“Beware the insidious wiles of foreign influence.” In fervent warning, this message now transcends the stages of American politics in a new Republican platform that excels the isolationist foreign policy of the Gilded Age.
Thus, the commonly held belief that America has historically been a nation driven by the ideology of isolationism is not only manifested in its reluctance to participate in either world wars or the momentous happenings in Pearl Harbor but a steady way to win the election of 2012 by Republican enthusiasts.
In finding their origins in ‘George Washington’s Farewell Address’ in which he laments a wariness of becoming involved in the affairs of other nations, Michele Bachman, Mitt Romney, et al are slowly succeeding in unleashing the isolationist propaganda that Donald Trump and the birthers failed in the birth certificate saga as a means of seeking recognition in the upcoming elections.
Proponents agree that this politicization of the ‘Farewell Address’ is a convenient strategy, yet on the other hand the isolationism strategy still lacks the necessary coordination and cohesion to bear the desired results. In a Republican dominated environment, where it is almost impossible for Obama to pass his 2011 budget, let alone his far reaching plans to transform US immigration, labour, and environmental policies and Social Security, it seems the only place the power of the presidency gains wide-ranging freedom of action to transform the US is through foreign affairs. Therefore, it is unlikely that winning an election can be reached with the partial strategy of isolationism alone.
While it is true that the emergent tide of isolationism in America is growing more boisterous with mounting popular dissatisfaction with the war in Afghanistan and cynicism toward the US mission in Libya, America is still a principled and moralizing society. Hence, it is impossible to turn a blind ear to the injustices taking place anywhere in the world.
Although the ideology that America can advance the cause of freedom and democracy by means other than war is a prevalent theme in foreign policy, outgoing US defense secretary Robert Gates sparked worries about the shape of things to come. His recent Newsweek interview loudly sounded the warning bells: “…Frankly I can’t imagine being part of a nation, part of a government... that’s being forced to dramatically scale back our engagement with the rest of the world…”
Whatever the conclusion that conservatives or liberals may want to conclude from this statement, it is clear that using isolationism as a political platform for taking practical action to change the world or to win an election seems doubtful. It remains my contentions that even if isolationism plays a prominent role in American policies and affairs and can never disappear from American discourse; America will continue to be the assured sheriff of the world.
Moreover, the tuned chime of Senator John McCain pieces the broken fragments from the discarded pipes of the isolationist-ridden years of the 1930s into one of glowing interventionism. Alarmed at his own party’s opposition to US military involvement in the NATO military assault in Libya, his distaste for isolationism surpasses the theoretical political background that his cohorts seem entangled in: "…That's not the Republican party of the 20th and now the 21st century… Such views are inconsistent with bedrock Republican values… that is not the Republican party that has been willing to stand up for freedom for people for all over the world…”
It must also be remembered that isolationism is a word loaded with connotations that seems to distort debates rather than enlighten them. Despite the fact there will always be passionate arguments about the purpose and degree of isolationism and interventionism in American politics yet at the same time no American administration or Congress will permit an era of chaos to reign upon humanity without intervention.
Consequently, it is impossible for isolationism to settle in as a permanent feature of the American cultural and political landscape. Instead of a strategy of isolationism by the Republican candidates what is desperately needed is a thorough reform of the War Powers Act -- a law intended to check a president's ability to go to war without seeking congressional approval. Such a strategy will require leadership, national agreement and bipartisanship.