Now, I think the non-interventionists in both parties have been mostly wrong since the ’30s, though few can deny the wisdom (and vagueness) in Obama’s call for more “modesty” about regime change in the future. Foreign policy arguments always depend on a lot of context. If Iraq was a “cakewalk,” non-interventionism would have been discredited for a generation. Now interventionism has been mortally wounded. But one thing stays the same: Whatever position conservatives hold is evil, while the liberal view is wise and just. But don’t you dare call it isolationist. ~Jonah “Lie For a Just Cause” Goldberg
I don’t quite know which is the stranger part of this Goldberg article: the part where he says vaguely complimentary things about “non-interventionism” or the part where he uses “isolationism” to describe liberal positions “from Vietnam to Iraq,” despite his statement later that isolationist has always been a misnomer. If it has always been a misnomer, why use it there at all?
Maybe neither of these is the strangest part. The strangest part has to be the claim that non-interventionism would have been discredited for a generation had Iraq been a “cakewalk.” Why? The main argument against interventionist wars is typically not that they will not “succeed” in achieving the goals the interventionists set out to achieve (though this is also frequently true), but that these goals are themselves undesirable and that America has no interest in fighting such wars. Successful interventionism, as opposed to the slapdash, incompetent version offered by this administration, would not be any more patriotic, moral or justifiable. It does not prove non-interventionism wrong, and often through its success tends to vindicate the fears of non-interventionists in the corruption, consolidation of power and excesses it encourages at home. Especially in its Kosovo or Iraq forms, such interventionism would still be manifestly unjust and the cause of aggressive wars. It would not have mattered whether the aggressive invasion of Iraq resulted in a land of milk and honey and Swiss-style democratic self-rule–it would still have been wrong and contrary to the American interest.
Elsewhere in the article Goldberg notes:
But that’s exactly where the non-interventionists of the 1930s were coming from too. Theirs was not a pro-Nazi argument, as so many jingoist New Dealers insisted. It was a moralistic argument that held that empire-building was injurious to liberty at home and inept at fostering it abroad.
(No word from Goldberg on whether those who labeled conservative opponents of the Iraq invasion unpatriotic were playing the same role as dishonest, jingoistic New Dealers.) With these arguments the non-interventionists were, of course, entirely right. Empire-building and interventionist wars were injurious to liberty at home and fairly inept at fostering it abroad, just as they continue to be today.