Apparently, Rick Perry isn’t an “isolationist” or even a “near-isolationist.” In other news, I have been reliably informed that Perry is neither a manticore nor a unicorn. Isolationists don’t exist in today’s America, and many, if not all, of those labeled isolationists in the past were no such thing. As Mark Krikorian points out, the label is simply inaccurate:
In fact, I’m not sure I’d even classify Ron Paul as an isolationist, though you can make an argument for it in his case given his ideological commitment to non-interventionism as dogma rather than a pragmatic choice that could change with changed circumstances.
It’s not clear to me that Ron Paul’s commitment to non-interventionism should be described as dogmatic. If it is, one might say the same of any foreign policy tradition. Any one of them has the potential to become a rigid dogma that is accepted uncritically and applied without regard to present circumstances or the actual needs of the country. What we can say about non-interventionism at present is that it is not as inflexible as a position that requires its adherents to recite mantras about “the unique and exceptional role that the U.S. plays in the world, and the need for U.S. strength and leadership,” as Katrina Trinko’s source described Perry’s cookie-cutter views. Indeed, if anyone is enforcing a foreign policy tradition as if it were the equivalent of religious teaching, it would have to be those flinging the epithet “isolationist” with the accusatory tone of the heresy-hunter.
Krikorian concludes by saying that we should all “skip the name-calling,” which would be a fine idea, but the name-calling is an important part of perpetuating the myth of isolationism as a way of shutting down debate before it can go very far.