A couple weeks ago, I discussed the Pew survey that found a high level of “isolationist” sentiment, and I recapitulated my arguments in the interview I had with The Economist. As I have said several times before, the headline result is very misleading. The more one looks at the survey results, the less meaningful the “isolationist” result becomes.
According to the same survey, 14% of the general public would like the U.S. leadership role to be that of a “single world leader,” which is the highest percentage in the last 16 years of surveys, and there are still 19% who believe the U.S. should be the most active leader. Just 11% say that the U.S. should have no leadership role. The public at large (57%) is more likely than members of the Council on Foreign Relations (49%) to say that the U.S. should remain the world’s sole superpower. 52% still say that preemptive military force can be justified often or sometimes, which is considerably lower than it used to be but nonetheless depressingly high after everything that has happened in Iraq. 63% of the public favor using force against Iran if it acquired a nuclear weapon, and 79% of Republicans favor using force against Iran under those circumstances. 39% of Republicans believe defense spending should be increased. There are more respondents than ever who say the U.S. should “mind its own business,” but this does not mean very much when so many of the same respondents think that attacking Iran has something to do with minding our own business.
So it is highly doubtful that there is a “broader anti-interventionist trend,” however much we might like there to be one. Rep. Chaffetz has not “found it necessary to express skepticism” regarding the war in Afghanistan. He has chosen this path because he thinks we are wasting time and resources there and must instead move quickly to attack Iran. As he stated quite plainly:
We must not allow them to achieve nuclear capabilities. I fear the current administration is giving them precisely what they need . . . time. The time to take out this threat is now.
If there is any rising tide out there right now, it is the rising tide of irrational fear of an Iranian “threat.” Iran’s nuclear program is now seen as a “major threat” by 72% of respondents, which is a significant increase from 61% four years ago. Meanwhile, this dangerous sentiment is stoked by some of the very people we are now supposed to accept as spokesmen for the antiwar right and non-interventionism.