When isolationism hides itself as anti-Americanism
Here is an updated version of something I wrote at the Times of Israel last year…. I think it is relevant now given the strong strain of isolationist thinking that infects both the Hard Left and the Libertarian Hard Right (think Greenwald, Snowden etc….). So… I would like to put this out there in a moderate forum to an American audience. Here goes:
There is a debate around the spreading wave of Isolationism which is manifested in an unholy alliance between the Hard Left (which ultimately seeks to end the United States) to the Hard Right (which ultimately seeks to create “Fortress America”). Both of these groups have joined forces to strike against those interests which would weaken their “end game” wishes (for the Left, a world where the U.S. if it exists at all, is hobbled and severely weakened and for the Right, where the U.S. exists alone as an island amidst the chaos of an ever confusing and dangerous world).
The world is more interconnected than ever before.We hear that the world is getting to be a “much smaller place”. This is very true. Now, people can talk face to face with those on the other side of the globe from the comfort of their living rooms. Ideas can be transmitted throughout the internet, and data can be shared no matter where we are. We can physically see one another and one anothers environs in a way that has never been possible before.
Because of this, the world is more interconnected than ever before. Things that happen thousands of miles away do affect us. Just look at the rate of environmental damage caused by over use of resources and the concurrent problems that this causes. We are no longer able to isolate ourselves from anyone and we have to come up with global solutions to poverty, the environment, and a host of other problems IF we are too maintain both reasonable standards of living and reasonable National goals.
I do think that National interests can survive and thrive in an ever increasingly globalized world (in fact I think it is imperative that they do). Though that seems counter intuitive to the theory that we need one world government. We don’t. While the world needs to act in a more coordinated fashion regarding some of our issues (the environment, poverty, and so forth) there is no way right now that people in individual nations would be able to pull this off in any meaningful day to day manner. We are simply too different and have too many different ways of approaching and solving problems.
To people in al-Qaeda their vision is that of a warlord filled vicious theocratic world, where only those who adhere to their particular form of Islam would wield power and where everyone else would exist to serve them as individuals and their crazed interpretation of Islam in general. To those in corporate America who endorse “Randian Capitalism” the world would be a strict plutocracy where the rich would live in cantons and the rest of the world would be their “resource pool”. And with all the iterations in between there is simply no way that humanity could come to any sort of peace agreement on how to run day to day government.
So what prompts this piece? It is due to the fact that I see many people both on the Hard Left (as evidenced by most of the folks - not all but most) at leftist blogsites, or columnists doing their utmost to spread disinformation regarding the U.S. and demanding that it live up to standards that they would hardly ask of other nations. And when it even comes to discussing other nations, it seems that as long as those nations are anti-U.S. anything they do is ok with the Hard Left. They will excuse all of the things they say they stand for in the name of supporting a nation that stands against the U.S. And by doing so are willing to team up with the most vile elements of the polity to support their cause, hence Leftist support for Hamas or the Assad regime in Syria.
One thing is truly dangerous - the growing strain of isolationist thinking.I also see the isolationist wing of the Republican party doing the same thing. Unable to think beyond (to them) what seems like the most simple or quick solution they simply say, “let’s build a corporate state in the U.S. reminiscent of the Gilded Age and screw everyone else”. They simply cannot think out their own little boxes, not realizing that while they are building “Fortress America”, forces that are hardly sympathetic to America and our interests gain power. These Rightists think only about the immediacy of an issue and simply don’t think about the ramifications of said issue. There is no serious thought that goes into “problem solving”.. So we see with the “Repeal Obamacare” folks. All they care about is defeating the President, they care nothing for the long term damage they are causing this nation.
The problem is that both extreme’s arguments contain half truths throughout. For the Leftists and their complaints about the NSA, they are generally right. The NSA SHOULD NOT be spying to the extent that it is on American citizens. I get that they want to find out what is happening in the world, and that they are protecting Americans from terror. However, I also get that these powers can easily be misused to create what they like to call “the surveillance state”. That said, the NSA and CIA have a responsibility towards protecting American citizens so… this is a problematic issue. However, to compare the U.S. unfavorably to groups like Al-Qaeda and to lionize those who would leak our secrets to foreign nations (Edward Snowden) is far from helpful.
On the Right side, the “Libertarian crew” is right about the fact that we can cut the Defense budget by reducing foreign ventures and use those resources to pay private business at home for development projects. Of course at the same time they need to realize that while we can do that to a degree, we cannot afford to cut ourselves off from the world in a meaningful way and still have a say in our own future due to the fact mentioned previously, that the world is indeed more interconnected and that foreign affairs really do have an impact on our daily lives at macro level.
In the end, one thing that is truly dangerous to the U.S. and the well being of the “free world” is this growing strain of neo-Isolationist thinking. Hamstringing our intelligence sectors will only create a world where America and it’s allies (and interests) are threatened. Honestly, the Russians or Chinese certainly have no compunctions regarding the use of any and all tactics to achieve their goals. For the Hard Leftists this is just fine to allow them to thoroughly weaken the U.S. While the Isolationist Hard Right simply doesn’t care what other nations do because (and this is sheer idiocy) they think the U.S. can simply “wall itself off” and let the rest of the world burn.
It is important that we do have civilian oversight of our intelligence gathering particularly as it relates to American citizens. Don’t take this article as indictment of that. We are a “free nation” because our government has been restrained in its ability to gather information / data on our everyday lives. It is also important that we recognize that “overzealous” gathering of personal data can and often does lead to problematic issue with regards to a “surveillance state”. I do not want to live in a nation that monitors my computer usage or my phone records without any kind of just cause.
So.. it is important that we balance our need for privacy with our need for the protections our intelligence sectors provide. What we need here is an honest discussion about how we can best balance the two needs. What we don’t need is constant vilification of our nation hidden with rhetoric designed to weaken our nation and its ability to protect its citizens. We don’t need those who would propose solutions in a vacuum either supporting or without understanding the nature of our national enemies.
Though these movements currently operate on the fringe, as the Hard Left is no real part of the Democratic Party (although they pretend to be the base) and the Isolationist Hard Right is only a portion of the Republican Polity (though growing), still they represent possible growing threats (as they appeal mainly to the young and idealistic for various reasons), it is important that we understand and expose them for who they are. Of course here in the U.S. they should not be restricted from discussing their viewpoints, but those viewpoints should be exposed for what they really are, an effort to weaken the United States, both at home and/or abroad.