrorists throughout the Middle East with financial, political and even military aid is to say that virtually every other nation on earth is also “isolationist.” It also ignores the fact that America is not a normal nation, or at least hasn’t been for a long time. In fact, in terms of its scope alone, US foreign policy is arguably the most abnormal in history. Not even the empires of Rome and Great Britain assumed that virtually any conflict around the globe necessarily affected the interests of Romans or Brits. The second edition of the “Encyclopedia of American Foreign Policy” (2001) described this new, almost perverse concept of America’s “national interest” as the definition was being expanded even during the Vietnam era:
“By the 1960s the American national interest was being defined so globally that hardly a sparrow could fall anywhere on earth without the U.S. government wanting to know why, to know whether the sparrow had jumped or been pushed, and, if pushed, to know whether the pusher wore scarlet plumage. Somewhere or other, sooner or later, the United States was bound to find itself defending a regime so weak, corrupt, or unpopular… as to be indefensible at any reasonable cost.”
The world wondered how the US would approach the uprising in Egypt because we had historically supported the dictator Egyptians were rising against. The world now wonders how the US might approach the uprising in Libya because we were supporting the dictator Libyans now rise against as late as last week. This constant support of highly questionable governments for even more highly questionable reasons has, and will continue to do us more harm than good no matter how much the “experts” say otherwise. And the longer the political class continues to isolate itself from common sense—the longer America will suffer for it.