Home/Daniel Larison/What Internationalism Should Be, But Obviously Isn’t

What Internationalism Should Be, But Obviously Isn’t

David Ignatius seems to be missing the point:

Internationalism should signify trade links that provide markets and jobs; human-rights and humanitarian policies that engage the deep religious faith of the heartland; measured security policies that protect Americans in an unstable world without busting the budget or skirting the Constitution.

Perhaps this is what internationalism should mean, but we all know that it doesn’t. In practice, it means an obsessive desire to interfere in the affairs of other nations, a presumption that Washington can or should dictate political outcomes in the internal disputes of other countries, and the dangerous belief that the U.S. has to take a leading role in practically every international crisis. The “deep religious faith of the heartland” has nothing in common with the constant agitation for arming insurgents in Syria (or anywhere else), nor do most Americans believe that helping to destabilize foreign governments beset by armed rebellion has anything to do with protecting them against foreign threats.

Ignatius says, “When politicians evoke global engagement, that shouldn’t be code for ever-higher defense spending.” That’s all very well, but we know from many years of experience that this is exactly what hawks mean when they say that the U.S. must continue to be “engaged” in the world. Hawkish politicians shouldn’t make these arguments, but they do it all the time. Ignatius’ criticism would be more useful if it were directed at the so-called internationalists that make a mockery of international engagement when they routinely equate it with exorbitant military spending and support for unnecessary wars. Paul isn’t the one that internationalists need to worry about. Ignatius should be much more concerned about the hawks that claim to be internationalists, and in the process destroy the credibility of internationalism itself.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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