F.R. Duplantier reporting Behind The Headlines
Week of:
February 6, 2000
Who You Calling an Isolationist, Bub?

F.R. Duplantier

by: F.R. Duplantier

The real "isolationists" are the liberal Democrats who oppose unilateral action to protect American interests in the world.

President Clinton "condemned Senate Republicans for voting against the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, calling them 'new isolationsists,'" recalls Robert Tracinski of the Ayn Rand Institute. "These Senators, the argument goes, want us to withdraw from all forms of international cooperation, sticking our heads in the sand and ignoring the rest of the world."

Tracinski rebuts this glib slander in a recent issue of the DeWeese Report. "No serious opponents of the treaty believe that America can safely ignore the rest of the world," he asserts. "Rather, they oppose it because it is not in America's interests. They oppose it," Tracinski contends, "because they reject the idea of sacrificing those interests for the sake of diplomatic 'cooperation.' The treaty," he emphasizes, "deprives the U.S. of the means to test the reliability of its nuclear weapons, while leaving no means to verify that other countries are not testing."

Tracinski rejects the false dichotomy between engagement and isolation. "The real question," he insists, "is not whether America should be involved in the world, but whether the nature of such involvement is consistent with the principle that America's interests are an absolute value, to be upheld irrespective of any international opposition." For interventionists, however, engagement is "an end in itself," says Tracinski, "which means that compromise, rather than the assertion of our interests, becomes the one absolute of foreign policy."

Interventionists subordinate American interests "to the greater goal of global agreement," says Tracinski. "Instead of defining the threats to our interests posed by enemies of freedom -- instead of repelling those threats, by unilateral force if necessary -- we are supposed to sacrifice ourselves by placating our allies and bribing our enemies."

Tracinski emphasizes that the derogatory term "isolationist" is "never used against those who oppose vigorous military action in defense of American interests. It is invoked only in favor of the sacrifice of American interests for the sake of international 'cooperation.'" According to this liberal double standard, he notes, "it is not 'isolationist' to ignore foreign threats and to refuse to build an antiballistic missile defense. But it is 'isolationist' to reject an international agreement backed by world opinion, even when that agreement weakens our nuclear deterrent."

Tracinski explains how liberals decide which foreign policies will be labeled "isolationist" and which ones won't. "It is not 'isolationist' to oppose the Gulf War," he notes, since it was "fought 'only' to protect America's interest in Middle East oil against a militant dictator. But it is 'isolationist' to oppose sending U.S. troops to a strategically insignificant province in the Balkans."

Tracinski acknowledges that "America does have many interests that are served by 'engagement' with the world, but only on terms compatible with U.S. interests -- such as trade, not foreign-aid handouts; military superiority, not 'mutual deterrence'; self-assertion, not self-effacement. The first step toward protecting our interests," Tracinski recommends, "is to eject the dishonest term 'isolationism' from our foreign-policy debate."

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