John Bolton channels his inner Karl Marx:
The spectre of isolationism is stalking the Republican Party. It is still far from dominant, but we would be ignoring reality to underestimate the risks evident in today’s turbulent political milieu. Ironically, Republican isolationism is in many respects attributable to Barack Obama. His palpable lack of concern for foreign and defence policy issues, and the public’s false sense of security thereby generated, combined with his massive federal expenditures and consequent budget deficits that threaten the vitality of America’s economic system, have created an unexpected and deeply troubling reaction among Republicans, heretofore America’s national-security stalwarts.
We all know not to take Bolton seriously, but his article is a useful guide to the obsessions of Republican hard-liners. The first of these is the constant feigned terror of renewed “isolationism.” The “isolationists” never seem to materialize, but they make good foils for warmongers. Of course, there is no real “isolationism” present in the modern GOP, and other than a perfunctory mention of Rand Paul it seems that Bolton isn’t willing to identify the people in his party that he disparages at such length. There are Republican skeptics of new foreign wars, and there are some principled non-interventionists that object to the U.S. acting as global policeman and subsidizing the defense of wealthy allies, but no one in the Republican Party today promotes an agenda of international “isolation.” To the extent that Republicans are more skeptical of foreign wars and less inclined to endorse a hyperactive foreign policy than they have been, this is mostly a reaction to the Bush administration’s overreaching. The continuity between Bush and Obama on some issues has made it somewhat easier for critics of hyperactive and aggressive foreign policy to be critical while directing their attacks at the current administration, but the phenomenon Bolton is describing so poorly would be much less significant if it had not been for the excesses of the Bush years. There should have been nothing unexpected about this. It is normal and sane for people of all political stripes to recoil from the waste and horrors of unnecessary and prolonged warfare. What has been disappointing is the extent to which so many on the right remain wedded to an unsustainable, costly foreign policy and a reckless impulse to resort to using force as the solution to foreign crises and conflicts.